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Updated 05/01/2013


A Man's A Man for A' That
Robert Burns

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favorite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard) was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a "light" Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these pieces, his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. A cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish Diaspora around the world, celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today, include A Red, Red Rose To a Louse, To a Mouse, The Battle of Sherramuir, Tam o' Shanter and Ae Fond Kiss.

Robert Burns sent this to George Thompson of Edinburgh in 1795. It is also known as Is There Honest Poverty and For A' That and A' That. According to The Robert Burns Songbook the tune was based on Lady Macintosh's Reel, from Bremner's "Reels" (1759). Burns had used the tune earlier for Tho' Women's Minds. Prior to that Burns had used it for the melody for the song I am a Bard of no regard.

The song was sung the day of the reopening of the Scottish Parliament.

Lyrics by Robert Burns


Is there for honest poverty
That hings his heed and a' that
The coward slave we pass him by
We dare be poor for a' that
For a' that and a' that
Our toils obscure and a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp
The mands the gowd for a' that

What tho' on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin-gray and a' that
Gie fools their silks and knaves their wine
A mands a man for a' that
For a' that and a' that
Their tinsel show and a' that
The honest man tho' e'er sae poor
Is king o' men for a' that

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord
Wha struts and stares and a' that
Tho' hundreds worship at his word
He's but a coof for a' that
For a' that and a' that
His riband, star and a' that
The man o' independent mind
He looks and laughs at a' that

A prince can mak a belted knight
A marquis, duke and a' that
But an honest mands aboon his might
Guid faith he mauna fa' that
For a' that and a' that
Their dignities and a' that
The pith o' sense and pride o' worth
Are higher rank than a' that

Then let us pray that come it may
As come it will and a' that
That sense and worth o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree and a' that
For a' that and a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man the warld o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that