Saturday, 25 January 2014

For a' that

January 25th is a special day in Scotland. Even as a wee girl I understood this. It is Burns birthday- our national bard. At school we practised his poetry ( the ones fit for young ears!), we had competitions, we wrote our own in our version of Scots, we celebrated.
As 2014 has begun I have had a sense of real awakening about what a referendum on independence might mean for us in Scotland. I have noticed more people are speaking about it, a sense of shifting sands. Naturally as we approach Burns night here we see a drive to link the two. Understandably the claims of what Burns would vote has invited  some counter positions and cries of stuff and nonsense. 
I can't see how we can claim what he would have voted some 300 years later but we can however perhaps understand the kind of society he would have called for. Burns was no role model for monogamy but his songs from the heart were not just about romantic love  but also about appealing to our better selves, to our sense of nationhood, how we relate to others personally and perhaps nationally.
We can use his words to test out our own values, the nation we want to see, how we relate to others not just in the UK but across the world. Do we want a society based on social justice and human rights, do we want to be an inclusive society, do we want to build good citizens of the future, do we want to support communities to flourish, do we want to be measured by our approach to health and social care. Will we be able to look our grandchildren in the eye and say I did my best for your future on this planet?
So I leave you with,not a guess of how he would vote,  but a hope that when we make our choice this year we make it with knowledge of the future we each want and the information to know what choice offers that.

Here's what Burns had to say on the world he wanted....

A Man's a man for a' that

Is there for honest Poverty 
That hings his head, an' a' that; 
The coward slave-we pass him by, 
We dare be poor for a' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that. 
Our toils obscure an' a' that, 
The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The Man's the gowd for a' that. 

What though on hamely fare we dine, 
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; 
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; 
A Man's a Man for a' that: 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their tinsel show, an' 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, an' stares, an' a' that; 
Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a coof for a' that: 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that: 
The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that. 

A prince can mak a belted knight, 
A marquis, duke, an' a' that; 
But an honest man's abon his might, 
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their dignities an' a' that; 
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth, 
Are higher rank than a' that. 

Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
It's coming yet for a' that, 
That Man to Man, the world o'er, 
Shall brothers be for a' that.

If you a celebrating Burns birthday, enjoy it, and ponder on the words.


  1. Celebrations going on down under for Australia Day ;-) As for Burns I have Eddi Reader to thank for deepening my appreciation of his lyrics with her songs - I especially love Ae Fond Kiss

    1. Me too, she didn't sing it at the concert sadly! Hope you enjoyed Australia Day celebrations. X


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