A man's a man for a' that

Music: Trad. arr. Frances Cockburn. Words: Robert Burns (1759-1796)
performance time approx 3m 00s
Range S: c' – d'' / A: g – b'♭ / B: c – d'
Price code: B
Complexity: **

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This famous song by Robert Burns, written in 1795, extols the worth of the poor yet honest man above that of lords and princes. The tune is strong and the words are stirring, echoing many of the liberal and radical ideas that were circulating in Europe and America at the time. This three-part arrangement is easy to learn and gives the tune to different voices from verse to verse.


Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that; [hangs his head, and all 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. [gold]

What though on hamely fare we dine, [homely]
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; [coarse woollen cloth]
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; [give]
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, [swaggering arrogant fellow]
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that; [who struts…]
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that: [fool]
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 aboon his might, [above]
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! [good faith, he must not fault/dispute 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. [shall be victorious/take the prize]
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Robert Burns

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