From the recording Six Strings and Coffee Beans
Mark Clavey – lead vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover – vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither – vocals, fiddle
To say that Robert Burns was prolific would be an understatement of the nth degree. With 559 poems and songs published in the "Complete Works of Robert Burns" (his proper material), and another 71 pieces published in his "Merry Muses" (you figure it out), Burns was a tireless and prodigious poet, songwriter, collector, and tinkerer. And of those combined 630 pieces, if there were a handful of masterpieces that towered above the rest, "A Man’s A Man For A’ That" would be in that handful. Also known as "Is There For Honest Poverty", Burns wrote this piece, set it to a melody based on "Lady Macintosh’s Reel", and sent it to friend and publisher George Thompson in 1795. Known to have harbored republican sensibilities and spoken frequently in favor of the French and American Revolutions, the song is a concise, contemptuous indictment of the conventional notions of class, rank, and privilege, and is famous for its expression of an egalitarian mindset, views which anticipated the 18th century’s liberalism, and the 19th century’s socialism. It is an utterly powerful song, as poignant today as when it was written, with a simple and direct message of universal fraternity – “It’s coming yet, for a’ that, that man to man the world o’er shall brothers be.”
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 aboon 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.