For a’ that

January 25th is celebrated in Scotland as Burns’ Night, when the famous poet Robert Burns is fondly remembered and Haggis consumed, with an evening of toasts, foods and dancing. Burns’ Suppers are enjoyed throughout the world and as is so often the case those who follow such traditions more closely are those who no longer live within Scotland but find themselves scattered hither and thither. Burns (1721-84) wrote as many songs as poems and so today I will share with you one of each. In his poem “For a’ that” – For All That – Burns reminds us that a person’s value, one’s true gold, is not wealth, title, or social class but character and honesty. Burns words and warning would go a long way within our own society and certainly so in Congress where good character and honesty seem in ever short supply. The same could of course be said of those recently departed from Downing Street! The honest man, though ever so poor is king of men for all that! There are too many words to explain but I am sure you will work it out – “hodden grey” – is a course homespun cloth made from a mixture of undyed black and white wool- worn by the poor of the poor. The poem can also be sung. The following link is the singing of this poem/song at the opening session of the 2016 Scottish Parliament with HRH Queen Elizabeth, present.

The song When First I Saw Fair Jeanie’s Face is a lovely song and can be read as a poem. Reference is made to Dundas, who at that time was the most powerful man in Scotland – Treasurer of the Navy, then Home Secretary. Hopetoun was one of Scotland’s wealthiest landowners in the 1790s. I will include a link to the song being sung by a Kev Thompson – no connection, honest! You will have to work hard to understand all the lyrics!

For a’ that
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that; hangs
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,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that; course grey wool
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, fellow called a lord
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that. coof – dolt – stupid person
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
Guid faith, he mauna 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. have the first place
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

When First I Saw
She’s aye, aye sae blithe, sae gay,
She’s aye sae blithe and cheerie,
She’s aye sae bonie, blithe and gay,
O, gin I were her dearie!
When first I saw fair Jeanie’s face,
I couldna tell what ail’d me:
My heart went fluttering pit-a-pat,
My een they almost fail’d me.
She’s aye sae neet, sae trim, sae tight,
All grace does round her hover!
Ae look depriv’d me o’ my heart,
And I became her lover.
Had I Dundas’s whole estate,
Or Hopetoun’s wealth to shine in;
Did warlike laurels crown my brow,
Or humbler bays entwining;
I’d lay them a’ at Jeanie’s feet,
Could I but hope to move her,
And, prouder than a belted knight,
I’d be my Jeanie’s lover.
But sair I fear some happier swain,
Has gain’d sweet Jeanie’s favour.
If so, may every bliss be hers,
Though I maun never have her! must
But gang she east, or gang she west, go
‘Twixt Forth and Tweed all over,
While men have eyes, or ears, or taste,
She’ll always find a lover.

Holy God,
Jesus never attempted to
pull rank or privilege.
With humility and honesty he lived
and loved all. With humility and honesty
Jesus welcomed the tax collector and with
humility and honesty he welcomed the widow
who generously gave her mite!
Might we learn much from these small examples.
Help us to celebrate in each other
your gift of life and your grace abundant.
Forgive us when we have ignored our neighbor
when we have thought ourselves of more worth
than anyone else.
Hear our silent prayer….
hear our silent confession….
hear our song of praise to you O Lord.
We give
thanks and praise to you
O Holy God,
O Loving Jesus
O welcoming Spirit. Amen

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