For a That and a That

by Robert Burns

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 tho' on hamely fare we dine,
    Wear hoddin-gray, an' a' that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
     A man's a man for a' that.
     For a' that, an' 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 riband, star, an' a' that,
     The man o' independent mind,
     He looks and 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,
    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,
    May bear the gree, an' a' that.
     For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet, for a' that,
     That man to man, the warld o'er,
     Shall brothers be for a' that.



Gustave Rudolphe


For a That and a That


Burns, Robert

Year of Publication:


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Things to Discuss:

Does who your family is determine success? What do lines 19-40 mean? Why did Burns use the word "coward-slave"? Does the poet say a man is "king of men" because he is poor? What makes a man a king among other men?

About the Poem:

Best to read this poem with the English word substituted: a':all; wha:who; gowed:gold; hamely':homely; hodden-gray: coarse gray cloth; gie:give; sae:so; birkie:clever fellow; ca'd:called; coof:dunce; aboon:above; guid;good': aimma fa'": must not try; gree:prize