“To my Daughter,” on Burns Night, 2016

January 25th, when many of us celebrate the Scottish poet Robert Burns, is one of my favorite times of the year; I have indicated as much, in my many previous mentions of the bard. Tonight, as in most recent years,  I am spending the holiday at home. Earlier this evening, I read a Burns’ “To a Mouse,” to my daughter.

My daughter indulging her father.

My daughter indulging her father.

In explaining the poem to my daughter, I also explained my love of Burns. I told my Daughter that he was a modest man, who worked in the fields during certain periods of his life. I also told her that he was the sort who was literally moved to compassion–the state of “suffering with” another–when he realized that his plowing disturbed a mouse.

Of course, in reading “To a Mouse,” to my little one, I did my best to render the poem in modern English. So, I didn’t explain to her that Burns often wrote in his native Scots, and that doing so made many of his oft-oppressed, fellow country-persons proud. And I didn’t explain that his poetry was so forceful that the meaning of his words transcended the boundary of Scots/English to appeal to a huge audience, including those of us who read him over two hundred years later.


One day, I will explain these things. And I will tell her about the many other poets, artists, musicians, and scholars who have done similar things.  And, perhaps, as a means to do so, I will read her Burns’ song, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That” (published in 1795).

“A Man’s a Man for A’ That”

Is there for honesty 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, 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 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 marquise, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s aboon his might–
Guid 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 comin yet for a’ that
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

3 Responses to ““To my Daughter,” on Burns Night, 2016”

  1. Paavo Husen Says:

    A marvelous gift to your daughter!


    • Kenov Says:

      Thank you, though I’m not sure how appreciative of it she was last night. At least she gave me all of her attention, however.


  2. Chuck Mound Says:

    I am on fire… It inspired the working class heritage that vasilated my self, throughout my life. Thank-You so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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