Monday, June 20, 2011

Are you sick of poetry yet? Me, either!

I passed off my poem yesterday in the Summer Poetry Challenge (blah, blah, blah Dan Wells, blah, blah, blah poetry)!

I'm changing it up again this week.
--A long poem. Much longer.
--A Scottish poet. Scratch that: THE Scottish Poet.
--I already have bits of this poem memorized, but not the entire thing.
--The poem's technically not even written in English. Woa, right? (It's written in Scots. Scholars strongly disagree over whether to designate it a language unto itself or a dialect of English. I'd tell you to look it up on Wikipedia, but that just wouldn't be like me.)

This week's poem is one I L-O-V-E. I am extremely proud of my Scottish roots. My ancestors were Highlanders (so they didn't even speak Scots, they spoke Scottish Gaelic, but I digress), members of Clan MacBean, a small but fierce clan with their ancestral lands along the banks of Loch Ness in Invernesshire. (another digression: how apt is that clan description? I mean, really "small, but fierce" -- It's practically my middle name!) Yes, I love tartan and would heft a claymore if it weren't larger than I am and my little heart sings at the sound of bagpipes.

Also, like any true Scotsman, I have a great affinity for Robert Burns, the Bard of Scotland. This week I chose one of his poems--one of my favorites amongst his collected works. (Stay tuned after the poem for a little explanation of why I love it.)

A Man's a Man for a' That
Robert Burns

Is there for honesty poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that? (hings=hangs)
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that!
Our toil's obscure, an' a' that!
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that. (gowd=gold)

What though on hamely fare we dine, (hamely=plain)
Wear hodden grey an' a' that? (hodden=a coarse wollen cloth)
Gie fools their silks, and knave their wine (gie=give)
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, (sae=so)
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie ca'd "a lord," (birkie=fancy fellow)
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that?
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that, (cuif=useless, incompetent 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, (mak=make)
A marquis, duke an' a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might - (aboon=higher than)
Guid faith, he maunna fa' that! (guid=good; maunna=mustn't; fa'=fault)
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, (bear the gree=take the prize)
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. (brithers=brothers)

When this poem was written by Burns in the mid 1700's the ideas contained in it would have been shocking to the vast majority of people (and yet, so very very Scottish): judging a person based on their actions, not their wealth or birthrights, that sense and pride of work were character traits worth valuing, that someday the world would come to recognize the wisdom of that philosophy. In 1999 when, after 300 years, Scotland was once again granted its own Parliament, this poem, set to its traditional folk tune, was sung at the opening of that Parliament.

A fantastic poem from a remarkable poet.

Follow along with other Summer Poetry Challenge participants over on Twitter using the hashtag: #PoetrySummer


Krista said...

I love this rhythm. Thanks for sharing more of your heritage, Sarah!

Robin Weeks said...

Now, are you going to recite it with a Scottish brogue?

Very cool poem.

Sarah M Eden said...

Robin - I know the traditional tune it usually set to and I've actually been singing it to help me memorize it. And you almost can't help saying it with a brogue, am I right?!

Donna K. Weaver said...

lol I was going to ask the same question as Robin. =D

My choice this week is song lyrics, and that's why I can handle it. Putting it to music makes it so much easier to remember.


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