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A MAN'S A MAN FOR A' THAT
Is there 2 for honest poverty
That hings 3 his head, an' a' that?
We dare be poor for a' that!
Our toils obscure, an'a' that,
The man's the gowd 4 for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
gray, an' a' that?
A man's a man for a' that.
Their tinsel show, an' a' that,
Is king o' men for a' that.
1 a’, all
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
Guid 11 faith, he mauna fa' 12 that!
Their dignities, an' a' that,
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that),
Shall bear the gree,13 an' a' that.
It's coming yet for a' that,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. Robert Burns (1759-1796), who was born near Ayr, Scotland, is one of the world's best loved and most famous poets. From his early youth he worked hard on his father's small, unproductive farm, and later he struggled with an unsuccessful farm of his own. Though his short life was filled with poverty and hardship, he saw the beauty in common things, and his heart was full of sympathy. These qualities are well illustrated by the familiar poems, “To a Mountain Daisy" and "To a Mouse." He was a strong believer in equal rights for everyone. He felt no envy of those who were accounted great, but gloried in the privilege of being independent. His poem, “A Man's a Man for A' That,” expresses the same idea of equality that we find in the Declaration of Independence.
Discussion. 1. The first two lines are contracted; what is left out? 2. What does Burns call the person “that hangs his head” because of "honest poverty”? 3. Explain the comparison of a person to a coin in lines 7 and 8, page 311. 4. How may we help to realize the poet's prayer expressed in the last stanza? 5. Learn this stanza by heart. 6. Burns, the humble poet, made the world happier and better through his poems of
10 aboon, above 11 guid, good
12 mauna fa', must not claim
brotherhood and love; how does he exemplify the spirit of democracy? 7. Why do you think men treasure this poem and will not let it die? 8. Compare “A Man's a Man for A' That” with Whittier's “The Poor Voter on Election Day”; what resemblances do you find? 9. Pronounce: guinea; marquis.
Class Reading. Bring to class and read “A Consecration,” Masefield (in Collected Poems).
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
But make allowance for their doubting, too; 5 If you can wait and not be tired by waiting;
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies;
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
And treat these two impostors just the same;
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools;
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on the turn of pitch-and-toss,
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
Except the will which says to them: “Hold on”;
5 If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings-nor lose the common touch;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. Rudyard Kipling (1865- ) was born in Bombay, India, of British parents. He was sent to England to be educated, but returned to India at the age of seventeen to work as a journalist. Very soon he began to write tales of the life about him, as well as poems dealing with British civil officials and soldiers in India. By the time he was twenty-four he had won fame with his Plain Tales from the Hills and other short stories; and when he published Barrack Room Ballads, in 1892, he became widely recognized as a great poet. From 1892 to 1896 he lived in the United States. Perhaps he is best known to boys and girls as the author of the Jungle Books. He is a master of the art of telling stories, either in prose or verse. His ballads about the British soldier, “Tommy Atkins,” and about his experiences on the frontiers of civilization, have a ring and a movement that suggest the old days when the ballad-maker was a man of action, living the adventures that he celebrated in song.
Discussion. 1. Which of these “If's” seems to you especially difficult to practice? 2. Notice how in the first two examples the conditions are made doubly difficult by the additions, “and blaming it on you” and “But make allowance for their doubting, too.” 3. What is better than looking good and talking wise? 4. What does Kipling imply should be the aim of dreaming and of thinking? 5. How does he regard Triumph and Disaster? Can you cite an instance where victory proved disastrous, or one where disaster was turned into triumph? 6. Which "If” embodies advice especially good for athletes? 7. Which one makes a fine motto when a difficult task is before you that you must see through to the end? 8. How might "loving friends” hurt one? 9. Which "If” suggests making good use of one's time? 10. Is the reward worth striving for? 11. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: impostor; knave.
Library Reading. The Iron Trail, Beach. (Compare the hero with that of Kipling's "If.”)
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind, the Gates of Hercules;
Before him only shoreless seas.
For lo! the very stars are gone.
"Why, say 'Sail on! sail on! and on!'”
"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?” 15 “Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! and on!! "
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said: "Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
*Permission to print granted by Harr Wagner Publishing Co., publishers of Joaquin Miller's poems.