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.
And he prayed for a time when, the world over, we’d recognize the value of sense and worth, and me would live as equals, as brothers.
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.
One of my favorites, which makes me like Burns so much, is To a Mouse, on Turning Up Her Nest With a Plough, November 1785. It’s so sweet and specific, so compassionate and thoughtful, a gentle reflection on the value of all life, the universal anxiety of surviving winter’s hardships, and on memory and anticipation, as well. (But do mice remember? Do they look ahead? They might! We’d never know!)
Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
An English man and a Scottish man are sitting in the pub and the English fellow is teasing the Scot: ‘Isn’t it funny that you Scottish people eat so much porridge and oats? We only feed that stuff to the horses!’ ‘Aye’ replies the Scot, ‘that’s why the English have the finest horses, and the Scottish have the strongest men.’
And, according to my understanding, golden syrup was invented by a Scot as well. So these cookies have all those things. (And the boys did like them, they liked them very much indeed!) The first two batches I made didn’t have enough flour, and I had to literally scrape them off the pan in one big, delicious, crumbled mess of oats and chocolate, all caramelized and crispy. (We ate it all!) Once I’d added a bit more flour, the cookies held together better. They’re still light and crisp and lacy, and you have to let them sit for a minute before you take them off the sheet, and they’re absolutely delicious. They have a real caramelly, toffeeish quality.
Here’s Jean Redpath’s hauntingly simple rendition of Auld Lang Syne