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Andrew O’Hagan by broad daylight - Click for larger image  

No other poet has Burns’ gift for camaraderie. To him, fellowship was a religion, and through his poetry we get to feel that empathy is the greatest triumph of human nature.

When I first discovered ‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’, I felt like I’d run into a secular hymn to the dignity of the common man that outstrips any holy writ or any national anthem. It is a song for every colour, every class and every creed, to the notion of brotherhood and equality as the greatest testament to humanity’s essential compassion, a goal everybody can share.

I always want to post the poem to world leaders whenever they face a crisis: it denotes the creative part played by the human imagination in leaving the world in better shape than we found it. Here was a poor man, a flawed man, doused in adversity, who nevertheless managed to write with beautiful optimism about the future.

‘It’s comin yet for a’ that,’ he wrote, ‘That man to Man the warld o’er/Shall brothers be for a’ that.’ It was no government, no committee of elders, no faction either, that could write this anthem to the human spirit. Only Burns, a true master of the believing heart.

Andrew O’Hagan - Novelist

Text © Andrew O’Hagan


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Andrew OíHagan by broad daylight 'as others see us'

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For a’ that and 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, and a' that.
....For a' that, and a' that,
.......It’s comin yet for a’ that
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
....Shall brothers be for a' that.

Robert Burns