“A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, analysis of the poem by Robert Burns

History of creation and publication

“Reading Burns,” S. Y. Marshak wrote, “we are surprised at his virtuoso poetic technique, and most importantly, how he could combine his careful work on the verse with the hard work of the farmer.” Moreover, Burns combined these two hard work all his life, starting from the age of 15. Lived in an adobe hut built by his father William. And yet honest poverty did not prevent William Burns from gathering villagers and proposing to open a school and hire teachers for village children for the money of their parents.

The offer was accepted, a teacher, a recent university graduate John Murdoch, was also found, also a poor man who was looking for work, moreover, a conscientious person who knows languages and sciences, classical poetry. “But this Robert Burns, with his curiosity and wondrous memory, will be good!” – said John.

Such is she, honest poverty, about which Burns wrote in his main song “There, for honest poverty …” (in the Russian translation – “Honest Poverty”).

Most of Burns’s poems were first published in James Johnson’s five-volume edition of The Scottish Musical Museum (1787 – 1797) and George Thomson’s four-volume edition of Selected Scottish Songs in the Original (1793 – 1805). The song “Is There for Honest Poverty” (also known as “For A’ That and A ’That”) was written in 1794, printed in 1795 and reprinted in 1799. Historians grasp in it an echo of the ideas and events of the Great French Revolution of 1789 – 1794 that reached Scotland.

History of the creation and publication of the Russian translation

At the end of the 1930s, a seven-day work week was introduced in the USSR with the minimum wage. Peasants do not receive money, only a few products, so as not to starve to death. Millions of innocent people are being held in prisons and camps, where they are ill and die from excessive forced labor. Hundreds of thousands were shot without trial. At the same time, they read a lot in the country, often go to concerts and cinema. At the world’s largest film studios, the most fun comedies in the world are filmed. And the most popular publication, which is distributed throughout the country in millions of copies, is the humorous (nominally satirical) Crocodile magazine.

In July 1938, readers of Crocodile, barely revealing the latest issue of the magazine (1938, No. 20, p. 2), discovered poems called Honest Poverty (translated by Samuel Marshak). And since most readers of Crocodile, workers and peasants, had never before heard the name of Burns, he was accompanied by a note: “Great Scottish poet. Born in 1759 in the family of a poor farmer. He spent most of his life in the village, working in his field. ”

Under Burns’ poems there is a drawing: a pretty girl (judging by her question – a cleaning lady) and a sleepy, rumpled fat man (judging by his answer – a party organizer). Text to the picture:

“- Why is so much trash lying in your party room?
– And where to put it? In all other rooms they work. ”

Thus, the great poet Burns worked most of his life in his field, and ordinary Soviet citizens work seven days a week – and they don’t work only in the party room, there’s just nothing to do, all kinds of rubbish are lying around. So why are the owners of these offices, fat rumpled parasites, run those normal people who work? Why are the fruits of their labor taken away from them? Why are they imprisoned, why are they shot? .. These questions are involuntarily asked by readers of the magazine at the first glance at the picture. The answers in Burns song, for example:

A prince can mak a belted knight,

A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;

But an honest man’s abon his might,

Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!

According to the indictment of June 9, 1937, nine honored Soviet generals (commanders and commanders), led by Marshal Tukhachevsky, were preparing a violent seizure of power. Thus, Stalin, on a false charge, destroyed the entire command staff of the Red Army – experienced combat commanders. They were urgently appointed in their place … Who? In the literal sense of the word, “lackeys” did not exist in the USSR, where “everyone was equal”, but nevertheless they can be seen in the same “Crocodile”. In the figure in one of the August issues of the same 1938, the “footman” in the figurative sense of the word is presented in all its glory: getting ready to enter the office of the “deputy director”, he curved in a footman’s way “into three deaths”. The name of the picture: “Optical illusion.” Signature:

“- Look, it sinks right to the ground.
“On the contrary: he goes uphill.”

As for the generals, Burns does not have them at all: in the corresponding stanza, the marquise and count are mentioned instead. Look at the watchful eye of the party in the original, and the translator would be in big trouble. Moreover, already at the end of the same 1938 the editor-in-chief of the Crocodile M. E. Koltsov was arrested and soon shot.

In August 1938, Literary newspaper published a large selection of Burns’ poems translated by Marshak, and even half a century later in the Soviet editions of both Burns and Marshak it was this collection that was called the first publication of Honest Poverty. Among other poems of the Scottish poet, the relevance of this song was lost, its severity was lost. Soviet literary scholars preferred to forget about the bold crocodile publication.

Theme, genre and literary direction

The genre of the poem is a satirical song. Topic: it’s better, happier, calmer to someone who is poor, but honest, than someone who is noble and wealthy due to the sold honor.

“A Man’s A Man For A’ That” is a classic example of literary enlightenment. As an enlightening poet, Burns, armed with a healthy satirical laugh, relies on common sense, convinced that any reader under the pressure of the Reason is able to reject prejudices and become a “person of an independent mind”. And this conviction inspires the author with historical optimism, a belief that

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Trails and images

Often, Burns songs are rhymed satire or journalism, strong not by the paths, but by their absence – honest honesty. In Marshak’s translation this journalism is somewhat smoothed out: for example, the expression “the man of independent mind” was not included in the translation. But the only comparison (guinea-stamp) in the translation is presented (“stamp on gold”), although with the “stamp” in the original, unlike the translation, it is not wealth that is compared, but “status” (rank).

Size and rhyme

Burns song is written in rhythm and the motive of the Scottish folk song, which also has a refrain “For all that …” (For a’that, and a’that). To this folklore dolnik, Marshak found a close-sounding Russian poetic size – an iamb versatile. The rhyme in the original and translated cross.

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