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Misheard Burns

DigiTrad:
COMIN' THRO THE RYE
COMIN' THROUGH THE DYE
COMIN' THROUGH THE RYE
MY LOVE IS LIKE A RED, RED ROSE
NOW WESTLIN WINDS
SILVER TASSIE
THE GALLANT WEAVER


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GUEST,BanjoRay 17 Jan 20 - 10:46 AM
Joe_F 17 Jan 20 - 06:11 PM
GUEST,Grishka 18 Jan 20 - 05:33 PM
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Subject: Misheard Burns
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 10:46 AM

I've just been trying to learn A Man's A Man For a' That, and while I can follow most of the broad Scots dialect, the first verse is giving me a little bother, and maybe a Burns afficionado can give me a clue.
The first two lines are "Is there for honest poverty that hangs his head an' a' that?". To me this seems as if someone transcribing the verse had misheard "He's there for honest poverty that hangs his head an' a' that", i.e. writing "is" instead of "he's". This version seems to make actual sense while the original doesn't. "He's" goes with "his" later in the line. I'm not a sassenach trying to rewrite Burns' immortal lines, just a Welshman trying to understand!
What do you think?

Ray


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Subject: RE: Misheard Burns
From: Joe_F
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 06:11 PM

I parse it as "Is there [a man] that for honest poverty hangs his head", with "that" displaced for rhythm's sake. I admit that that is pretty far-fetched, tho, and I cannot think of another instance of the part of the construction that amounts to the suppression of the subject of "there is".

For further perplexity, note the curious punctuation of the original:

Is there, for honest Poverty
    That hings his head, and a' that;

(_Burns: Poems and Songs_, ed. by James Kinsley, Oxford U.P., 1969)


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Subject: RE: Misheard Burns
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 05:33 PM

I always thought that Burns wrote his poems down himself for publication, so there would be no chance of mishearing. (Printing errors are a different matter – happened to many poets and composers!)

Standard (or Classical) Scottish is more or less defined by what Burns wrote, which often differs from what his ordinary Scottish contemporaries would speak. Sometimes I ask natives how to pronounce some word, and the answer usually starts with "It depends ..."


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