Thursday, January 21, 2010

'Address To A Haggis' by Robert Burns

robert burnsThe Address To A Haggis is a famous poem written by Scotsman Robert Burns. It was written as a celebration and homage to Scotland and all things Scottish and has become an integral part of the annual Burns Night celebrations and supper. The 'addressing' of the haggis is one of the central parts of the festivities that happen on or around January 25th (Burns' birth date) each year. For more information on the history and traditions of Burns Night, read our post Explain about ... Burns Night. Here we go (it helps if you have a Scottish accent!) ...

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!

Aboon them a' ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy of a grace

As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,

Your hurdies like a distant hill,

Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like onie ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm-reeking, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:

Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,

Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve

Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,

'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout

Or olio that wad staw a sow,

Or fricassee wad mak her spew

Wi' perfect scunner,

Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view

On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! See him owre his trash,

As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,

His nieve a nit;

Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,

O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,

The trembling earth resounds his tread,

Clap in his walie nieve a blade,

He'll make it whistle;

An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,

Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,

An' dish them out their bill o' fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,

Gie her a haggis!

clark mcginn 'addressing the haggis'Confused? Not sure that you understand a single word? We found this excellent modern day translation that may help you follow this classic poem. It is written by Clark McGinn, an eminent speaker at Burns Night suppers around the world and expert on Burns' poetry and language. We had the pleasure to meet him earlier this week and he can be seen giving his vibrant, energetic 'address' in the image to the left. He has written numerous books on the subject including The Ultimate Burns Supper Book and has a website If this doesn't help you understand it, then nothing will!

You've an honest, round and jolly face
Great chieftain of the sausage race!

Above them all you take your place,
Offal, tripe or lamb:

You are most worthy of a grace

As long's my arm.

The groaning platter there you fill,

Your buttocks like a distant hill,

Your skewer would help to mend a mill

In time of need,

While through your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

His knife is wiped with rustic might,
To cut you up with ready sleight,

Digging up gushing insides bright,
Like out a ditch;

And then, Oh what a glorious sight,

Warm, steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, they stretch out fast:
On they drive - Hell take the last,

Till all their swollen guts so vast

Are tight as drums;
Then old Grandpa, most fit to burst,

'Thanks Be!' he hums.

Who, with a plate of French ragout,

Or pig-sickening oily stew,
Or fricassee to make you throw
With real distaste,

Looks down with a sneering, scornful view

On such a feast?

Poor devil! See him eat his trash,

As feeble as a withered rush,

His skinny legs a mere whip-lash,

His fist a nut;
Through a bloody flood or field to dash,

O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,

His big fist holds a knife of dread,
He'll make it whistle;

Chopping legs, arms, and every head

Like tops of thistle.

You powers, who make mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no soupy ware,

That splosh in dishes;

But if you wish her grateful prayer,

Give her a Haggis!

No comments: