I love Burns’ Nights – I have no Scottish ancestry whatsoever, but love the poet Robert Burns (since studying him for my ‘O’ level English Literature) – and the whole festive evening with toasts and Scottish country dancing in kilts. We also go to St Patricks, St Davids and St George’s events, thus celebrating all four countries that make up United Kingdom. My husband lived in Aberdeen for a while and can do such a good accent that many Scots who listen to his “Address to a Haggis” are convinced that he is the “Real McCoy.” I sometimes get asked to do the “toast to the laddies” at the last minute, as often this is the last thing people remember to ask someone to do. My husband goes over-board with the actions to go with the Ode and has so many pleas for this task that this year we will be attending six dinners throughout the week before and after January 25th – the official Burns Night.
Nowadays Haggis is available at nearly every butchers or supermarket in Britain around this time, there are even vegetarian versions. Served alongside tatties ‘n’ nipes (potatoes and turnips) it makes a wonderful winter meal. The Haggis has become a symbol of Scottish pride and Robert Burns address to it is worth attention, I have posted it beneath here with an all new English translation from an anonymous Scotsman which had to be toned down a little bit.
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ Sou
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
[Fair and full is your honest plump face
Master of all non-specific sub-premium meat products!
No other non-specific sub-premium meat product compares to your tastiness
Regardless of which part of the digestive system it has been harvested from,
Therefore you are most worthy of this poem
Which is quite ridiculously long (given the subject matter).]
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.
[You fill the serving-dish to the brim
And your buttocks looks like a hilltop in the distance,
That little wooden stick could be used for major structural repairs
If I were hallucinating and there was nothing else to hand,
While unidentifiable liquids ooze about you
Resembling the whisky that I’ve already drunk half a bottle of.]
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
[Watch and marvel as a man, so drunk he can barely stand up, attempts to clean a knife
And stabs at you wildly with the least of precision
Eventually making a gash in your nondescript innards
Like a makeshift latrine in the woods,
And then, O! what a glorious sight,
The only thing in this godforsaken country that isn’t absolutely baltic!]
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,
[Then, gobful after gobful, they scoff it down,
Brawl over seconds, and continue scoffing,
Until all their clinically obese bellies
Become a gluttonous parody of human flesh,
Then the fattest of the lot, on the verge of puking
Mutters “Jesus that was good.”]
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
[Are there any people who, over their fine French food,
Or Italian cooking that would make a pig wretch
Or haute cuisine that would surely make it physically sick
In total and utter disgust,
Look down with a sneering and scornful attitude
On a dinner like this?]
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
[Unfortunate fools! See the eating cultured food that I would bin!
They are as feeble as withered stalks,
Their skinny legs as thin as rope,
Their hands are tiny and effeminate,
When it comes to travelling through peaty bogs and Bathgate
They’ve got no chance!]
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.
[But look at the haggis-eating Scots,
So great that the earth literally shakes beneath them as they walk.
Give them knives,
They’ll stab pretty much any enemy!
They’ll chop off legs, arms, and heads,
Like the tops of the thistles they bizarrely revere.]
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And 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!
[You powers-that-be, who watch over all humanity,
And determine its fates and appetites,
Give to Old Scotland no healthy and nutritious stuff
That gets stuck in the throat!
But remember, we are proudly the ‘sick man of Europe’
And give us more Haggis!]