Jan. 28, 2002: ADDRESS TO A HAGGIS (Robert Burns)

Born in 1759 to a Scottish farming family, Robert Burns was educated at no
small expense to his parents. Their sacrifices paid off, though, as the
young man who was described by his tutor as an excellent reader and a
"passable" writer became Scotland’s most beloved and famous writer. Burns
was a poet of the bardic tradition who gained great fame in his lifetime.
He decided to give up the farm that he and his brother had inherited, and
planned–partly to escape the financial consequences of his womanizing–to
leave for the West Indies when his first book of poems was published to
great fanfare. It is said that 10,000 people attended his funeral when he
died at the age of 37, and he has been called a forerunner of today’s
Dionysian rock stars. Many people know his poems Tam O’Shanter, Auld Lang
Syne, and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, and To a Louse. I have never
before today, though, heard the lovely "To a Haggis." I hope you enjoy it.

Why Robert Burns? January 25th is Robert Burns day. And since I forgot to
eat my haggis, this will have to do. Sorry for this week’s tardiness.



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-reekin, 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;
The 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 sconner,
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:
Thro bloody 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 whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

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!

PS: poems like this are often "translated" into a modern, american idiom,
or individual words are glossed. Anyone want to give it a shot?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s