Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We might as well go ahead and get it over with

I mean, if Yorkshire Pudding (not his real name) can write about Yorkshire puddings, I’ll see his Yorkshire pudding and raise him a haggis.

In a comment on my previous post about F.M. Moore wearing a kilt, a commenter brought up the subject of Scottish restaurants, which made me think of Scottish food, which made me think of haggis, which made me think, naturally, of poetry.

If you’re not familiar with haggis, you can read all about it here.

When you’re finished retching, we can proceed.

I’ll wait.

So, being Scottish and all, Robert Burns wrote a poem in 1787 called “Address To a Haggis” because he had already written poems to a mouse and to a louse and was trying to plumb the depths, as it were, for more material.

I am going to show you the poem, but first, as a public service,
I am going to list nigh onto 30 explanatory notes (Scotsmen say things like “nigh onto” all the time) because without them you will never understand Burns’s poem:

Explanatory Notes for the Non-Scottish
1. sonsie = jolly/cheerful
2. aboon = above
3. painch = paunch/stomach
4. thairm = intestine
5. hurdies = buttocks
6. dicht = wipe, here with the idea of sharpening
7. slicht = skill
8. reeking = steaming
9. deil = devil
10. swall’d = swollen
11. kytes = bellies
12. belyve = soon
13. bent like = tight as
14. auld Guidman = the man of the house
15. rive = tear, i.e. burst
16. olio = stew, from Spanish olla’/stew pot
17. staw = make sick
18. scunner = disgust
19. nieve = fist
20. nit = louse’s egg, i.e. tiny
21. wallie = mighty
22. nieve = fist
23. sned = cut off
24. thristle = thistle
25. skinkin ware = watery soup
26. jaups = slops about
27. luggies = two-“eared” (handled) continental bowls

And now, here is the poem:

Address To a Haggis
by Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

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 o' 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 dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! 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 o’re 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 ower 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 wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whistle;
An' legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thristle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

(End of poem)

You know something? It is my considered opinion that even with nigh onto 30 explanatory notes, you still will never understand Burns’s poem.

But I hope that Ian, a lad with a Scottish name who lives in Lancashire and shoots parrots in his spare time, has had his fill of things Scottish today.


  1. I actually enjoy haggis now and then, served with neeps and tatties of course. It must be my Scottish blood - my great-grandfather was from Falkirk originally and his family from Linlithgow before that.

    But if you think haggis sounds bad, try reading about Lancashire black pudding. Delicious!

  2. Good quality haggis is a delight to eat - preferably with potato and turnip (neaps). Poor quality haggis is horrible. In Scottish fish and chip takeaway shops, the "menu" will usually include "haggis supper" which is simply deep fried haggis with what Yanks call "french fries" but we call chips. I was at university in Scotland and am well-versed in Scottish ways. For example, I never wear boxers under my Pudding tartan kilt. Ladies at bus stops often find this scary on windy days.

  3. You destroyed, you expunged, you eliminated, you eradicated, you MURDERED your Columbus Day post! How could you! I'm massacred. I'm also repelled, repulsed, and mortified that anyone would even talk of haggis in any context whatsoever. The very word should be blotted from the earth, and that's what I think of haggis. How about something about sex instead? Don't you think it's kind of funny that a guy who never wrote about sex would bring up haggis?

  4. Shooting Parrots and Yorkshire Pudding, I have never tasted haggis and I hope I never will have that particular pleasure.

    Snowbrush, my Columbus Day post was published inadvertently and you happened on it during its premature incarnation. Not to worry. It will appear right on schedule on October 12th.