Poetic Spotlight: Address to a Haggis

Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert burns.jpg Re...

Portrait of Robert Burns, public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well it’s getting on in the morning toward lunch now, so being the generous sort that I am, I thought it only good and right that I offer to share a wee bit of my sheep guts with you. So pull up a chair, cease your salivating, and grab yourself a bowl of haggis.

What? Was it something I said? You look a little pale. What’s a little sheep guts between friends? No? Alright, well, I suppose it’s your loss. Nevertheless, if you want to walk around the blog this week, be sure you’re doing it in a kilt.

Our showcase in the world of poetry this time around is Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s brightest sons. A poet of the later 18th century, he was one of the great proponents of romanticism, an inspiration to both the liberalist and socialist movements, and a cultural icon for the Scots. In fact, he’s so renowned in Scotland his life is still celebrated with the “Burns suppers,” typically held on or near the fellow’s birthday–January 25. There are even “Burns clubs” and whole Scottish societies dedicated to the poetry of this literary great.

In honor of these dinners (and the poet), the poem we’re about to share together is one that’s pure Scot, right down to its title: “Address to a Haggis.” Part of the fun will be seeing if you can actually follow all the Scottish dialect he laced his poem with. For those unfamiliar, it’s a tongue that can throw a person about…

Address to a Haggis

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 ye 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 strech 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 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’ 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 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!

~Robert Burns

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