Friday, January 25, 2008

Address to a haggis by Robert Burns

Address to a Haggis (EJay if this is Chinese to you - it is to half of us too)

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: T
hro 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!

(Though I suspect there's something about the French there... anyone agree? What's the French ragout bit about?)


ejaydee said...

It's been Chinese to me since you started getting into the specifics of Haggis, it took me days to figure out what the choices in the poll were too.

ejaydee said...

And who the hell is Burns?

ejaydee said...

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it of course. I just heard the poem read by Andrew O'Hagan on Newsdesk (GU's news podcast).

Cyan said...

Address to the Haggis is a celebration of Scottishness - and of a good simple Scots meal - so you don't need all the foreign food like French ragout, or fricasee - and bear in mind it is 1786 - the French are the enemy who sided with the Jacobite Rebellion and the American revolution - so yes he's having a go - but then he could be very cutting on a whole host of subjects -

Frogprincess said...

Utter kudos for that explanation. So that's the 18th century equiv. of "foreign muck", is it? Just to reassure Ejay, the Scots and French became friends again thanks to the "Auld Alliance". Now who can tell us exactly what THAT was?

treefrogdemon said...

That's easy - it was against the English.

Cyan said...

As treefrogdemon says the Auld Alliance was a friendship based on your enemy is my enemy - through the whole mediaval period the Scots looked to France for support and the French would encourage the Scots to invade Northern England whenever they were fighting in the English areas of what is now France - trouble is the Scots were often hung out to dry - e.g Flodden - of Flowers of the Field fame - a King and much of the nobility wiped out in one afternoon.

By Burns time the Auld Alliance was confused by French support of the Jacobite - as Lowlander Burns would not have supported that, and Scotlands inclusion in what was now Britain - of which Burns was also scathing (see "Such a Parcel o' Rogues in a Nation") but Scots were enthusiastic participants in Empire building (just look at how many West Indians have Scots origined surnames) - so the French were becoming their enemy as well - but from time the mutual dislike of the English revives the Auld Alliance and there is certainly still in Scotland less of a rivalry with the French than there is in England

Frogprincess said...

Had a feeling we could count on you for an erudite explanation Cyan. And even from my time in Edinburgh I can remember that the Scots were well disposed towards the French, more so than towards the English if the truth be told.

treefrogdemon said...

Here in Kirkcudbright there used to be a restaurant called the Auld Alliance, which served French food. Alas, it has departed.