To a Haggis on Burns Night

It’s Burns Night, the traditional celebration of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most iconic poet. Often with a traditional Scottish meal, songs, and poetry reading, Burns Night is celebrated across the Scottish diaspora every year on January 25th.

Although I won’t be partaking in a Scottish meal (though I do love me some haggis . . . not really; it’s okay, but I prefer black pudding), I celebrate by sharing with you excerpts from Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis,” written in 1787.

Related posts on this blog involving Robert Burns’ poetry, language translation, and definitions include:

As with those posts, I have done my best to add word meanings below for the Scots terms. Again I used the Dictionary of the Scots Language as my source.

However, dear students and enthusiasts, I leave you to analyze the first section of this haggis poem to your hearts’ content. Enjoy its text in full through, for example, the link found in a 2017 article about Burns Night from International Business Times. My primary source for the text of the poem is The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, a gift I received last year.

Address to a Haggis

Opening 3 stanzas

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
                        Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
                        As lang’s my arm.

fa’ (v.) – fall
sonsie (adj.) – good, honest, lucky (said esp. of women)
Aboon (prep.) – above, higher than
a’ (pron.) – all
tak (v.) – take
painch (n.) – paunch, belly, stomach
tripe (n., adj.) – tall, thin, ungainly person; slovenly, gangling
thairm (n.) – gut or bowel
weel (adj.) – well
wordy (v.) – worthy
grace (n.) – grace-drink, taken at the end of a meal after grace is said
lang (adj.) – long

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.

trencher (n.) – round or square plate or platter of wood or metal (i.e., flatware)
hurdies (n.pl.) – buttocks, hips, haunches of humans and animals
wad (v.) – would

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
                        Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
                        Warm-reekin’, rich!

dight (v.) – clothe, deck or adorn
onie (adj.) – any
reekin’ (adj.) – reeking

The next 3 stanzas share delicious language about competing for a portion of the food, defying foreigners to disdain their feast, and the unpleasant consequences after supper awaiting those who ate too well.

The last 2 stanzas frolic with the feaster as he makes his bloated way home until at last we see the final statement of haggis’s superiority to other refreshments, such as porridge and milk.

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’ hands will sned,
                         Like taps o’ thrissle.

walie (adj.) – fine, excellent; big, strong
nieve (n.) – fist, grip
whissle (v.) – spend? (as in explode?)
sned (v.) – chop (off)
taps (n.pl.) – tufts, as of bird crest feathers
thrissle (n.) – thistle

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!

wha (pron.) – who
mak (v.) – make
auld (adj.) – old
nae (adj.) – no
skinking (adj.) – pouring, pitcher
jaups (v.) – dash, splash, ripple
luggies (n.pl.) – small wooden dishes or vessels used in serving milk, porridge
gie (v.) – give
haggis (n.) – “A dish consisting of the pluck or heart, lungs and liver of a sheep minced and mixed with suet, oatmeal, onion and seasoning and boiled in a sheep’s maw or stomach.” (also used as an insult, a term of contempt for a person – blockhead, stupid)

And so, what is Burns Night to a haggis? Complete annihilation.


For a recipe and more information, see “What Is Haggis Made of?” at The Spruce Eats. Of course, Burns Night isn’t complete without bagpipes and whisky. Nae bother, we’ll be better organized by next January.

Happy Burns Night–and weekend. . . .

Speaking of weeks and ends, catch the Season 4 finale of Outlander, Sunday, January 27, at 8pm Eastern on STARZ. Episodes guide here.

Traditional haggis. Photo credit Reuters via International Business Times, UK, 2017.

Primary References

Dictionary of the Scots Language. / Dictionar o the Scots Leid. (n.d.). A database supported by the Scottish Government and hosted by the University of Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.dsl.ac.uk/

Waverley Books. (2011). The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. Glasgow: The Gresham Publishing Company Ltd. pp. 194-195.

Adapted Bawdy Lyrics: Outlander TV Series, Episode 114, “The Search”

Caution: This post contains old-time and foreign, though no less explicit, lyrics.

If you read my last post “Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy” and wondered what the TV version lyrics of this naughty song were, I’ve added below what I could best discern from watching and listening. The earlier post includes a Scots terms glossary for both song versions. Also note that no details of Claire’s singing appear in the book; this content is unique to the show.

Stop_quoting_bible_Claire_drag_Murtagh_stage_TheSearch.gif

Here are Outlander Starz TV‘s adapted lyrics of traditional Scots bawdy song “The Reels o Bogie.” Arranged to the tune of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” featured in Season 1, Episode 114, “The Search,” and sung by actor Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in drag, or as Murtagh puts it, “a Sassenach lady dressed as a laddie”:

Scene 1

[As stage fright hits her, Claire prefaces her performance with a 20th-century expletive, omitted here]

Verse 1:

Here’s to all you lads and lasses that go out this way.

Be sure to tip your coggie when you take her out to play.

The lads and lasses toy and kiss.

The lads never think what they do is amiss.

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

And there’s nane [none] as muckle as Strath-bogie-wogie.

Verse 2:

For every lad’ll wander just to have his lass,

And when they see a pintle rise, they’ll raise a glass,

And rowe about their wanton een.

They dance the reel as the troopers go over the lea.

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

And there’s nane as muckle as Strath-bogie-wogie.

A-root, a-toot, a-rooty a-doot….

Scene 2 (continuation)

[scatting]

He giggled, goggled me.

He was a banger.

He sought the prize between my thighs,

became a hanger.

[next is only a partially audible stanza as attention shifts to the crowd where Murtagh makes inquiries about Jamie Fraser]

[something] muckle chump [?]

I suppled both the ends…. [per 6th stanza of the original song (see link from previous post for details)] [something, something] boogie

[refrain repeats:]

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

But there’s nane as muckle as the Strath-bogie-wogie.

[Claire signals instrumental accompaniment to halt for her a capella finale:]

No, there’s nane as muckle as the wanton toun of Strathbogie.

Credits: song by Don Raye and Hughie Prince (1941), brought to popular culture by the Andrews Sisters; lyrics based on “The Reels o Bogie” and adapted by the writers and producers at Outlander Starz and Sony Pictures Television.

For fascinating insights into the score created for what he calls Outlander’s “trilogy” of episodes concluding with “The Search,” visit series composer Bear McCreary’s Outlander site at the following page: http://www.bearmccreary.com/#blog/blog/outlander-lallybroch-the-watch-the-search/. He emphasizes the ever-present Scottish folk elements in these episodes of the series.

To learn the meaning of these adapted lyrics and to access and learn about the original—much naughtier—song lyrics, see my earlier post: “Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy.”

To see and hear the adapted song and lyrics in action (totally worth it), catch re-runs of the episode “The Search,” showing this week on Starz, or stream it online. Mature audiences only.


For more posts using Scots and/or Scottish Gaelic terms for body parts, or trippy poems about mammals and stones (and possibly some stoned mammals), try:


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