24 January 2007

Burns Night


There is a good chance I won't be feeling well on January 26, but there is a perfectly legitimate reason involving way too much music, poetry, food, and single malt whiskey tomorrow night. There might be an ice bag on my head, but there will be a smile on my face.

On January 25, Scotland celebrates the birth of its greatest poet, Robert Burns, who was born in Ayrshire on that date in 1759. During the celebration, Burns poems are read usually the rather bawdy (Ode to a Fornicator) or most popular (Ode to a Mouse), and the haggis is addressed by a member of the party, ceremonially, in the form of verses from Burns' poem, 'Address to a Haggis' as it is carried into the gathering to the skirl of bagpipes. A typical meal for Burns Night would follow this procedure and service of these dishes

Cock-a-Leekie Soup
Haggis with Tatties-an'-Neeps
Roastit Beef
Tipsy Laird
Dunlop Cheese.

Oh, and did I mention that whisky is also served?


Ye jovial boys who love the joys,
The blissful joys of Lovers;
Yet dare avow with dauntless brow,
When th' bony lass discovers;
I pray draw near and lend an ear,
And welcome in a Frater,
For I've lately been on quarantine,
A proven Fornicator.

Before the Congregation wide
I pass'd the muster fairly,
My handsome Betsey by my side,
We gat our ditty rarely;
But my downcast eye by chance did spy
What made my lips to water,
Those limbs so clean where I, between,
Commenc'd a Fornicataor.

With rueful face and signs of grace
I pay'd the buttock hire,
The night was dark and thro the park
I could not but convoy her;
A parting kiss, what could I less,
My vows began to scatter,
My Betsey fell ? lal de dal lal lal,
I am a Fornicator.

But for her sake this vow I make,
And solemnly I swear it,
That while I own a single crown,
She's welcome for to share it;
And my roguish boy his Mother's joy,
And the darling of his Pater,
For him I boast my pains and cost,
Although a Fornicator.

Ye wenching blades whose hireling jades
Have tipt you off blue boram,
I tell ye plain, I do disdain
To rank you in the Quorum;
But a bony lass upon the grass
To teach her esse Mater,
And no reward but for regard,
O that's a Fornicator.

Your warlike Kings and Heros bold,
Great Captains and Commanders;
Your mighty Cesars fam'd of old,
And Conquering Alexanders;
In fields they fought and laurels bought
And bulwarks strong did batter,
But still they grac'd our noble list
And ranked a Fornicator!!!


Oh, tiny timorous forlorn beast,
Oh why the panic in your breast ?
You need not dart away in haste
To some corn-rick
I'd never run and chase thee,
With murdering stick.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
And fellow mortal.

I do not doubt you have to thieve;
What then? Poor beastie you must live;
One ear of corn that's scarcely missed
Is small enough:
I'll share with you all this year's grist,
Without rebuff.

Thy wee bit housie too in ruin,
Its fragile walls the winds have strewn,
And you've nothing new to build a new one,
Of grasses green;
And bleak December winds ensuing,
Both cold and keen.

You saw the fields laid bare and waste,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cosy there beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash; the cruel ploughman crushed
Thy little cell.

Your wee bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Had cost thee many a weary nibble.
Now you're turned out for all thy trouble
Of house and home
To bear the winter's sleety drizzle,
And hoar frost cold.

But, mousie, thou art not alane,
In proving foresight may be in vain,
The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go oft astray,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
To rend our day.

Still thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee,
But, oh, I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear,
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, cheerful
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Above
Painch, tripe, or thairm: paunch/guts
Weel are ye worthy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill, buttocks
Your pin wad help to mend a mill skewer
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

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

Then, horn for horn, they strech an' strive: spoon
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve, bellies/soon
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive, burst
'Bethanket!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow, sicken
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner, disgust
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash, weak/rush
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit; fist/nut
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, choice
He'll make it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned, trim
Like taps o' thrissle. tops/thistle

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware watery
That jaups in luggies; splashes/porringers
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Music To Go With Your haggis


Kvatch said...

I think I'd need something a bit stronger than music to go with my haggis! ;-) And I've got some (not much, but a little) Scot in me.

Dexter said...

It creptit upit on me! In past years I hadid also sent poems by Burns around my e-list! TY for remembering Burns night...'tho I have yet sample Haggis...I always would perhaps be up for it!
Before , I have posted that in another life I deeply appreciated the Glenlivet , so I say, go out into the night and drink one for me, but thanks to your blog, I'll warmly remember Burns tonight as I sip my Earl Grey.

Jamie said...


Despite the blog, I treat my liver quite kindly. I do love single malt, but keep the imbibing down to three as that is my limit if I don't want them to find me snoozing in the corner.


It would surprise you. It did me. What they serve at Highland Gatherings and Games here has absolutely nothing to do with Haggis.