Address to a Haggis


Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudding-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 dight, An' cut you up wi' ready sleight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like ony 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; 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 make 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 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 walie nieve a blade, He'll mak 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!

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John Gordon Sinclair
Liz Lochhead

Richard Gordon

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About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by John Gordon Sinclair.

More about this poem

Alongside Tam o' Shanter and To a Mouse, To a Haggis is one of Burns's most famous and regularly performed poems. Written in 1786 not long after Burns arrived in Edinburgh, this poem has become the centrepiece of Burns' Suppers and it can be argued that it has been as influential as any of Burns' poems in presenting the popular image of the poet that most people are familiar with today.

There are two stories that are linked to the writing of this poem. The first, more romantic version, is that Burns came up with poem on the hoof during a dinner at Mauchline cabinet-maker John Morrison's house. More likely is the story that the poem had been written by Burns for a dinner at the house of his merchant friend Andrew Bruce.

No matter what the origin of the poem it is notable for being the first of his poems to be published in an Edinburgh periodical, the Caledonian Mercury, on the 20th December 1786.

In Burns day haggis was not an every day meal, and it could be described as a luxury item. As this was the case it is not beyond possibility that Burns' 'Address' was ironic in its praise for the dish, and was pointing the finger at those who would revere it.

Alistair Braidwood

Themes for this poem

nationalism food

Locations for this poem

Mauchline

Selected for 24 January

With haggis, potatoes and turnip soon to be savoured, we present in anticipation the poem in praise of that 'great chieftain o' the pudding-race!'. Whether made up on the spot to please a host in Mauchline or to delight the company at a dinner in Edinburgh, or offered on both occasions as a performance based on a previous improvisation, this tongue-in-cheek, mock epic does seem to have a spontaneous flourish. It is, in itself, a secular grace of sorts. The haggis IS praised in a poem as stolidly delicious as the 'warm-reekin, rich' culinary curiosity it celebrates. Watch out for that dash! Not warm, (pause) reekin'... But 'warm-reekin'!

Donny O'Rourke

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