Burns Night!

I’ve just realised it’s Burns Night!

If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a Scottish celebration of the poet Rabbie Burns, whose best-known is probably the song Auld Lang Syne. The night involves the Burns Supper, which can be quite an elaborate affair, and invariably involves a meal of haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes). Before it’s served there’s the Piping of the Haggis. Bagpipers play as the delicious dish is brought in, and the host or a guest then recites Burn’s Address to a Haggis: 

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 worthy 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 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 scunner,
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 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!

That’s Scots, which explains why it might not quite look like English to you. I was lucky enough to have attended a Burns Supper in 2007 when I lived in Edinburgh. Though it didn’t have bagpipers (it was in a university halls of residence, they weren’t going to fork out for them), I did have haggis, neeps, and tatties, with whisky, and our kilt-wearing host gave the haggis an eloquent address.

If you’re celebrating tonight, have a good one!

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne!



7 thoughts on “Burns Night!

  1. I have never eaten haggis, but I would try it! Americans owe a lot more to Burns than they realize — as author John Steinbeck used Burns’ poem for the title of his very famous, very American novel ‘Of Mice and Men’. Americans will say, ‘oh, the best laid plans of mice and men…’ but they do not know where it came from. To be fair — ‘Gang aft agley’ is not an easy translation — I was told it means something like ‘often going awry’. Anyway, he is a interesting poet!

    Liked by 1 person

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