Haggis address 101

William M. Dowd photos

Chef David Graham and his staff watch piper Duncan MacGillivray deliver the "Address to a Haggis" before dinner

FEARN, BY TAIN, ROSS-SHIRE, Scotland -- Next year will mark a special promotion called "Homecoming Scotland," with government and tourism entities offering all sorts of inducements for tourists to visit Scotland for golf, distillery tours, sightseeing and so on.

One reason for the timing is that '09 will mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the iconic poet Robert Burns. Among the many writings by the author of the poem "Auld Land Syne" (and "Comin Thro the Rye," "My Heart's In the Highlands, "To a Mouse," etc.) is the venerable "Address to a Haggis," delivered before the formal serving of the peculiar Scottish dish that consists of a variety of oatmeals, vegetables and innards cooked into a stewlike mass inside a sheep's stomach.

I was part of a group of visiting journalists treated at The Glenmorangie House (shown below) to the dish, as well as the fun and ceremony surrounding its serving, sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and the Scottish Whisky Association.

Here's the Burns epic, in modern English. For a look at it in the original Scottish dialect, go here.

Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm

The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill
Your skewer would help to repair a mill
In time of need
While through your pores the juices emerge
Like amber beads

His knife having seen hard labour wipes
And cuts you up with great skill
Digging into your gushing insides bright
Like any ditch
And then oh what a glorious sight
Warm steaming, rich

Then spoon for spoon
They stretch and strive
Devil take the last man, on they drive
Until all their well swollen bellies
Are bent like drums
Then, the old gent most likely to rift (burp)
Be thanked, mumbles

Is there that over his French Ragout
Or olio that would sicken a pig
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust
Looks down with a sneering scornful opinion
On such a dinner

Poor devil, see him over his trash
As week as a withered rush (reed)
His spindle-shank a good whiplash
His clenched fist.the size of a nut.
Through a bloody flood and battle field to dash
Oh how unfit

But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He'll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles

You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis!


Glenmorangie House
Burns Country
Scottish recipes
Dowd's Guides

No comments:

Blog Archive