The Haggis is Greeted
Fair fa' your honest sonsie face
Greetings and good luck to your honest, cheerful face.
Great chieftain of the intestine-based race of foods!
You rank above all other dishes coming from the
paunch, tripe or guts; You truly deserve a grace
As long as my arm.
In the old days Burns extremists in Scotland would greet the entry of the haggis by standing on their chairs, putting their right foot on the table, drinking a dram of whisky, then tossing the empty glass back over their shoulders onto the floor.
This is no longer advised. Because this is a mock epic, however, the person addressing the haggis tends to adopt a properly exaggerated tone, full of dramatic gestures.
Tribute is Paid to its External Dimensions and Attractions
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
|You fill this
groans beneath your weight,
Your hips swell like a
A skewer on that scale would
help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores
the dews distill
Tor form amber-coloured
beads of moisture
Hurdies, translated here as hips, can also mean buttocks. Pin can mean hip-bone, but some believe that Burns was also making a pun on the virile nature of the jutting skewer. A mill would, of course, contain the largest piece of machinery known to the poet's audience.
The Personification of Rustic Labour Slices the Haggis
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,
|Watch as rustic
wipes his knife,
And cuts you up with easy
Digging a great trench in
your bright moist innards
Just like a ditch
And then, O what a glorious
Steaming, warm, with good
|The reference to
"His knife" allows the orator to brandish the knife to great effect,
before the actual moment of slicing. One hero in my presence turned in
mid-brandish to lunch at the attendant chef, who was standing
respectfully beside him, and proceeded to impale his white chef's hat.
It is very important that this move be rehearsed with the chef.
A knowledgeable orator will pronounce dight, slight, bright, and sight as dicht, slicht, bricht, and sicht-- as in "braw bricht moonlict nicht".
An Imagined Group of Diners Demolishes the Haggis
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
'Till all their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maiste like to rive,
spoons they dig in, stretching
Every man for himself, on
Till in due course all of their
Are stretch tight as drums;
Then the master of the
house, the one most likely to
Stammers the usual grace after
meat, "God be Thanked!"
"Deil tak the hindmost"-- "devil take the hindmost"-- i.e. the slowest, has entered the general language. As has the parallel proverb based on spooning from a common dish: "He who sups with the devil will need a long spoon".
Effete French Dishes are Disparaged
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?
|Is it possible
over hs French "ragout",
Or his "olio" stew that would
bloat even a sow,
Or his "fricassee" that would
make her vomit,
In total disgust--
Could look down in a sneering,
On such a dinner as
Note that sow rhymes with ragout and spew. If you wonder where the hog-calling competitors of the U.S. got their "sooeee" call, look no further. The Scots (and the "Scotch-Irish" settlers from Ulster) who poured through the Appalacians to settle the American West originated the call when out on their homesteads in search of their sows, using the equivalent of "piggy, piggy".
Those Who East Effete French Dishes are Disparaged
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
look at him
eating his trashy fare,
As feeble as a withered reed,
His skinny leg, thin as the
end of a whip,
His dainty fist small as a
How unfit he is to play a
In battles at sea or on the
The orator usually lets himself/herself go at this point, since the whole verse is ideally delivered through a sneer, with "Poor devil" properly pronounced "puir deeil", which goes well with a sneer.
By Contrast, Tribute is Paid to the Formidable Nature of Haggis-Fed Men
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' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.
But consider the haggis-fed
man from the country,
The very earth trembles beneath
his heavy tread,
Put a blade into his mighty
And he'll make it whistle to
Shearing off opponents' legs,
and arms, and heads,
As easily as cutting off
Frequently, a sturdy attendant is singled out as "the rustic, haggis-fed", and his manly frame indicated, his shoulders clapped resoundingly, and so on. Equally effective is to signal out a small, frail, bespectacled, undeniably urban figure for this role, preferably a blushing lawyer or accountant.
The Gods Are Invoked To Keep Scotland Supplied with Haggis
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!
|you Powers who
And distribute food among
Old Scotland wants no watery
That splash around in their
But, if you want her prayers
Give her a haggis!
The final line, "Gie her a Haggis!", is usually delivered as a climax, with all the company joining in. Frequently this is followed by everyone drinking a toast of whiskey. Or simply drinking more whiskey, showing that they have grasped the essence of the event.