In Burns day haggis was not an every day meal. Rather it was a luxury food revered by those sufficiently affluent to be able to afford it. It is more than possible that Burns’ ‘Address To A Haggis’ was ironic in its praise, while pointing an admonitory finger at those who would feign to revere it.
Nevertheless, the poem has become a permanent fixture of Burns’ Night Suppers. Written in Edinburgh and published there in the ‘Caledonian Mercury’ on the 20th December 1786, shortly after Burns arrived in that fair city. It can be argued that it has been as influential as any of his ‘more serious’ works (read ‘The Cottars Saturday Night’ here) in creating the popular image of the poet that most people are familiar with today.
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,
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,
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!
Now the alternative element to this post has to be different uses for the succulent, aromatic Haggis and how it is presented :
First, would be the haggis Scotch Egg, which would involve wrapping a shelled, hard boiled egg not in sausage meat but Haggis, rolling it in breadcrumbs and then deep-frying it until golden,
Second, would be to replace the chopped pork and spices in a Pork Pie with Haggis and bake it as per usual, to be eaten hot or cold, and
Third, either a shepherds pie, replacing the minced lamb with Haggis and serving it with honey-baked neeps! Or why not a Haggis lasagne? Fresh pasta, a strongly flavoured cheese sauce? Yummy!
To finish, of course, it must return to the traditional Cloutie Dumpling flamed in whiskey naturally!