Celebrating Burn’s Night: Address to a Haggis

25th January is the day most, if not all, Scots commemorate Burn’s Night, the annual tribute to Robert (also known fondly as Rabbie) Burns, world-renowned national Scottish poet, on the date he was born in 1759. Rabbie already penned more than 550 poems and songs which focused on his interest in Scottish scenery and his liberal views on political issues he was passionate about by the time of his passing in 1796 when he was only 37.


Haggis is a well-known Scottish delicacy that most have a love/hate relationship with. Love because most who try it enjoy the taste; hate because of thought of its ingredients. As anyone not familiar with the traditional/cultural delicacy of a country, I was aware of the ingredients used in haggis. I must admit that once you try it, thoughts of what is used isn’t that important. My advice is, to celebrate a wonderful Scottish tradition, try it first before you ask what’s in the dish. Believe me when I say compared to some of the more cringe-worthy Chinese dishes I ate as a child and refused to touch from my teenage years onwards (like crocodile meat, pig’s blood tofu and soup made from deer horns or dried bits), haggis among other Scottish dishes are relatively safe.

The dish is normally served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and on Burn’s Night is toasted with a dram of whisky. A proper Burn’s Night celebration at restaurants or events involve the plate of haggis being carried while preceded by a piper who plays the bagpipe to announce its arrival into the hall of hungry customers. Everyone will have their requisite dram of whisky held high in a toast while Burns’ Address to Haggis is read out to celebrate his love for the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin-‘race’. After the dish is devoured, washed down with a nice shot of whisky of choice, all guests are invited to join in a rendition of an old Scottish favourite tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Below is the original Address to Haggis poem by Rabbie Burns with an English translation of the Scots poem by the Alexandria Burns Club.

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

(English translation)

Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst,
‘The grace!’ hums.

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!

Happy Burn’s Night, everyone! You might have heard about (or tasted) haggis before, and I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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