Posted by: nancycurteman | December 22, 2011

The Mysterious Connection Between Robert Burns and the Haggis?

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What is the mysterious connection between Scotland’s beloved national bard, the “peasant-poet” Robert Burns and Scotland’s traditional eating of the haggis? This is a question I pondered when my father and I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland.

We had stopped to admire the Robert Burns statue in George Square and even though it wasn’t Robert Burn’s Day, we decided to honor him by dining on the haggis that evening.

Traditionally, a haggis is made from the lung, liver, and heart of the sheep. These are mixed with oatmeal and a few spices and stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Let me say that haggis is best eaten with lots of Scotch whiskey chasers.

Robert Burns is the poet/song writer who wrote many of his poems and songs in the Scottish Dialect; songs like “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” and “Auld Lang Syne” and the popular poem “Tam o’ Shanter.” These pieces document and celebrate traditional Scottish culture.

Now that you know what the haggis is and you know some of Burns’ famous works, you may, like me, wonder about the mysterious connection between Robert Burns and the haggis.

Well here it is. Burns also wrote “Address To A Haggis.” In this poem Burns presented the Haggis as being a unique and symbolic part of Scottish identity and culture. For Burns the haggis represented the true Scotsmen and their political struggle against the English.

That is the mysterious connection between Robert Burns and the haggis. The humble haggis demonstrates Scottish pride and nationalism because it is uniquely Scottish and Robert Burns was a poet who wrote in praise of his country.

Address To A Haggis 

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

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Photo: myeslfrends

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Responses

  1. My parents enjoy Haggis. They also enjoy Steak and Kidney Pie. I’ll pass on both . . . and enjoy some delicious Tattie Soup and Oat Cakes!

    Thanks, NC. May your days be Merry and Bright . . . and your nights be filled with Love, Laughter, and Light!

    Like

    • Nancy, Your interesting comment brought up so many questions. Are you a fine Scottish girl? Do your parents chase the haggis with good scotch whiskey? Finally, what is Tattie Soup? Happy holidays to you as well.

      Like

    • 50%. My mother’s parents were born and raised in Scotland and emigrated in their 20’s.

      Yes. The definitely wash down the haggis with scotch whiskey.

      Tatties = potatoes.

      Tattie soup is traditionally made with a mutton bone, potatoes, carrots, and onion. Once cooked, the bits of mutton are pulled off the bone, the soup is “mashed” (so that the pototoes and carrots break apart and become “one” with the broth), and the meat is added back in.

      I make mine with vegetarian broth and no mutton ~ just cook the veggies in the broth and use a submersible blender or potato masher to smash them up a bit.

      Happy Holidays!

      Like

      • Tattie soup not only sounds delicious, it sounds very healthy. Fun to get the recipe from a real Scottish girl.

        Like

  2. Victor, I enjoyed cruising your site. I like your slightly off-beat approach to travel information. Especially enjoyed the French ice cream prep video. Neat posts.

    Like

  3. I had a lot of fun writing this post. It brought back fond memories of travels with my father.

    Like

  4. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the Haggish poem’s form as translated. Burns wrote works sometimes is Scots and sometimes in English (and quite old forms of either), so I assume this is a translation. I didn’t find the rhyme scheme satisfying since the second stanza breaks the scheme near the end which left me without the finishing tonic chord after the dominant fifth set-up. So here’s a suggested translation by me, which satisfies the rhyme scheme better (I think), though some folks would rip me to shreds for tinkering with the great Master’s works. He was known, also, for not polishing his work, so probably not an issue with translation. Not plagiarizing, just an exercise:

    Address To A Haggis [modified, Richard A. Burns]

    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
    Before we feast in cozy huts.

    The groaning platter there you fill
    Your butt-roast like a distant hill
    Your skewer would help repair a mill
    In time of need
    While through your pores good juices spill
    Their droplets hung like amber beads.

    Like

    • Richard,
      Thanks for presenting the your poet’s perspective. As you know, poetry often loses in the translation. I like your improved version.

      Like


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