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To a Haggis

This noted production was composed with a fortnight after the poet's arrival in Edinburgh, and was printed in the pages of the Caledonian Mercury, December 20th, 1786. Hogg assures us that it was produced almost extempore, at dinner, within the house of Mr Andrew Bruce, merchant, Castlehill, there.

It is usual to have this Scotch dish at the anniversary celebrations of the poet's birth, and a very savoury viand it is, although unsafe to eat much of. Allan Cunningham treats of its component parts in the following way:-

"'Pray, sir' said a man from the south, 'why do you boil it in a sheep's bag; and, above all, what is it made of?' - 'Sir,' answered a man of the north, 'we boil it in a sheep's bag because such was the primitave way before linen was invented; and as for what it is made of, I dare not trust myself to tell - I can never name all the savoury items without tears; and truly you would not have me expose such weakness in a public company.'"

Galt records in his autobiography, that he sat next to the Duke of York at one of the poet's anniversary dinners, when his royal Highness was attracted by the savoury steam issuing from a Scotch haggis. It was evidently ill-made - of the bag dingy - altogether an ugly, flabby trencher full of fat things. "Pray what dish is that?" inquired the Duke. "A boiled pair of bagpipes!" gravely replied Galt, who dearly relished a joke in his own quiet way. The dish was soon ordered off the board.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of 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;
Then 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 sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scronful' 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' bluidy 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's wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae shinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if you wish her gratefu' pray'r,
Gie her a Haggis!*
* This stanza was originally written out as follows:-
"Ye Pow'rs wha gie us a' that's gude
Still bless auld Caledonia's brood,
Wi' great John Barleycorn's heart's bluid
In stoups or luggies;
And on our boards, that king o' food,
A gud Scotch Haggis!"

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