What is the history of an Address to a Haggis?

 

The address was written in 1786, shortly after the poet arrived in Edinburgh. Two stories are associated with the poem's creation, one more romantic than the other. 

The first version suggests that he was invited to dinner at the home of a wealthy merchant, Andrew Bruce, and composed the poem to entertain the host and guests. 

The second, more charming version, claims that he spontaneously composed the poem while visiting his cabinetmaker friend, John Morrison, inspired by the sight of a luxurious meat pudding. 

In the 18th century, haggis was considered a rare delicacy, enjoyed only on special occasions. Due to Burns' political beliefs, some believe his tribute to haggis was ironic, poking fun at those who saw it as a luxury item. 


Although the poem's true origin is debated, it was one of Burns' earliest works published in The Caledonian Mercury on December 20, 1786. 

A search for "Address to the Haggis" reveals numerous videos, from kid-friendly versions to formal recitals in prestigious venues like the National Museum of Scotland. 

Even high-society publications like Tatler highlight where to find the best Burns Night supper in London, showing that the Address to the Haggis can be performed in diverse settings. 

As countless Addresses to the Haggis are performed worldwide, each one takes on its unique character, something Burns would have appreciated.

 

 

 

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns, in full

 

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. 

 

An' cut you up wi' ready sleight, 
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like ony 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 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!