Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robert Burns at 250

Earlier today I heard on the radio that this is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scots poet Robert Burns. Born Robert Burness on January 25, 1759, he died at the young age of 37 on July 21, 1796.

Learning this, I dug through some of my videos to find footage I took almost exactly ten years ago -- on January 30, 1999 -- at a Robert Burns dinner hosted by a Boy Scout troop in North Finchley, London. My friend, Steve Salinger, had been a member of this troop growing up, and he explained that it was the only Scottish Scout troop in London.

Steve had been selected to recite Burns' "Ode to a Haggis" (sometimes called "Address to a Haggis") and he did so with dramatic flourish, including a passionate slicing of the haggis with his dagger.

While Steve was dressed formally, the other Scouts in the troop -- who served the meal to the 150 or so people in attendance -- wore kilts with starched white shirts. There was plenty of food and drink, followed by dancing.

Those of you who enjoy bagpipe music will also enjoy this short clip of "Ode to a Haggis":

In case you have problems understanding the recited Scots verse, here is the text of the poem:
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!

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Steven Latimer said...

My four minutes of culture for the day. Thanks, Rick.

Cathy said...

Your sister and your nephew celebrated this very thing Saturday night! We went to the local Scottish pub and listen to Scottish music and bag pipes (gavin loved the bag pipes)AND they did THIS toast. It was huge. Gavin toasted the haggis cutting with his sippy cup. I did it with Irish beer, is that wrong?