Minor Burns Advice

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

“A man’s a man for a’ that.” By Robert Burns.

I’ve always liked that bit! The man of independent mind, laughing at the stupid “lord.” Whilst hundreds hang upon his word. As relevant today, days before Burns’ birthday as it ever was. Just look at the claptrap gossip mags, salivatingly informing us of the telephoto close up of Kate’s cellulite or the new barnet Brad got on his last trip to John Freida.

As we (as a nation) await the final of celebrity big brother. !!!!

Anyway, I digress….for those of you celebrating Burns’ Night, I found this amusing take in the very informative www.haggishunt.com

How to eat Haggis

There are as many ways to celebrate Burns’ nicht as there are people who like good food and a wee dram. Some like their Burns’ suppers to be formal and draped in tartan, others see 25 January as nothing more than an excuse for a blow-out with their mates.

There are many traditions surrounding the birthday of Scotland’s most celebrated poet. At haggishunt.com we have gone back to an ancient text, culled from our extensive subterranean library, to bring you the bare necessities for a Burns’ supper.

By the dim light of a candle we found a tattered copy of Brigadier Antony Doon’s 1816 work The Compleat Haggiser, a Treatise on the Correct Celebration of the Life and Works of Mr Robert Burns, Auld Scotia’s Dearest Poet, regarded by many as the definitive Burns’ Night text.

In his groundbreaking work, Brig A Doon tells us that a Burns supper should be held on his birthday (25 January) and that the meal should involve haggis.

Before any eating is done, the fearsome brigadier tells us that the Selkirk Grace should be said. (It is commonly held that this was written by Burns) .

Some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it,
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit.

After the starter course (possibly Cock-a-Leekie soup, probably not lollo rosso drizzled with truffle oil), the haggis is brought into the room. (It should be cooked by this stage).

It is traditional for the haggis to arrive to music, traditionally a piper playing a rousing tune, although a CD of The Corries or even a lusty chorus of Scotland football chants will suffice.

Before you tuck into the haggis a member of the party should recite Burns’ To A Haggis. Purists suggest reading the whole poem but, following the advice of Brig A Doon, we reproduce here a partial version. For maximum effect you should cut the haggis open when you reach word “cut” in the third verse.

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!

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!

In his book, the Brigadier attempted the first translation of the poem into English. We reproduce it here.

How fair your happy face is
Great lord of the stuffed foods
Your take your place above
Guts, tripe or tum
As worthy of a grace are you
As my arm is long

The heaped large plate you fill
Your bottom like a distant hill…

Brig A Doon got no further with his translation. He broke off his great labour, claiming that his work was being disturbed by the roaring noise of “Rabbie burling in his grave at the damage I was wreakin’ on his ain wurds in the heathen tongue”.

It is to be remembered at this point that Brig A Doon had – as a result, he said, of the stresses he suffered in the Peninsular War – a “great drouth (thirst)” and liked a dram to “keep the cold oot” even in July.

In a more lucid moment, the Brigadier wrote: “After the haggis has been consumed, thoughts should turn to the Star of Rabbie Burns. There should be a considered speech by one of the guests on the man, his works and his passion. It should end with a toast to the ‘immortal memory’ of Burns. All the guests should stand and raise their glasses to the great man. And in those glasses should not be an English, Irish or American liquor. No, only uisge beatha, the water of life, will suffice. Yes, each guest should have a wee dram of whisky. Ah a wee dram, what a fine idea. It is getting a little chilly out.”

Here the text becomes illegible.

More toasts follow the Immortal Memory. Next should follow an irreverent and mischievous Toast to the Lassies, by a male guest, who should comment on the demeanour and behaviour of the ladies present. As much whisky will have been taken by this point, the Reply from the Lassies often takes the form of a retaliatory strike by a female member of the company but in its purest form should be a point by point rebuttal of the guff spoken in the Toast to the Lassies, ending in an uproarious put-down.

Then the dancing and singing begins.

By Dave on January 22, 2010

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