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“Address to a haggis”: Critical Detailed Analysis And Summary


The haggis is a classic Scottish dish that Robert Burns memorialized as Scotland’s national dish in his poem “Address to a Haggis” in 1787. Before many a Burns supper, it is recited.

During Burns Night, everyone waits until the haggis is brought in as usual by the chef on a muckle dish as a bagpiper directs the procession to the host’s table. The haggis will then be cut open at the precise moment so the poem can be read aloud by the host or an invited guest.

The 1786 poem “Address to a Haggis” is a must-have for authentic Burns Suppers. This is not only a speech but is more than a tribute to the typical “peasant” food.

This result may in part be attributable to Burns’s usage of the haggis as a metaphor for Scottish tenacity, a food that is claimed to have given rise to a sturdy race of people. Burns compares such a diet to that of other countries, which don’t have the same consequences on the population. Burns is highlighting the unique aspects of Scottish culture in doing so.

Burns contributed almost a hundred songs to “The Melodies of Scotland” after being asked to write the lyrics in 1791. He made significant contributions to James Johnson’s Musical Museum and A select collection of Scottish Airs by George Thomson.

Burns modified and adapted many of his gathered folk tunes from Scotland. While “Auld Lang Syne” has been considered to be a well-known song of farewell, “Scots Wha Hae” has frequently been used as an informal national anthem of the nation.


The poem “Address to a Haggis” pays homage to the substantial Scottish dish comprised of beef, oatmeal, and seasonings. There are eight stanzas in it. Again there are six lines in each of these stanzas.

Thus the complete poem comprises forty-eight lines. Since this poetry has been written using the first-person narrative, we may presume that the poet himself is speaking as the poem’s speaker.


Stanza 1

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain 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 poet expressed gratitude to the server for serving a plate of haggis him in this line. In this opening line, he claims that haggis is a dish that is hearty and straightforward. It is the best among all the sausage-based dishes.

The heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep are chopped and cooked in the stomach of the sheep, making the haggis superior to the sum of its parts. The size of the haggis is long as the poet’s arm, so everyone should respect it.

Stanza 2

“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.”

In this particular stanza, the haggis is informed by the poet in this stanza that it fills the entire dish on which it is served. It has buttocks that are so big and rounded that they resemble hills.

The skewer that holds the meat is so robust that it serves as a foundation to support a mill that is about to collapse. The haggis’ pores let the amber-coloured stew within condensing into dewdrops on its surface.

Stanza 3

“His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!”

In this third stanza, we observe that a man has been introduced by the poet whose responsibility is to serve and chop the haggis. He starts by sharpening the knife and effortlessly slices through the meat. The delicious haggis has a tempting aroma that appears to be flowing out of a ditch that has been dug by him with his knife.

Stanza 4

“Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes believe
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive
Bethankit hums”

The poet recounts a table of diners enjoying haggis in this poem. According, each one of them picks up the spoon and begins vying with the others for the biggest bite. The final piece goes to the slowest person. Until that, all the men continued to eat for a while until at some point their stomachs expanded and tightened up like a drum’s skin.

He felt that his stomach is still intact because the person at the head of the table is most likely to rupture.

Stanza 5

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, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

The fifth stanza starts with the poet making fun of the French cuisine in this poem specifically ragout. He claims that the folio stew can cause bloating without actually filling you up. He claims that the fricassee might make people feel queasy. The Scottish haggis, in contrast to these delicacies, is one that no one can refuse or despise to have.

Stanza 6

“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!”

The poet makes fun of French cuisine in this poem specifically ragout. He claims that the folio stew can cause bloating without actually filling you up. He claims that the fricassee might make people feel queasy. The Scottish haggis, in contrast to these delicacies, is something that is hard to despise.

Stanza 7

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

The poet paints a portrait of the Scottish countryman who routinely eats haggis in this stanza. He is so solid that he causes the ground underneath him to quake. The poet is confident about using the blade effectively, beheading people as effortlessly as he would thistle tops.

Stanza 8

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!

The poet addresses the supreme powers that are in charge of feeding humanity in this stanza. He explained that wet foods that were served won’t be acceptable to Scottish males if they splashed around in the bowls. If you feed them haggis, then they might be for you forever.


Robert Burns wrote the poem “Address to a Haggis” to express his love for haggis. A Burns supper is annually held on or around January 25th to honour Robert Burns’s birth and his literary contributions.

The supper is considered to be a formal affair at which men and women must wear full evening attire, or they can just spend their time by choosing a menu at the hotel serving customary food for the occasion.

Moreover, Robert Burns wanted to show immense appreciation toward Haggis so that he and haggis can become linked forever. It was a custom for Robert Burns to include The Address in his supper before the main event of the night.

Form & Structure

The poem is composed of eight stanzas altogether and again each of them consists of six lines. Consequently, there are a total of forty-eight lines in the complete poem. The poem is written in the first-person narrative so we can infer that the poet is speaking as the speaker.

Literary Devices

The poet employed a literary element throughout this poem. This rhetorical medium is of utmost importance when it is addressed to a silent audience. Here, the haggis and the forces responsible for feeding humanity are addressed directly by the poet, but at no point in the poem, do we witness that either of them is responding to him.

The technique of personification was used for the reference to haggis and other sausage-based foods. Personification was employed by him as a rhetorical strategy to accord human qualities to something which is not human.

Here, Burns envisages that foods are also divided on the spectrum of races and considered haggis as the chieftain of the race of sausage-based meals.

The poet frequently makes use of similes in this poem. This rhetorical strategy is applied to propose a comparison between two unrelated subjects. The haggis’ buttocks are compared to hills in the second line of the second stanza.

He compares the haggis’s internal cut to a ditch in the third line. He compares the haggis-eating men’s bellies to drums in the fourth verse. He compares the males who eat French cuisine to reeds in the second line of the sixth verse.


Mock epic

When a piece of poetry combines irony, exaggeration, and sarcasm to parody its original subject, usually in an ungraceful and grandiose style is known as mock-heroic. This is precisely what takes place in this poem. The haggis has been exaggeratedly praised by the poet as a delicacy appropriate for Scottish warriors.

The haggis is exaggeratedly praised by the poet as a delicacy appropriate for Scottish warriors. Every comparison he deploys seems to be an exaggeration when he claims that the skewer holding the haggis can support a collapsing mill in the same fashion.

He considered the haggis superior to all other food and also openly criticizes French people and their cuisine.


Haggis is not only a Scottish food for Robert Burns, but it is also represented as a symbol of his patriotic pride. In the wake of the French Revolution and the American War of Independence, the Scotts were asked to pursue their own separation from England.

Poets like him demonstrated to their countrymen how they should be proud of their ancestry and how they should get along to keep their legacy strong in support of such a major separation.


Why do they address the haggis?

Burns composed the poem in honour of how much he loved haggis. So, both of them are inextricably intertwined and it is one of the poems on the schedule of Burns’ suppers is always this one.
How long is the address to the haggis?

The poem is a superb spectacle for any authentic Scottish Banquet and it lasts for about seven minutes. The piper typically leads the haggis procession, which is then followed by the chef and whisky carrier.

What does the Selkirk Grace mean?

A prayer in the Scots language called the Selkirk Grace is customarily recited after a Burns supper. Few words will be said by the host that will explain the purpose of the get-together.

What is inside haggis?                

Haggis is the national food of Scotland it is a type of pudding that is made with minced sheep or with the liver, lungs, and heart of any other animal and then combined with oatmeal, beef, or mutton suet and another seasoning such as onion and pepper.

Why is haggis associated with Burns?

The close association between Haggis, the national food of Scotland, and Burns comes from the poem of Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis”.

How do you wish someone Happy Burns Night?

If anyone wishes to greet someone on “Happy Burns Night”, then essentially they have to use the phrase “Slainte Mhath!” which translates to “Good Health” and sometimes it is pronounced as “Happy Burns Night”. Moreover, it is easy to use the phrase “Oidhche Bhlas Burns” instead of “Happy Burns Night” if you want a precise translation.