25 JANUARY: ROBERT BURNS NIGHT — HAGGIS AND POETRY

Robert Burns: Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr, birthplace of the great  bard, Robert Burns

The word “bard” originates from the medieval Celtic culture where it referred to a story teller, verse maker and composer. In today’s Scotland “Bard” is a title given to the world’s most famous poets.

Robert Burns is regarded as ‘National Bard’ of Scotland; and every year on the 25th of January the country leads the world in celebrating the birthday of one of its greatest sons.

This day is traditionally referred to as Burns Supper or Burns Night and gives an opportunity to celebrate the life and work of the legendary bard.

As tradition goes, haggis and poetry shape the  fabric of the evening  — and as your humble servant grew up on the verses of Burns translated by a Soviet legend Samuil Marshak, in this article I attempt to combine the two components of the celebration.

Below is “Address to a Haggis” by Robert Burns, followed by a translation into contemporary English and, last but not least, translation into Russian by Samuil Marshak.

The poem is always recited during Burns Supper.

Traditional Haggis, or Neeps and Tatties — as fondly referred to by the Scots

Below you will find three versions of the poem: the original by Burns, the translation into modern English borrowed from the site of the Alexandra Burns Club and, of course, the translation into Russian by Samuil Marshak:

Address to a Haggis

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 worthy 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.

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;
The 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 scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu 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 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 make 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

Address to a Haggis Translation into Modern English

Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst,
‘The grace!’ hums.

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!

TRANSLATION INTO RUSSIAN BY SAMUIL MARSHAK

ОДА ШОТЛАНДСКОМУ ПУДИНГУ “ХАГГИС”

                       В тебе я славлю командира
                       Всех пудингов горячих мира, -
                       Могучий Хаггис, полный жира
                          И требухи.
                       Строчу, пока мне служит лира,
                          Тебе стихи.

                       Дородный, плотный, крутобокий,
                       Ты высишься, как холм далекий,
                       А под тобой поднос широкий
                          Чуть не трещит.
                       Но как твои ласкают соки
                          Наш аппетит!

                       С полей вернувшись, землеробы,
                       Сойдясь вокруг твоей особы,
                       Тебя проворно режут, чтобы
                          Весь жар и пыл
                       Твоей дымящейся утробы
                          На миг не стыл.

                       Теперь доносится до слуха
                       Стук ложек, звякающих глухо.
                       Когда ж плотнее станет брюхо,
                           Чем барабан,
                       Старик, молясь, гудит, как муха,
                          От пищи пьян.

                       Кто обожает стол французский -
                       Рагу и всякие закуски
                       (Хотя от этакой нагрузки
                          И свиньям вред),
                       С презреньем щурит глаз свой узкий
                          На наш обед.

                       Но - бедный шут! - от пищи жалкой
                       Его нога не толще палки,
                       А вместо мускулов - мочалки,
                          Кулак - орех.
                       В бою, в горячей перепалке
                          Он сзади всех.

                       А тот, кому ты служишь пищей,
                       Согнет подкову в кулачище.
                       Когда ж в такой руке засвищет
                          Стальной клинок, -
                       Врага уносят на кладбище
                          Без рук, без ног.

                       Молю я Промысел небесный:
                       И в будний день, и в день воскресный
                       Нам не давай похлебки пресной,
                          Яви нам благость
                       И ниспошли родной, чудесный,
                          Горячий Хаггис!

Роберт Бернс в переводе Самуила Яковлевича Маршака

HAPPY BURNS NIGHT!

Here you can find another poem by Burns in translation of Samuil Marshak.

Best wishes,
Liudmila Tomanek
@Russian Translation World Ltd

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