Thursday, 18 January 2018

One down ... three more to go!

My talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, yesterday seemed to go down quite well, even if the attendance was badly affected by illness. (There were eight apologies, most of whom were too ill to attend as a result of the virus that seems to be affecting so many people at the moment.)

The after-meeting meal (or Festive Board as we Masons term it) was a typical Burn's Night affair, with soup, followed by Haggis, 'neeps, and 'tatties. The main course was roast beef with all the trimmings, and the dessert was peaches and ice cream. Despite the lack of numbers – and the absence of a piper – the Haggis was brought in with due ceremony, carried around the room, and then 'addressed' in Burns’ own words ... in the full ‘Doric’!
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 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 ye 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, 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’ 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 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!
It was a great meeting, followed by an excellent meal ... and I hope that the next three meetings I attend go just as well!

‘Doric’ is a general term for the dialect spoken by Lowland Scots during the period when Burns was writing his poetry, and is a reference to the fact that the Doric dialect of Ancient Greek was thought to be harsher in tone and more phonetically conservative than the Attic dialect spoken by Athenians.


  1. You should see Aristophanes on the Spartan accent - as least as translated by Douglass Parker in the Michigan University translation (Lysistrata):

    Lampito (a Spartan lady): Hit's right onsettlin' fer gals to sleep all lonely withouten no humpin'. But I'm on yore side. We shore need Peace, too.

    ... and later ...
    Melelaos he tuck on squint at Helem's bubbies all nekkid, and he plumb throwed up. (pause for thought) ... Throwed up his sword.

    Not exactly a flattering rendition: a hickette from Hicksville..

    On an unrelated topic, it's a pity we don't have political satirists of Aristophanes's standard these days, but that's an aside...

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      Very interesting! I might be tempted to watch that version of the play if it were available. It sounds as if it wouldn't be quite so 'up itself' as some modern versions of Greek dramas I have seen onstage. (Very worthy ... but also rather dull.)

      I can remember the political satire that punctured the balloons of many a 1960s politician in the UK (and in retrospect, it was actually quite mild and respectful in comparison to its modern counterparts). I suspect that Aristophanes might have been a bit too subtle for a modern audience, who seem to like their satire to be rather more obvious.

      All the best,



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