Wednesday, January 28, 2009


It was a recent post over at Eric’s place that reminded me that the one-and-only Bard of Ayrshire celebrated his 250th birthday this Sunday past.

Alas, I was dividing my time between Baltimore and Atlanta that day, and so could not celebrate the occasion appropriately. I couldn’t even make it to the January Guild event, more’s the pity.

But it was Erica’s comment on that post that reminded me of a little-known fact, a fact so obscure that nobody knows it except a handful of scholars. Well, maybe not a handful of scholars. Just me, actually.

The little-known fact? At the risk of converting it into a well-known fact, I will tell you.

Robbie Burns was Jewish.

Oh, he hid his Hebraic ancestry well. But his love for smoked salmon was well-documented... and, after all, what is a haggis but a fleischig kishke?

In fact, there exists an alternative version of his famous “Ode to a Haggis,” a poem that celebrates that greatest of Scottish dishes, that renders Burns’s religio-cultural background a matter beyond dispute. Perhaps it was a draft... or perhaps something that he circulated only amongst his morning Minyan buddies. And I found it, tucked neatly into a seam in the bottom of a box of steel-cut oatmeal.

Submitted for your approval...

Ode to a Kishke

- by Rachmiel Burns

Fair fa’ your scheine, zeeseh face,
Great chieftain o’ the kugel-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place
Ye stuffit seckel:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my schmeckel.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your tuchus like a distant hill,
Your bulk wad help to fill a mill
In needfu’ time,
While thro’ your pores the schmaltz distil
Like kosher wine.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ hack you up wi’ ready sleight,
Like shechting a giraffe, it might
Just be a bitch;
Yet then, O what a glorious sight!
(But first, let’s pish.)

Then, spoon for spoon, they rip an’ rack:
Chuleria af dem letzten! on they whack,
Till a’ their food-stuff’t pupiks, packed,
Stick out like thumbs;
And then the Rabbi, guts like to crack,
A bentsch’n hums.

Is there that owre his brisket-stew
Or lox-and-bagels – sable, too,
Or matzoh-balls wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor nebbish! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
Like squozen zit;
Thro’ shul or temple for to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Landsman, kishke-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his groisse hant a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ tender slabs o’ whitefish schneid,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

HaShem wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’fare,
Auld Israel wants a single ware
Her dearest wishke;
So, answer, please, her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Kishke!

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