The Selkirk Grace is recited at a Robert Burns dinner, before dinner.

ha biadh aig cuid, 's gun aca càil,
acras aig cuid,'s gun aca biadh,
ach againne tha biadh is slàint',
moladh mar sin a bhith don Triath.

-- Robert Burns

If you can't read gaelic, here's a sane version of this poem:


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.
-- Robert Burns

The Selkirk Grace is a traditional Scottish grace composed in the Lowland Scots dialect known as Lallans, Doric or Scots, and normally appears in the following version;

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The last line is also sometimes rendered as "And sae the Lord be thankit".

Although this stanza is sometimes attributed to Robert Burns he did not in fact actually write it, as there were previously known versions dating back to the seventeenth century and known variously as the Galloway Grace or the Covenanters' Grace. The connection with Robert Burns derives from a story that he was once invited to dinner to the seat of the Earl of Selkirk at St Marys Isle in Kircudbright. Requested to say grace before the meal, Burns ad-libbed a quick translation and delivered the grace in Standard English as follows;

Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.

Note that educated eighteenth century Scots such as Robert Burns and the Earl of Selkirk did not actually use Lallans in everyday conversation, anymore than an educated Englishman from London would have spoken Cockney.

Nevertheless it is the Lallans version that is recited just after the Chairperson's opening address at the beginning of the traditional Burns Supper held on the 25th January and before the bringing in of the haggis. Which at least has the virtue of consistency given that Burns is best known for his work composed in Lallans.

The Selkirk Grace has since been translated into Scottish Gaelic and likely a number of other languages as well, but contrary to the impression sometimes given the Gaelic translation is no more historically 'authentic' than say, for example, the Japanese translation.


SOURCES

  • The soc.culture.scottish FAQ http://www.siliconglen.com/Scotland/5_11.html
  • Scottish Poetry Selection http://www.rampantscotland.com/poetry/blpoems_grace.htm
  • The Selkirk Grace http://claymore.wisemagic.com/scotradiance/far/far08.htm

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