Competition

Eating poetry

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2895 you were invited to submit a poem describing a meal with a well-known poet. Sylvia Fairley tucked, somewhat reluctantly, into albatross with Coleridge, D.A. Prince shared cocoa with Wendy Cope and Rob Stuart enjoyed a curry with Dante. Well done, all: it was a top-notch entry. The winners take £25. Frank McDonald nabs £30.
 

‘How do you like your eggs?’ the waiter says
And with a smile Elizabeth replies:
‘How do I like them? Let me count the ways:
I like them scrambled, sometimes served with fries;
Or smiling at me like a golden sun
Inviting me to spill delicious yolk;
Or boiled hard as when in Easter fun
I used to roll them, like religious folk.’
I touch her hand and say: ‘Let’s take them fried.’
And with a gentle giggle she agrees.
The waiter stands and watches, mystified,
As though she had been speaking Portuguese.
She turns and says, as he regards her, frowning,
‘We’ll have some toast — with just a hint of browning.’
Frank McDonald/Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 
‘I’m Nobody’, her wan Voice breathes
As we sit down to Tea.
‘I taste in every — Crumb — a faint —
Yet full Sufficiency.’
 
Her Flask pours out a golden Dram.
‘This is no — earthly Wine,’
She murmurs, ‘but for Souls — that thirst
’Tis sovereign Anodyne.’
 
She cuts a Slice of Cake to fit
A frugal Appetite.
‘Repleteness,’ she explains, ‘for me
Were but infirm — Delight.’
 
With every Bite or Sip we share,
A Century expires.
No Timepiece can surmise the Span
Our Nourishment requires.
Chris O’Carroll/Emily Dickinson
 
After a beach-walk, so bracing and brisk,
Home to the kippers, the bangers, the jam —
Fresh eggs to be scrambled, oh! hand me the whisk!
Let me frisk up the yolks! Let me plate up the ham!
 
There is bread to be toasted, and butter to spread,
As the sunlight pours in as if warm from the churn,
And here is my girl who has bounded from bed:
See her muscular fingers agog at the urn!
 
The bacon is sizzling, the corn flakes are shaken,
The newspapers rustle with yesterday’s scores,
Out on the front all the loungers are taken,
But my darling and I are as happy indoors!
Sir John doffs his boater, and scoffs up a bloater,
With avuncular noise, but a gleam in his eye:
And now he has asked me for use of my motor,
And now I must wave him and Mabel goodbye.
Bill Greenwell/John Betjeman
 
Of pub lunch with that great blind Puritan,
Who droneth grace at weary length while ale,
Bread, cheese and Branston pickle wait to be
Consumed, and I my growling stomach hear
Make loud complaint against a piety
That thus God’s wholesome sustenance postpones
As if these viands set before us were
Forbidden fruit that might our souls ensnare,
Sing heavenly muse, that I my argument
Against such drawn-out prayer may expound
And justify an urgent appetite.
’Tis always meet to give God thanks and praise,
But brevity is not ingratitude,
Nor do elaborate words and cadences
The Giver of these gifts best glorify.
They also serve who eat what’s on the plate.
George Coppersmith/John Milton
 
‘Will you eat a little faster?’ said the reverend to me,
‘We’ve finished all the jewfish and there’s plenty more for tea,
By swallowing so slowly you will never feel replete.
Oh will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you hurry up and eat?
There’s mackerel mince and battered brill and cockle-curried bream
And haddock mixed with halibut and humpback salmon cream,
There’s marinated mussel-meat that truly tastes a treat,
Oh will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you hurry up and eat?’
 
You’ve hardly touched a morsel and with little time to waste
Before we sit for supper I suggest you gather haste,
I’ve said it more than once, I know, and yet I must repeat,
Oh will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you hurry up and eat?’
 
Said I, ‘I thank you, reverend sir, but surely you’ll agree
So many fishy dishes are a lot to eat for tea.’
‘Not so,’ said he, ‘to eat a feast is not so great a feat,
So will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you hurry up and eat?’
Alan Millard/Lewis Carroll
 
Whan that we came to Becket’s shrine atte laste,
Quoth I, ‘Dan Chaucer, let us break oure faste.’
The Wife of Bath, the Miller and the Reeve
Did for the lowest drinking-house soon leave,
But we into the city streetes did go
To feaste with the good Monsignor Nando.
‘Yea,’ said Dan Chaucer, with a goodly cheere,
‘I would eat half a roasted Chantecleere
And eke half of that damn’d Dame Pertelot,
With sauce, peri peri yclept, al hot,
With rootes from Hy Brasil come newe,
Seethed better than that thirde-rate Cooke could do
And drinke wine, so that forget I might
That by-oure-lady Prioresse, that Knight,
And this riche fare shall rid me at the leaste
Of that verbose, meddlesome Nonne’s Preest!’
Brian Murdoch/Chaucer

 

No. 2898: 21st-century belloc


Not all the errant children in Hilaire -Belloc’s Cautionary Tales met a grisly end. You are invited to submit an update on one of the characters who lived to tell the tale. Email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 13 May.

 

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


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