1799
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy upon Eggs and Bacon.

Morning Post and Gazetteer (28 August 1799).

Robert Southey


Twelve elegiac quatrains, not signed. The object of this amusing burlesque is less Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard than the many sentimental poems of social protest being published in the 1790s, not a few of which had appeared in the pages of the Foxite Morning Post. The diner in the poem is troubled by a guilty conscience: "Alas! that men who eat should finely feel— | Alas! that men who finely feel should eat!" The attribution is from Kenneth Curry, The Contributions of Robert Southey to the Morning Post (1984).



And I have din'd! again have made my meal—
Yes, and I found the Eggs and Bacon sweet;
Alas! that men who eat should finely feel—
Alas! that men who finely feel should eat!

Cease, Sensibility! torment me no more!
Spare me my bosom's lov'd, yet tyrant Queen!
Why tell me what the Bacon was of yore,
And wherefore pourtray what the Eggs had been?

It boot not now — that Bacon never more
In search of acorns thro' the wood shall roam;
Nor when the business of the day is o'er,
At night repose him in his own dear home.

Yes, his dear home, for well his native sty
And all its sweet domestic joys he knew;
There many an hour supine he lov'd to lie,
Or on the dung-hill warm that reek'd in view.

Perhaps, poor Porker! when the Butcher came,
Thoughts of delight were ripening in his breast:
First, for some fair he felt the tender flame,—
She was not coy, and he had sure been blest.

And ye, poach'd Eggs! to life ye soon had burst,
With sudden strength and consciousness endued;
How carefully the hen your youth had nurst,
How proudly cackled o'er her beauteous brood.

Thence had some cock the future conqu'ror grown,
His glossy plumage had been bright to view;
His bloody cockscomb like the Monarch's crown,
And sweet at morn his cock-a-doodle-doo.

O Nature, wherefore should it be thy will
That men must feed on gross corporeal fare,
Whilst thy Camelion finds his blameless fill
In the pure beverage of the ambient air.

All able Nature, in thy boundless might,
Thou couldst aetherial nourishment have giv'n,
And made thy favour'd children live on light,
Or feed like flow'rs upon the dews of heav'n.

Then had not tooth-ache stalk'd among mankind,
Tooth ache, worst fiend of all from Heav'n who fell,
Who leaves the realms of penal fire behind,
And in a hollow tooth concenters Hell.

Teeth and tooth-drawers had been useless then,
The mouth alone for sounds harmonious giv'n,
And, uncorporealiz'd, the sons of men
Been pure and spotless as the race of Heav'n.

But wherefore should I muse on thoughts like these?
Why wake the wounds of feeling thus unwise?—
Nay, nay, ye Eggs and Bacon, be at peace,
Nor in my conscience, nor my stomach, rise.

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