1770
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Sirloin. Written in the Year 1770.

Poetical Works of William Preston, Esq. in two Volumes.

William Preston


A celebration of Irish conviviality, after Milton's L'Allegro. Thomas Preston, an undergraduate at Trinity College Dublin invokes "Gay device and raillery mild, | Whimsey quaint, and frolic wild, | Droll conundrum, silly pun, | Sudden trick, and harmless fun, | Double meaning bring along, | Smutty tale, and waggish song" 1:187. The slightly bawdy conclusion might be considered off-topic.

William Taylor of Norwich: "Of the poems before us, a portion was composed under the influence of Thalia, and another under that of Melpomene: the former being the more propitious Muse. The most important pieces are in the first volume, and those which present themselves foremost, are Heroids, or heroic epistles; a form of composition probably invented by Ovid: at least his works of this kind are the earliest that have descended to modern times. An attempt (not very fortunate) was made by Drayton to naturalize in England a series of these amatory elegiac effusions. At length, Pope, in the Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, produced a model surpassing every preceding effort, and hitherto unequalled by his numerous copiers. As every popular poem of the serious and sublime cast naturally draws after it imitations of the burlesque and familiar kind, so it was natural to imagine that the comic heroid would find among our satirists and adequate number of votaries. Of these, Mr. Preston is certainly one of the most distinguished; and for his smooth numbers, innumerable allusions, felicity of parody, and entertaining wit, he really deserves more than to pass in transient procession through the precincts of the temple of Fame" Monthly Review NS 16 (February 1795) 166.

Late in life, William Preston contributed an article on Henry More's Psychodia Platonica to Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 41-42.



Hence, hungry Highlander,
On barren Scotia's salvage mountains born,
'Mongst ragged goats forlorn,
Where tempests yell, and want and famine wander.
And hence, of mighty maw,
The sportsman eager, and beef-loving priest,
Mute-brooding o'er the feast,
Who heap the plate, exhaust, and heap again,
Nor will discourse maintain,
But eat and eat, with never-weary'd jaw.

Hail the train, so frank and free,
In heav'n yclept good company,
And by mortals here, choice spirits,
Of noisy fame and jovial merits.
When he war declar'd with spleen,
Round Lyaeus' banners seen,
Firm ye stood, a gallant band,
Good-humour second in command.
Young Lyaeus ivy-crown'd,
When, from Ind's remotest bound,
Foaming tygers whirl'd his car,
Claim'd this last and noblest war,
Each man arm'd him with a glass,
Caught for shield a pretty lass;
Martial peals decanters rang,
Smacking corks the signal sang;
All the night, and all the day,
Ye chac'd the murky foe away.

Hail the laughing youth and loud,
Hail the merry-making crowd,
Hail the face that ever smiles,
Hail the breast that ne'er beguiles;
Come with revel, come with song,
Lo, the Sirloin hastes along.

Sirloin, hail! I tune, for thee,
Strains unwonted, bold and free,
Sirloin fair! oh never stand,
But before the social band.
Such with old Anacreon quaff'd,
Such with little Horace laugh'd;
And with such, in merry bout,
Gay Chaulieu defy'd the gout.
Never for the churlish breast,
Be thou with horse-radish drest;
Ne'er may tongue that would deceive
Taste the pleasures thou canst give.
Thee may revelry and laughter,
Sport, and frolic, follow after;
Every darling imp of pleasure,
Every child of wit and leisure,
Gay device and raillery mild,
Whimsey quaint, and frolic wild,
Droll conundrum, silly pun,
Sudden trick, and harmless fun,
Double meaning bring along,
Smutty tale, and waggish song.

Produce blest, of Albion's isle,
And my lov'd iernian soil;
Lo, thy praises wide I send,
Britons, to the strain attend,
Thee the God of plenty bore
To the king of Britain's shore,
His fav'rite dish; in James's time,
Plain meat was not held a crime.
The god, in guise of yeoman tall,
Past along the crowded hall;
And, with portly mien and bland,
Gave thee to the monarch's hand.
The well-known dish the king survey'd,
And drew forth the shining blade;
He wav'd it thrice, with gentle tap,
Thrice impos'd the knightly slap.
And worthier thou that high reward,
And worthier thou a king's regard,
Than half the titled bands, I ween,
At courtly masque, or banquet, seen.

Thee in Calais, fair to view,
Manner-painting Hogarth drew;
When to madam grandsire wending,
Many an eye thy course attending;
Thee the pursy monk address'd,
Welcom'd into France, and bless'd.
Wonder shirtless Frenchman fill'd,
Anguish heart of Sawney thrill'd,
Thady gap'd, in loving mood,
Spill'd his soup, and pensive stood.

Gash'd by sportsman's desp'rate knife,
Thomson gave thy wounds to life.
Pickled in his matchless lay,
Sirloin, thou shalt ne'er decay;
By summer suns untainted, rise,
Nor fear the breath of envious flies.

Oft, in winter, at thy side,
May thy lov'd plumb-pudding bide;
Near thee, by the parson, bedded,
And with nuptial blessings wedded:
Sapient parson, thou canst see,
How viands meet, and tastes agree.
In its place, of sprightly green,
Be, in summer, sallad seen.

When the daily task is done,
And when downward slopes the sun;
May the Sirloin meet mine eye,
And the pleasing friend be nigh,
Skill'd to touch, with vary'd art,
Every key-note of the heart;
Counsel sage, instruction sweet,
Let him mix with sportive wit;
Drolling, mimicking, and singing,
Jest from ev'ry object bringing,
Let him fling his gibes about,
And keep a merry world of rout.

By my side, devoid of care,
Sit the not ill-natur'd fair,
Yielding, with submission coy,
Sportive kiss, and am'rous toy,
Let her laugh, and let her sing;
Let her meaning glances fling;
Where the soft, delicious, harms
Call the spirits up in arms,
Crowding all from ev'ry part,
Meeting, throbbing, at the heart.
Be the slily-speaking smiles,
Fill'd with love's enchanting wiles;
And, with love's extatic sighs,
Often let her bosom rise,
Gently that her breasts may heave;
Thus the cygnet, on the wave,
Rising high, and sinking low,
Does the snowy pinions bow.

Hunger, Sirloin, chac'd by thee,
From the merry crew doth flee.
But it rives my very heart,
When I see my friend depart.
How I mourn thy alter'd state,
Reft of figure, size, and weight,
Hack'd and hew'd, with many a wound,
And in floods of ichor drown'd,
Streams from wounded beef that flow,
Gravey call'd, by men below!
Thus some doughty chieftain yields,
Slowly, from contested fields.

Yet shall thou thy post regain,
And, again, the fight maintain.
Thou, again, shalt venture up,
Cold, when we're dispos'd to sup.—
Mean-while, brimming healths go round;
Brilliant sentiments resound:
Ev'ry lad, and every lass,
Drinks in wit, at ev'ry glass,
And sends it back in sally, free,
Of humour quaint, and repartee.
Here and there, with harmless hit,
Flies the bounding ball of wit.
Then, let many a pretty play
Wear the evening quite away;
Such as custom sage advises,
Or some witty maid devises.
Running over sentence long,
Fitly fram'd to trip the tongue,
Proverbs, crambo, purpose cross,
Spanish merchant's gain and loss,
Simile, command and question;
Or, the more to help digestion,
Games of somewhat rougher kind;
Shuffle-brogue, the whistle find,
Neighbour I'm come to torment,
Hide and seek, of fond intent,
Blind man's buff, and cockles hot,
Fool i' the middle; and what not.

Now, seldom, let the fiddle call
Us to dance, in spacious hall,
In the jig and country-dance,
We to sprightly notes advance;
Till, in fuller, brisker, tides,
Ev'ry vital current glides.

Now the Sirloin comes again,
Welcome guest, in supper's train;
And again the merry rout,
Talk, and frolic, jest, and flout;
Or, in jolly, jolly, song,
Joins the merry-making throng.
Thus we laugh, and thus we sing,
Till the midnight bell do ring.

Then to the well-made bed anon,
If the drowsy fit be on.
Let glowing embers, on the hearth,
Wear a blazing face of mirth;
And chearful tapers, thro' the room,
Dissipate the wintry gloom.
But, o dear fancy, that thy pow'r,
Might call some charmer to my bow'r;
And bid the kind and gentle fair
Deign with me my bed to share.
Me the social days delight;
Doubly, me the social night;
May silence, tiptoe, tread the floor;
And trusty Venus guard the door;
May the little loves around
Draw the curtains, 'till profound
Sleep upon our eyelids cast,
Soon shall sink, not long to last.
These pleasures, gentle fortune, give,
And happier than a king I'll live.

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