1828
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on the Distant Prospect of a Good Dinner.

Blackwood's Magazine 23 (May 1828) 796-97.

Anonymous


A parody of Gray's Eton College Ode that spreads before the reader a culinary landscape: "One earnestly devotes his praise | To beignets a la lyonnaise, | Others survey with mix'd delight | Gelee's d'orange — de marasquin; | While some, with looks ecstatic, scan | The souffle's buoyant height." The tempting fare, however, leads to a fearsome catalogue of horrors (not allegorical), before the poet concludes, philosphically, that "Stomachs were form'd for holding food— | No more — while our digestion's good, | 'Tis folly to abstain. The poem is printed as part of the Noctes Ambrosianae, where it is delivered by Timothy Tickler (Robert Sym), who comments to afterwards disowns the authorship to Christopher North: "I knew you would like it. But the author is thirty years, at least, my junior."



Ye distant dishes, sideboards blest
With Halford's peptic pill—
Where grateful gourmands still attest
Illustrious Robert's skill;
And ye that, girt with legumes round,
Or in the purest pastry bound,
On silvery surface lie;
Where pate — salmi — sauce tomate,
Fricandeau framed with nicest art
Attract the glist'ning eye.

Ah! richest scent! perfume beloved!
Blest odours breathed in vain—
Where once my raptured palate roved,
And fain would rove again.
I feel the gales that now ascend,
A momentary craving lend—
As curling round the vapours seem
My faded faculties t' excite,
Restore my long-pall'd appetite,
And soothe me with their steam.

Say, Monsieur Ude, for thou hast seen
Full many a jovial set
Discoursing on la bonne cuisine,
In social union met—
Who foremost now prepare to pray
Des cotelettes a la chicoree?
Saute de saumon — qui l'attend?
What young Amphitryons now vote
Nothing like pigeons en compote,
Or taste the vol-au-vent?

While some at lighter viands aim,
And towards digestion lean,
Poularde aux truffes, or a la creme,
Or agneau aux racines;
Some hardier epicures disdain
The distant chance of doubtful pain,
And queue d'esturgeon try;
Still as they eat they long to cease,
They feel a pang as every piece
Passes their palate by.

But lo! the entrements are placed
To greet the gourmand's nose,
Bedeck'd with all the pride of paste,
Confective prowess shows.
One earnestly devotes his praise
To beignets a la lyonnaise,
Others survey with mix'd delight
Gelee's d'orange — de marasquin;
While some, with looks ecstatic, scan
The souffle's buoyant height.

Best fare is theirs by — fed,
Less pleasing to digest;
The taste soon gone, and in its stead,
Oppression on the chest.
Theirs joyous hours, and jocund nights,
Wit's playful sallies, fancy's flights,
And goodly cheer as e'er was seen—
The aged Hock — the Champagne bright,
Burgundia's best, and Claret light,
The vintage of nineteen.

Alas! regardless of their doom
Each rich ragout they take,
No sense have they of pains to come,
Of head or stomach-ache.
Yet see how all around them press,
Th' attendants of each night's excess;
Fell Indigestion's followers vile:
Ah! show them where the hateful crew
Scoff calomel and pills of blue,
Ah! tell them they have bile.

These shall the Gout tormenting rack,
The Vampire of the toes,
Night-mare, Lumbago in the back,
And Cholic's painful throes;
Or languid liver waste their youth,
Or caries of a double tooth,
Its victim's nerves that nightly gnaws.
Vertigo — Apoplexy — Spleen,
The feverish hand — the visage green,
The lengthen'd lanthorn jaws.

This, a consomme, precious prize!
Is tempted now to try;
To restless nights a sacrifice,
And dire acidity.
Till throbs of heart-burn — ague's pangs,
And Cholera's fiercely-fixing fangs,
Have left him, liverless, to moan,
The bloated form — the pimpled face,
The tottering step — th' expiring trace
Of good digestion gone.

To each his twitches, all are men,
Condemned to pick their bone;
The poor man in another's den,
The rich man in his own.
Yet, why should I of torments treat?
Since we were made to drink and eat,
Why should I prophesy their pain?
Stomachs were form'd for holding food—
No more — while our digestion's good,
'Tis folly to abstain.

[pp. 796-97]