Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TABLE TALK, by JAMES SMITH (1775-1839)



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TABLE TALK, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: To weave a culinary clue
Last Line: Of these narcotic numbers.
Subject(s): Art & Artists; Death; London; Marriage; Nature; Poetry & Poets; Dead, The; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


To weave a culinary clue,
When to eschew, and what to chew,
Where shun, and where take rations,
I sing. Attend, ye diners-out,
And if my numbers please you, shout
"Hear, hear!" in acclamations.

There are who treat you once a year,
To the same stupid set; good cheer
Such hardship cannot soften.
To listen to the self same dunce,
At the same laden table, once
Per annum's once too often.

Rather than that, mix on my plate
With men I like the meat I hate --
Colman with pig and treacle;
Luttrell with ven'son-pastry join,
Lord Normanby with orange wine,
And rabbit-pie with Jekyll.

Add to George Lambe a sable snipe,
Conjoin with Captain Morris tripe
By parsley-roots made denser;
Mix Macintosh with mack'rel, with
Calves-head and bacon Sidney Smith,
And mutton-broth with Spencer.

Shun sitting next the wight whose drone
Bores, sotto voce, you alone
With flat colloquial pressure;
Debarred from general talk, you droop
Beneath his buzz, from orient Soup
To occidental Cheshire.

He who can only talk with one,
Should stay at home and talk with none --
At all events, to strangers,
Like village epitaphs of yore,
He ought to cry "Long time I bore,"
To warn them of their dangers.

There are whose kind inquiries scan
Your total kindred, man by man,
Son, brother, cousin, joining,
They ask about your wife, who's dead,
And eulogize your uncle Ned,
Who swung last week for coining.

When joined to such a son of prate,
His queries I anticipate,
And thus my lee-way fetch up --
"Sir, all my relatives, I vow,
Are perfectly in health, and now
I'd thank you for the ketchup!"

Others there are who but retail
Their breakfast journal, now grown stale,
In print ere day was dawning;
When folks like these sit next to me,
They send me dinnerless to tea;
One cannot chew while yawning.

Seat not good talkers one next one,
As Jacquier beards the Clarendon;
Thus shrouded you undo 'em;
Rather confront them, face to face,
Like Holles-street and Harewood-place,
And let the town run through 'em.

Poets are dangerous to sit nigh;
You waft their praises to the sky,
And when you think you're stirring
Their gratitude, they bite you -- (That's
The reason I object to cats;
They scratch amid their purring.)

For those who ask you if you "malt,"
Who, "beg your pardon" for the salt,
And ape our upper grandees,
By wondering folks can touch port wine;
That, reader, 's your affair, not mine;
I never mess with dandies.

Relations mix not kindly; shun
Inviting brothers; sire and son
Is not a wise selection:
Too intimate, they either jar
In converse, or the evening mar
By mutual circumspection.

Lawyers are apt to think the view
That interests them must interest you;
Hence they appear at table
Or supereloquent, or dumb,
Fluent as nightingales, or mum,
As horses in a stable.

When men amuse their fellow guests
With Crank and Jones, or Justice Best's
Harangue in Dobbs and Ryal!
The host, beneath whose roof they sit,
Must be a puny judge of wit,
Who grants them a new trial.

Shun technicals in each extreme;
Exclusive talk, whate'er the theme,
The proper boundary passes;
Nobles as much offend, whose clack's
For ever running on Almack's,
As brokers on molasses.

I knew a man from glass to delf,
Who knew of nothing but himself,
Till checked by a vertigo;
The party who beheld him "floored,"
Bent o'er the liberated board,
And cried, "Hic jacet ego."

Some aim to tell a thing that hit
Where last they dined; what there was wit,
Here meets rebuffs and crosses.
Jokes are like trees; their place of birth
Best suits them; stuck in foreign earth,
They perish in the process.

Think, reader, of the few who groan
For any ailments save their own;
The world, from peer to peasant,
Is heedless of your cough or gout;
Then pr'ythee, when you next dine out,
Go armed with something pleasant.

Nay, even the very soil that nursed
The plant, will sometimes kill what erst
It nurtured in full glory.
Like causes will not always move
To similar effects; to prove
The fact, I'll tell a story.

Close to that spot where Stuart turns
His back upon the clubs, and spurns
The earth, a marble fixture,
We dined; well matched, for pleasure met,
Wits, poets, peers, a jovial set
In miscellaneous mixture.

Each card turned up a trump, the glee,
The catch went round, from eight to three,
Decorum scorned to own us;
We joked, we bantered, laughed, and roared,
Till high above the welkin soared,
The helpmate of Tithonus.

Care kept aloof, each social soul
A brother hailed, Joy filled the bowl,
And humor crowned the medley,
Till royal Charles, roused by the fun,
Looked toward Whitehall, and thought his son
Was rioting with Sedley.

"Gad, John, this is a glorious joke --"
(Thus to our host his Highness spoke) --
"The vicar with his Nappy
Would give an eye for this night's freak --
Suppose we meet again next week --"
John bowed, and was too "happy."

The day arrived -- 'twas seven -- we met:
Wits, poets, peers, the self-same set,
Each hailed a joyous brother.
But in the blithe and debonnaire,
Saying, alas! is one affair,
And doing is another.

Nature unkind, we turned to Art;
Heavens! how we labored to be smart;
Zug sang a song in German:
We might as well have played at chess;
All dropped as dead-born from the press
As last year's Spital sermon.

Ah! Merriment! when men entrap
Thy bells, and women steal thy cap,
They think they have trepanned thee.
Delusive thought! aloof and dumb,
Thou wilt not at a bidding come,
Though Royalty command thee.

The rich, who sigh for thee; the great,
Who court thy smiles with gilded plate,
But clasp thy cloudy follies:
I've known thee turn, in Portman-square,
From Burgundy and Hock, to share
A pint of Port at Dolly's.

Races at Ascot, tours in Wales,
White-bait at Greenwich ofttimes fails,
To wake thee from thy slumbers.
Even now, so prone art thou to fly,
Ungrateful nymph! thou'rt fighting shy
Of these narcotic numbers.





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