Had to share: The Guardian has a “poem of the week” feature in which columnist Carol Rumens shares a poem and as well as her thoughts on it. This week, the poem is Christopher Smart’s “Where’s the Poker?” (1752) which provides a nice comic counter-point to Pamela:
Where’s the Poker?
The poker lost, poor Susan storm’d,
And all the rites of rage perform’d;
As scolding, crying, swearing, sweating,
Abusing, fidgetting, and fretting.
“Nothing but villany, and thieving;
Good heavens! what a world we live in!
If I don’t find it in the morning,
I’ll surely give my master warning.
He’d better far shut up his doors,
Than keep such good for nothing whores;
For wheresoe’er their trade they drive,
We vartuous bodies cannot thrive.”
Well may poor Susan grunt and groan;
Misfortunes never come alone,
But tread each other’s heels in throngs,
For the next day she lost the tongs;
The salt box, cullender, and pot
Soon shar’d the same untimely lot.
In vain she vails* and wages spent
On new ones – for the new ones went.
There’d been (she swore) some dev’l or witch in,
To rob or plunder all the kitchen.
One night she to her chamber crept
(Where for a month she had not slept;
Her master being, to her seeming,
A better play fellow than dreaming).
Curse on the author of these wrongs,
In her own bed she found the tongs,
(Hang Thomas for an idle joker!)
And there (good lack!) she found the poker,
With the salt box, pepper box, and kettle,
With all the culinary metal. –
Be warn’d, ye fair, by Susan’s crosses:
Keep chaste and guard yourselves from losses;
For if young girls delight in kissing,
No wonder, that the poker’s missing.
*vails – perks enjoyed by servants (eg. tips; hand-me-downs)
For interesting commentary, see the Guardian piece.
[Image: Robert Benard, “Patissier, tour a pâte, bassines, mortier &c” (c1760) for Diderot’s Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonne des sciences et des arts.]