Thomas Hood

(1789-1845 / London / England)

Ode to W. Kitchener, M.D.


Author of
The Cook's Oracle, Observations on Vocal Music, The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life, Practical Observations on Telescopes, Opera-Glasses, and Spectacles, The Housekeeper's Ledger
and
The Pleasure of Making a Will.

'I rule the roast, as Milton says!'
—Caleb Quotem.


Oh! multifarious man!
Thou Wondrous, Admirable Kitchen Crichton!
Born to enlighten
The laws of Optics, Peptics, Music, Cooking—
Master of the Piano—and the Pan—
As busy with the kitchen as the skies!
Now looking
At some rich stew thro' Galileo's eyes,—
Or boiling eggs—timed to a metronome—
As much at home
In spectacles as in mere isinglass—
In the art of frying brown—as a digression
On music and poetical expression,
Whereas, how few of all our cooks, alas!
Could tell Calliope from 'Callipee!'
How few there be
Could leave the lowest for the highest stories, (Observatories,)
And turn, like thee, Diana's calculator,
However cook's synonymous with Kater!
Alas! still let me say,
How few could lay
The carving knife beside the tuning fork,
Like the proverbial Jack ready for any work!


II

Oh, to behold thy features in thy book!
Thy proper head and shoulders in a plate,
How it would look!
With one rais'd eye watching the dial's date,
And one upon the roast, gently cast down—
Thy chops—done nicely brown—
The garnish'd brow—with 'a few leaves of bay'—
The hair—'done Wiggy's way!'
And still one studious finger near thy brains,
As if thou wert just come
From editing some
New soup—or hashing Dibdin's cold remains;
Or, Orpheus-like,—fresh from thy dying strains
Of music,—Epping luxuries of sound,
As Milton says, 'in many a bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,'
Whilst all thy tame stuff'd leopards listen'd round!


III

Oh, rather thy whole proper length reveal,
Standing like Fortune,—on the jack—thy wheel.
(Thou art, like Fortune, full of chops and changes,
Thou hast a fillet too before thine eye!)
Scanning our kitchen, and our vocal ranges,
As tho' it were the same to sing or fry—
Nay, so it is—hear how Miss Paton's throat
Makes 'fritters' of a note!
And how Tom Cook (Fryer and Singer born
By name and nature) oh! how night and morn
He for the nicest public taste doth dish up
The good things from that Pan of music, Bishop!
And is not reading near akin to feeding,
Or why should Oxford Sausages be fit
Receptacles for wit?
Or why should Cambridge put its little, smart,
Minc'd brains into a Tart?
Nay, then, thou wert but wise to frame receipts,
Book-treats,
Equally to instruct the Cook and cram her—
Receipts to be devour'd, as well as read,
The Culinary Art in gingerbread—
The Kitchen's Eaten Grammar!


IV

Oh, very pleasant is thy motley page—
Aye, very pleasant in its chatty vein—
So—in a kitchen—would have talk'd Montaigne,
That merry Gascon—humorist, and sage!
Let slender minds with single themes engage,
Like Mr. Bowles with his eternal Pope,—
Or Haydon on perpetual Haydon,—or
Hume on 'Twice three make four,'
Or Lovelass upon Wills,—Thou goest on
Plaiting ten topics, like Tate Wilkinson!
Thy brain is like a rich Kaleidoscope,
Stuff'd with a brilliant medley of odd bits,
And ever shifting on from change to change,
Saucepans—old Songs—Pills—Spectacles—and Spits!
Thy range is wider than a Rumford Range!
Thy grasp a miracle!—till I recall
Th' indubitable cause of thy variety—
Thou art, of course, th' Epitome of all
That spying—frying—singing—mix'd Society
Of Scientific Friends, who used to meet
Welch Rabbits—and thyself—in Warren Street!


V

Oh, hast thou still those Conversazioni,
Where learned visitors discoursed—and fed?
There came Belzoni,
Fresh from the ashes of Egyptian dead—
And gentle Poki—and that Royal Pair,
Of whom thou didst declare—
'Thanks to the greatest Cooke we ever read—
They were—what Sandwiches should be—half bred'!
There fam'd M'Adam from his manual toil
Relax'd—and freely own'd he took thy hints
On 'making Broth with Flints'—
There Parry came, and show'd thee polar oil
For melted butter—Combe with his medullary
Notions about the Skullery,
And Mr. Poole, too partial to a broil—
There witty Rogers came, that punning elf!
Who used to swear thy book
Would really look
A Delphic 'Oracle,' if laid on Delf—
There, once a month, came Campbell and discuss'd
His own—and thy own—'Magazine of Taste'—
There Wilberforce the Just
Came, in his old black suit, till once he trac'd
Thy sly advice to Poachers of Black Folks,
That 'do not break their yolks'—
Which huff'd him home, in grave disgust and haste!


VI

There came John Clare, the poet, nor forbore
Thy Patties—thou wert hand-and-glove with Moore,
Who call'd thee 'Kitchen Addison'—for why?
Thou givest rules for Health and Peptic Pills,
Forms for made dishes, and receipts for Wills,
'Teaching us how to live and how to die!'
There came thy Cousin-Cook, good Mrs. Fry—
There Trench, the Thames Projector, first brought on
His sine Quay non,—
There Martin would drop in on Monday eves,
Or Fridays, from the pens, and raise his breath
'Gainst cattle days and death,—
Answer'd by Mellish, feeder of fat beeves,
Who swore that Frenchmen never could be eager
For fighting on soup meagre—
'And yet, (as thou would'st add,) the French have seen
A Marshall Tureen'!


VII

Great was thy Evening Cluster!—often grac'd
With Dollond—Burgess—and Sir Humphry Davy!
'Twas there M'Dermot first inclin'd to Taste,—
There Colborn learn'd the art of making paste
For puffs—and Accum analyzed a gravy.
Colman—the Cutter of Coleman Street, 'tis said
Came there,—and Parkins with his Ex-wise-head,
(His claim to letters)—Kater, too, the Moon's
Crony,—and Graham, lofty on balloons,—
There Croly stalk'd with holy humor heated,
Who wrote a light-horse play, which Yates completed—
And Lady Morgan, that grinding organ,
And Brasbridge telling anecdotes of spoons,—
Madame Valbrèque thrice honor'd thee, and came
With great Rossini, his own bow and fiddle,—
The Dibdins,—Tom, Charles, Frognall,—came with tuns
Of poor old books, old puns!
And even Irving spar'd a night from fame,—
And talk'd—till thou didst stop him in the middle,
To serve round Tewah-diddle!


VIII

Then all the guests rose up, and sighed good-bye!
So let them:—thou thyself art still a Host!
Dibdin—Cornaro—Newton—Mrs. Fry!
Mrs. Glasse, Mr. Spec!—Lovelass—and Weber,
Matthews in Quot'em—Moore's fire-worshipping Gheber—
Thrice-worthy Worthy, seem by thee engross'd!
Howbeit the Peptic Cook still rules the roast,
Potent to hush all ventriloquial snarling,—
And ease the bosom pangs of indigestion!
Thou art, sans question,
The Corporation's love its Doctor Darling!
Look at the Civic Palate—nay, the Bed
Which set dear Mrs. Opie on supplying
Illustrations of Lying!
Ninety square feet of down from heel to head
It measured, and I dread
Was haunted by a terrible night Mare,
A monstrous burthen on the corporation!—
Look at the Bill of Fare for one day's share,
Sea-turtles by the score—Oxen by droves,
Geese, turkeys, by the flock—fishes and loaves
Countless, as when the Lilliputian nation
Was making up the huge man-mountain's ration!


IX

Oh! worthy Doctor! surely thou hast driven
The squatting Demon from great Garratt's breast—
(His honor seems to rest!—)
And what is thy reward?—Hath London given
Thee public thanks for thy important service?
Alas! not even
The tokens it bestowed on Howe and Jervis!—
Yet could I speak as Orators should speak
Before the worshipful the Common Council
(Utter my bold bad grammar and pronounce ill,)
Thou should'st not miss thy Freedom, for a week,
Richly engross'd on vellum:—Reason urges
That he who rules our cookery—that he
Who edits soups and gravies, ought to be
A Citizen, where sauce can make a Burgess!

Submitted: Monday, April 05, 2010

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