CARP AND TENCH—ON THE TABLE a Poem
CARP AND TENCH—ON THE TABLE
A H, those were jolly days of old,
When feudal earl and baron bold,
And princely guest of high degree,
Vassal and serf and henchman free,
Assembled at the chieftain's call
To banquet in baronial hall!
The tocsin-sound from battlement
O'er hill and dale and wood was sent;
The banner'd turret call'd to arms,
The castle bell rang out alarms,
That all should gather at the board
Ere they should brandish spear and sword.
The liveried servitors would place
The boar-head slaughter'd in the chase,
Set venison-haunch on silver plate,
Bring great sirloin in pomp of state,
Bear flagons of the frothy ale,
Bring creamy mead-bowls to regale,
Bring blood-red juices of the vine,
The ripe, the old, the rosy wine;
But chief of all, on mighty dish,
Was plac'd the carp, the prince of fish.
Right well did dainty churchmen know
To rear fat beeves, rare fruits to grow,
To breed in convent moat and trench
The bulky carp, the luscious tench;
To fill their ponds with pike and dace,
And all the wealth of finny race.
At matin hour, at vesper chime,
And at the mid-day feasting time,
How pleasant at the festive board,
Where capons smok'd and wine was pour'd,
The brown-bak'd dish of carp to share,
The epicure's delicious fare;
Good trenchermen, I ween, were they,
Ready to gormandize or pray,
To patter prayer or tell the bead,
Or riot in luxurious feed.
A stalwart race, those monks of old,
Of wondrous bulk, of mighty mould.
When sumptuous board was duly spread,
The portly abbot at its head,
Boasting for guest the mitred priest,
Or learned prelate at the feast,
Would grandly bid, in accents sharp,
The serving-men bring in the carp.
Ah, hooded monk and cowled friar,
Carousing by the blazing fire,
And feeding on all viands rare,
A delicate, delicious fare;
Draining the cup of brimming ale,
Your thirsty palates to regale,—
How grand your state in priestly stall,
In peasant's hut, or noble's hall!
Ah, little of such joys remain
For you, in England's modern reign!
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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