Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Hasty Padding
By Joel Barlow (1754–1812)
Canto I.

YE Alps audacious, through the heavens that rise,
To cramp the day and hide me from the skies;
Ye Gallic flags, that o’er their heights unfurled,
Bear death to kings, and freedom to the world,
I sing not you. A softer theme I choose,        5
A virgin theme, unconscious of the Muse,
But fruitful, rich, well suited to inspire
The purest frenzy of poetic fire.
  Despise it not, ye bards to terror steel’d,
Who hurl your thunders round the epic field;        10
Nor ye who strain your midnight throats to sing
Joys that the vineyard and the still-house bring;
Or on some distant fair your notes employ,
And speak of raptures that you ne’er enjoy.
I sing the sweets I know, the charms I feel,        15
My morning incense, and my evening meal,
The sweets of Hasty Pudding. Come, dear bowl,
Glide o’er my palate, and inspire my soul.
The milk beside thee, smoking from the kine,
Its substance mingled, married in with thine,        20
Shall cool and temper thy superior heat,
And save the pains of blowing while I eat.
  Oh! could the smooth, the emblematic song
Flow like thy genial juices o’er my tongue,
Could those mild morsels in my numbers chime,        25
And, as they roll in substance, roll in rhyme,
No more thy awkward unpoetic name
Should shun the muse, or prejudice thy fame;
But rising grateful to the accustom’d ear,
All bards should catch it, and all realms revere!        30
  Assist me first with pious toil to trace
Through wrecks of time, thy lineage and thy race;
Declare what lovely squaw, in days of yore,
(Ere great Columbus sought thy native shore)
First gave thee to the world; her works of fame        35
Have lived indeed, but lived without a name.
Some tawny Ceres, goddess of her days,
First learn’d with stones to crack the well dried maize,
Through the rough sieve to shake the golden shower,
In boiling water stir the yellow flour:        40
The yellow flour, bestrew’d and stirr’d with haste,
Swells in the flood and thickens to a paste,
Then puffs and wallops, rises to the brim,
Drinks the dry knobs that on the surface swim;
The knobs at last the busy ladle breaks,        45
And the whole mass its true consistence takes.
  Could but her sacred name, unknown so long,
Rise, like her labors, to the son of song,
To her, to them, I ’d consecrate my lays,
And blow her pudding with the breath of praise.        50
Not through the rich Peruvian realms alone
The fame of Sol’s sweet daughter should be known,
But o’er the world’s wide clime should live secure,
Far as his rays extend, as long as they endure.
  Dear Hasty Pudding, what unpromised joy        55
Expands my heart, to meet thee in Savoy!
Doom’d o’er the world through devious paths to roam,
Each clime my country, and each house my home,
My soul is soothed, my cares have found an end,
I greet my long lost, unforgotten friend.        60
  For thee through Paris, that corrupted town,
How long in vain I wandered up and down,
Where shameless Bacchus, with his drenching hoard,
Cold from his cave usurps the morning board.
London is lost in smoke and steep’d in tea;        65
No Yankee there can lisp the name of thee;
The uncouth word, a libel on the town,
Would call a proclamation from the crown.
For climes oblique, that fear the sun’s full rays,
Chill’d in their fogs, exclude the generous maize:        70
A grain, whose rich, luxuriant growth requires
Short gentle showers, and bright etherial fires.
  But here, though distant from our native shore,
With mutual glee, we meet and laugh once more.
The same! I know thee by that yellow face,        75
That strong complexion of true Indian race,
Which time can never change, nor soil impair,
Nor Alpine snows, nor Turkey’s morbid air;
For endless years, through every mild domain,
Where grows the maize, there thou art sure to reign,        80
  But man, more fickle, the bold license claims,
In different realms to give thee different names.
Thee the soft nations round the warm Levant
Polanta call, the French of course Polante.
E’en in thy native regions, how I blush        85
To hear the Pennsylvanians call thee Mush!
On Hudson’s banks, while men of Belgic spawn
Insult and eat thee by the name Suppawn.
All spurious appellations, void of truth;
I ’ve better known thee from my earliest youth,        90
Thy name is Hasty-Pudding! thus our sires
Were wont to greet thee fuming from their fires;
And while they argued in thy just defence
With logic clear, they thus explain’d the sense:—
“In haste the boiling cauldron, o’er the blaze,        95
Receives and cooks the ready powder’d maize;
In haste ’t is served, and then in equal haste,
With cooling milk, we make the sweet repast.
No carving to be done, no knife to grate
The tender ear, and wound the stony plate;        100
But the smooth spoon, just fitted to the lip,
And taught with art the yielding mass to dip,
By frequent journeys to the bowl well stored,
Performs the hasty honors of the board.”
Such is thy name, significant and clear,        105
A name, a sound to every Yankee dear,
But most to me, whose heart and palate chaste
Preserve my pure hereditary taste.
  There are who strive to stamp with disrepute
The luscious food, because it feeds the brute;        110
In tropes of high-strain’d wit, while gaudy prigs
Compare thy nursling, man, to pamper’d pigs;
With sovereign scorn I treat the vulgar jest,
Nor fear to share thy bounties with the beast.
What though the generous cow gives me to quaff        115
The milk nutritious: am I then a calf?
Or can the genius of the noisy swine,
Though nursed on pudding, thence lay claim to mine?
Sure the sweet song, I fashion to thy praise,
Runs more melodious than the notes they raise.        120
  My song resounding in its grateful glee,
No merit claims: I praise myself in thee.
My father loved thee through his length of days!
For thee his fields were shaded o’er with maize;
From thee what health, what vigor he possess’d,        125
Ten sturdy freemen from his loins attest;
Thy constellation ruled my natal morn,
And all my bones were made of Indian corn.
Delicious grain! whatever form it take,
To roast or boil, to smother or to bake,        130
In every dish ’t is welcome still to me,
But most, my Hasty Pudding, most in thee.
  Let the green succotash with thee contend,
Let beans and corn their sweetest juices blend,
Let butter drench them in its yellow tide,        135
And a long slice of bacon grace their side;
Not all the plate, how famed soe’er it be,
Can please my palate like a bowl of thee.
Some talk of Hoe-Cake, fair Virginia’s pride,
Rich Johnny-Cake, this mouth has often tried;        140
Both please me well, their virtues much the same
Alike their fabric, as allied their fame,
Except in dear New England, where the last
Receives a dash of pumpkin in the paste,
To give it sweetness and improve the taste.        145
But place them all before me, smoking hot,
The big, round dumpling, rolling from the pot,
The pudding of the bag, whose quivering breast,
With suet lined, leads on the Yankee feast;
The Charlotte brown, within whose crusty sides        150
A belly soft the pulpy apple hides;
The yellow bread whose face like amber glows,
And all of Indian that the bake-pan knows,—
You tempt me not—my fav’rite greets my eyes,
To that loved bowl my spoon my instinct flies.        155
Canto II.

  TO mix the food by vicious rules of art,
To kill the stomach, and to sink the heart,
To make mankind to social virtue sour,
Cram o’er each dish, and be what they devour;
For this the kitchen muse first framed her book,        160
Commanding sweat to stream from every cook;
Children no more their antic gambols tried,
And friends to physic wonder’d why they died.
  Not so the Yankee—his abundant feast,
With simples furnish’d and with plainness drest,        165
A numerous offspring gathers round the board,
And cheers alike the servant and the lord;
Whose well-bought hunger prompts the joyous taste,
And health attends them from the short repast.
  While the full pail rewards the milk-maid’s toil,        170
The mother sees the morning cauldron boil;
To stir the pudding next demands their care;
To spread the table and the bowls prepare;
To feed the children, as their portions cool,
And comb their heads, and send them off to school.        175
  Yet may the simplest dish some rules impart,
For nature scorns not all the aids of art.
E’en Hasty-Pudding, purest of all food,
May still be bad, indifferent, or good,
As sage experience the short process guides,        180
Or want of skill, or want of care presides.
Whoe’er would form it on the surest plan,
To rear the child and long sustain the man;
To shield the morals while it mends the size,
And all the powers of every food supplies,        185
Attend the lesson that the muse shall bring.
Suspend your spoons, and listen while I sing.
  But since, O man! thy life and health demand
Not food alone, but labor from thy hand,
First in the field, beneath the sun’s strong rays,        190
Ask of thy mother earth the needful maize;
She loves the race that courts her yielding soil,
And gives her bounties to the sons of toil.
  When now the ox, obedient to thy call,
Repays the loan that fill’d the winter stall,        195
Pursue his traces o’er the furrow’d plain,
And plant in measured hills the golden grain.
But when the tender germ begins to shoot,
And the green spire declares the sprouting root,
Then guard your nursling from each greedy foe,        200
The insidious worm, the all-devouring crow.
A little ashes, sprinkled round the spire,
Soon steep’d in rain, will bid the worm retire;
The feather’d robber with his hungry maw
Swift flies the field before your man of straw,        205
A frightful image, such as schoolboys bring,
When met to burn the pope, or hang the king.
  Thrice in the season, through each verdant row
Wield the strong ploughshare and the faithful hoe;
The faithful hoe, a double task that takes,        210
To till the summer corn, and roast the winter cakes.
  Slow springs the blade, while check’d by chilling rains,
Ere yet the sun the seat of Cancer gains;
But when his fiercest fires emblaze the land,
Then start the juices, then the roots expand;        215
Then, like a column of Corinthian mould,
The stalk struts upward and the leaves unfold;
The busy branches all the ridges fill,
Entwine their arms, and kiss from hill to hill.
Here cease to vex them, all your cares are done:        220
Leave the last labors to the parent sun;
Beneath his genial smiles, the well-drest field,
When autumn calls, a plenteous crop shall yield.
  Now the strong foliage bears the standards high,
And shoots the tall top-gallants to the sky;        225
The suckling ears the silky fringes bend,
And pregnant grown, their swelling coats distend;
The loaded stalk, while still the burthen grows,
O’erhangs the space that runs between the rows:
High as a hop-field waves the silent grove,        230
A safe retreat for little thefts of love,
When the pledged roasting-ears invite the maid,
To meet her swain beneath the new-form’d shade:
His generous hand unloads the cumbrous hill,
And the green spoils her ready basket fill;        235
Small compensation for the two-fold bliss,
The promised wedding, and the present kiss.
  Slight depredations these; but now the moon
Calls from his hollow trees the sly raccoon;
And while by night he bears his prize away,        240
The bolder squirrel labors through the day.
Both thieves alike, but provident of time,
A virtue rare, that almost hides their crime.
Then let them steal the little stores they can,
And fill their gran’ries from the toils of man;        245
We ’ve one advantage, where they take no part,—
With all their wiles they ne’er have found the art
To boil the Hasty-Pudding; here we shine
Superior far to tenants of the pine;
This envied boon to man shall still belong,        250
Unshared by them, in substance or in song.
  At last the closing season browns the plain,
And ripe October gathers in the grain;
Deep loaded carts the spacious corn-house fill,
The sack distended marches to the mill;        255
The lab’ring mill beneath the burthen groans,
And showers the future pudding from the stones;
Till the glad housewife greets the powder’d gold,
And the new crop exterminates the old.
Canto III.

  THE DAYS grow short; but though the falling sun
To the glad swain proclaims his day’s work done,
Night’s pleasing shades his various tasks prolong,
And yield new subject to my various song.
For now, the corn-house fill’d, the harvest home,
The invited neighbors to the husking come;        265
A frolic scene, where work, and mirth, and play,
Unite their charms, to chase the hours away.
  Where the huge heap lies centred in the hall,
The lamp suspended from the cheerful wall,
Brown corn-fed nymphs, and strong hard-handed beaus,        270
Alternate ranged, extend in circling rows,
Assume their seats, the solid mass attack;
The dry husks rustle, and the corn-cobs crack;
The song, the laugh, alternate notes resound,
And the sweet cider trips in silence round.        275
  The laws of husking every wight can tell;
And sure no laws he ever keeps so well:
For each red ear a general kiss he gains,
With each smut ear he smuts the luckless swains;
But when to some sweet maid a prize is cast,        280
Red as her lips, and taper as her waist,
She walks the round, and culls one favored beau,
Who leaps, the luscious tribute to bestow.
Various the sport, as are the wits and brains
Of well pleased lasses and contending swains;        285
Till the vast mound of corn is swept away,
And he that gets the last ear wins the day.
  Meanwhile the housewife urges all her care,
The well-earn’d feast to hasten and prepare.
The sifted meal already waits her hand,        290
The milk is strain’d, the bowls in order stand,
The fire flames high; and, as a pool (that takes
The headlong stream that o’er the mill-dam breaks)
Foams, roars, and rages, with incessant toils,
So the vex’d cauldron rages, roars and boils.        295
  First with clean salt, she seasons well the food,
Then strews the flour, and thickens all the flood.
Long o’er the simmering fire she lets it stand;
To stir it well demands a stronger hand;
The husband takes his turn: and round and round        300
The ladle flies; at last the toil is crown’d;
When to the board the thronging huskers pour,
And take their seats as at the corn before.
  I leave them to their feast. There still belong
More copious matters to my faithful song.        305
For rules there are, though ne’er unfolded yet,
Nice rules and wise, how pudding should be ate.
  Some with molasses line the luscious treat,
And mix, like bards, the useful with the sweet.
A wholesome dish, and well deserving praise,        310
A great resource in those bleak wintry days,
When the chill’d earth lies buried deep in snow,
And raging Boreas dries the shivering cow.
  Blest cow! thy praise shall still my notes employ,
Great source of health, the only source of joy;        315
Mother of Egypt’s god,—but sure, for me,
Were I to leave my God, I ’d worship thee.
How oft thy teats these precious hands have press’d!
How oft thy bounties prove my only feast!
How oft I ’ve fed thee with my favorite grain!        320
And roar’d, like thee, to find thy children slain!
  Yes, swains who know her various worth to prize,
Ah! house her well from winter’s angry skies.
Potatoes, pumpkins, should her sadness cheer,
Corn from your crib, and mashes from your beer;        325
When spring returns, she ’ll well acquit the loan,
And nurse at once your infants and her own.
  Milk then with pudding I would always choose;
To this in future I confine my muse,
Till she in haste some further hints unfold,        330
Well for the young, nor useless to the old.
First in your bowl the milk abundant take,
Then drop with care along the silver lake
Your flakes of pudding; these at first will hide
Their little bulk beneath the swelling tide;        335
But when their growing mass no more can sink,
When the soft island looms above the brink,
Then check your hand; you ’ve got the portion due,
So taught our sires, and what they taught is true.
  There is a choice in spoons. Though small appear        340
The nice distinction, yet to me ’t is clear.
The deep bowl’d Gallic spoon, contrived to scoop
In ample draughts the thin diluted soup,
Performs not well in those substantial things,
Whose mass adhesive to the metal clings;        345
Where the strong labial muscles must embrace,
The gentle curve, and sweep the hollow space.
With ease to enter and discharge the freight,
A bowl less concave but still more dilate,
Becomes the pudding best. The shape, the size,        350
A secret rests, unknown to vulgar eyes.
Experienced feeders can alone impart
A rule so much above the lore of art.
These tuneful lips, that thousand spoons have tried,
With just precision could the point decide,        355
Though not in song; the muse but poorly shines
In cones, and cubes, and geometric lines:
Yet the true form, as near as she can tell,
Is that small section of a goose egg shell,
Which in two equal portions shall divide        360
The distance from the centre to the side.
  Fear not to slaver; ’tis no deadly sin:—
Like the free Frenchman, from your joyous chin
Suspend the ready napkin; or like me,
Poise with one hand your bowl upon your knee;        365
Just in the zenith your wise head project,
Your full spoon, rising in a line direct,
Bold as a bucket, heeds no drops that fall,
The wide mouth’d bowl will surely catch them all!

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