THE HAUNCH OF VENISON
BY OLIVER GOLDSMITH
THANKS, my lord, for your venison, for finer or fatter
Never ranged in a forest, or smoked in a platter;
The haunch was a picture for painters to study,
The fat was so white, and the lean was so ruddy.
Though my stomach was sharp, I could scarce help regretting
To spoil such a delicate picture by eating;
I had thoughts, in my chambers, to place it in view,
To be shown to my friends as a piece of 'virtu';
As in some Irish houses, where things are so so,
One gammond of bacon hangs up for a show;
But for eating a rasher of what they take pride in,
They'd as soon think of eating the pan it is fried in.
But hold--let me pause--don't I hear you pronounce,
This tale of the bacon's a damnable bounce?
Well, suppose it a bounce--sure a poet may try,
By a bounce now and then, to get courage to fly.
But, my lord, it's no bounce: I protest in my turn,
It's a truth--and your lordship may ask Mr. Burn.*
To go on with my tale--as I gazed on the haunch,
I thought of a friend that was trusty and staunch;
So I cut it, and sent it to Reynolds undressed,
To paint it, or eat it, just as he liked best.
Of the neck and the breast I had next to dispose;
'Twas a neck and a breast--that might rival Monroe's:
But in parting with these I was puzzled again,
With the how, and the who, and the where, and the when.
There's H--d, and C--y, and H--rth, and H--ff,
I think they love venison--I know they love beef;
There's my countryman Higgins--Oh! let him alone,
For making a blunder, or picking a bone.
But hang it--to poets who seldom can eat,
Your very good mutton's a very good treat;
Such dainties to them, their health it might hurt,
It's like sending them ruffles, when wanting a shirt.
While thus I debated, in reverie centred,
An acquaintance, a friend as he called himself, enter'd;
An under-bred, fine-spoken fellow was he,
And he smiled as he look'd at the venison and me.
"What have we got here?--Why, this is good eating!
Your own, I suppose--or is it in waiting?"
"Why, whose should it be?" cried I with a flounce,
"I get these things often;"--but that was a bounce;
"Some lords, my acquaintance, that settle the nation,
Are pleased to be kind--but I hate ostentation."
"If that be the case, then," cried he, very gay,
"I'm glad I have taken this house in my way.
To-morrow you take a poor dinner with me;
No words--I insist on't--precisely at three;
We'll have Johnson, and Burke; all the wits will be there;
My acquaintance is slight, or I'd ask my lord Clare.
And now that I think on't, as I am a sinner!
We wanted this venison to make out a dinner.
What say you--a pasty? it shall, and it must,
And my wife, little Kitty, is famous for crust.
Here, porter--this venison with me to Mile-end;
No stirring--I beg--my dear friend--my dear friend!"
Thus snatching his hat, he brush'd off like the wind,
And the porter and eatables follow'd behind.
Left alone to reflect, having emptied my shelf,
And "nobody with me at sea but myself;"
Tho' I could not help thinking my gentleman hasty,
Yet Johnson, and Burke, and a good venison pasty,
Were things that I never disliked in my life,
Tho' clogg'd with a coxcomb, and Kitty his wife.
So next day in due splendour to make my approach,
I drove to his door in my own hackney-coach.
When come to the place where we all were to dine,
(A chair-lumber'd closet just twelve feet by nine:)
My friend bade me welcome, but struck me quite dumb,
With tidings that Johnson and Burke would not come;
"For I knew it," he cried, "both eternally fail,
The one with his speeches, and t'other with Thrale;
But no matter, I'll warrant we'll make up the party
With two full as clever, and ten times as hearty.
The one is a Scotchman, the other a Jew,
They both of them merry, and authors like you:
The one writes the Snarler, the other the Scourge;
Some think he writes Cinna--he own to Panurge."
While thus he described them by trade and by name,
They enter'd and dinner was served as they came.
At the top, a fried liver and bacon were seen,
At the bottom was tripe in a swinging tureen;
At the sides there was spinach, and pudding made hot;
In the middle a place where the pasty was not.
Now, my lord, as for tripe, it's my utter aversion,
And your bacon I hate like a Turk or a Persian;
So there I sat stuck like a horse in a pound,
While the bacon and liver went merrily round.
But what vex'd me most was that d---'d Scottish rogue,
With his long-winded speeches, his smiles and his brogue;
And, "Madam," quoth he, "may this bit be my poison,
A prettier dinner I never set eyes on:
Pray, a slice of your liver, though may I be cursed,
But I've eat of your tripe till I'm ready to burst."
"The tripe," quoth the Jew, with his chocolate cheek,
"I could dine on this tripe seven days in the week:
I like these here dinners so pretty and small;
But your friend there, the doctor, eats nothing at all."
"O--ho!" quoth my friend, "he'll come on in a trice,
He's keeping a corner for something that's nice;
There's a pasty"--"A pasty!" repeated the Jew,
"I don't care if I keep a corner for't too."
"What the de'il, mon, a pasty!" re-echo'd the Scot,
"Tho' splitting, I'll still keep a corner for that."
"We'll all keep a corner," the lady cried out;
"We'll all keep a corner," was echo'd about.
While thus we resolv'd, and the pasty delay'd,
With looks that quite petrified, enter'd the maid:
A visage so sad, and so pale with affright,
Waked Priam in drawing his curtains by night.
But we quickly found out, for who could mistake her?
That she came with some terrible news from the baker:
And it so fell out, for that negligent sloven
Had shut out the pasty on shutting his oven.
Sad Philomel thus--but let similes drop--
And now that I think on't, the story may stop.
To be plain, my good Lord, it's but labour misplaced
To send such good verses to one of your taste;
You've got an odd something--a kind of discerning,
A relish--a taste--sicken'd over by learning;
At least, it's your temper, as very well known,
That you think very slightly of all that's your own:
So, perhaps, in your habits of thinking amiss,
You may make a mistake, and think slightly of this.
* Lord Clare's nephew.