The Salad. By Virgil

The winter night now well nigh worn away,
The wakeful cock proclaimed approaching day,
When Simulus, poor tenant of a farm
Of narrowest limits, heard the shrill alarm,
Yawned, stretched his limbs, and anxious to provide
Against the pangs of hunger unsupplied,
By slow degrees his tattered bed forsook,
And poking in the dark, explored the nook
Where embers slept with ashes heaped around,
And with burnt fingers'-ends the treasure found.
It chanced that from a brand beneath his nose
Sure proof of latent fire, some smoke arose;
When trimming with a pin the incrusted tow,
And stooping it towards the coals below,
He toils, with cheeks distended, to excite
The lingering flame, and gains at length a light.
With prudent heed he spreads his hand before
The quivering lamp, and opes his granary door.
Small was his stock, but taking for the day,
A measured stint of twice eight pounds away,
With these his mill he seeks. A shelf at hand,
Fixt in the wall, affords his lamp a stand:
Then baring both his arms, a sleeveless coat
He girds, the rough exuviae of a goat;
And with a rubber, for that use designed
Cleansing his mill within, begins to grind;
Each hand has its employ; labouring amain,
This turns the winch, while that supplies the grain.
The stone revolving rapidly, now glows,
And the bruised corn a mealy current flows;
While he, to make his heavy labour light,
Tasks oft his left hand to relieve his right;
And chants with rudest accent, to beguile
His ceaseless toil, as rude a strain the while.
And now, 'Dame Cybale, come forth!' he cries;
But Cybale, still slumbering, nought replies.
From Afric she, the swain's sole serving maid,
Whose face and form alike her birth betrayed;
With woolly locks, lips tumid, sable skin,
Wide bosom, udders flaccid, belly thin,
Legs slender, broad and most misshapen feet,
Chapped into chinks, and parched with solar heat,
Such, summoned oft, she came; at his command
Fresh fuel heaped, the sleeping embers fanned,
And made in haste her simmering skillet steam,
Replenished newly from the neighbouring stream.
The labours of the mill performed, a sieve
The mingled flour and bran must next receive,
Which shaken oft, shoots Ceres through refined,
And better dressed, her husks all left behind.
This done, at once, his future plain repast,
Unleavened, on a shaven board he cast,
The tepid lymph, first largely soaked it all,
Then gathered it with both hands to a ball,
And spreading it again with both hands wide,
With sprinkled salt the stiffened mass supplied;
At length, the stubborn substance, duly wrought,
Takes from his palms impressed the shape it ought,
Becomes an orb, and quartered into shares,
The faithful mark of just division bears.
Last, on his hearth it finds convenient space,
For Cybale before had swept the place,
And there, with tiles and embers overspread,
She leaves it -- reeking in its sultry bed.
Nor Similus, while Vulcan thus, alone,
His part performed, proves heedless of his own,
But sedulous, not merely to subdue
His hunger, but to please his palate too,
Prepares more savoury food. His chimney-side
Could boast no gammon, salted well, and dried,
And hooked behind him; but sufficient store
Of bundled anise, and a cheese it bore;
A broad round cheese, which, through its centre strung
With a tough broom-twig, in the corner hung;
The prudent hero therefore with address,
And quick despatch, now seeks another mess.
Close to his cottage lay a garden-ground,
With reeds and osiers sparely girt around;
Small was the spot, but liberal to produce,
Nor wanted aught that serves a peasant's use;
And sometimes even the rich would borrow thence,
Although its tillage was his sole expense.
For oft, as from his toils abroad he ceased,
Home-bound by weather or some stated feast,
His debt of culture here he duly paid,
And only left the plough to wield the spade.
He knew to give each plant the soil it needs,
To drill the ground, and cover close the seeds;
And could with ease compel the wanton rill
To turn, and wind, obedient to his will.
There flourished star-wort, and the branching beet,
The sorrel acid, and the mallow sweet,
The skirret, and the leek's aspiring kind,
The noxious poppy -- quencher of the mind!
Salubrious sequel of a sumptuous board,
The lettuce, and the long huge-bellied gourd;
But these (for none his appetite controlled
With stricter sway) the thrifty rustic sold;
With broom-twigs neatly bound, each kind apart,
He bore them ever to the public mart;
Whence, laden still, but with a lighter load
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William Cowper

William Macquarie Cowper was an Australian Anglican archdeacon and Dean of Sydney. more…

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"The Salad. By Virgil" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 21 Jul 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/40174/the-salad.-by-virgil>.

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