Lighten Up Online

The quarterly light verse webzine

INTERVAL THREE: CHRISTMAS CHEESE BOARD

Cheeses on display in Hollanf

 

‘The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.’ Chesterton’s remark is often mentioned but, in fact, there are quite a few metrical effusions on the subject to be found in print or pixel.

Sadly, LUPO's Research Bureau has been able to establish that the best of Peter L. Eyre and Robert Partridge's 1936 collaboration 'The Shropshire Lag', under the pseudonym 'Terence Beersay', is the first line of 'Cheddar Gorge', the first of seven Housman burlesques in their privately-printed pamphlet of 99 copies, and the only one that seems to have been noticed and quoted, that is to say 'Loveliest of cheese, the cheddar now'.

Never mind! LUPO is here, with thanks to Sally Cook who sparked off the idea, unashamedly adding to the corpus of cheese-celebrating verse with the following dozen of ripe caesin or quasi casein-crammed offerings culled from various sources.

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Catherine Tufariello: Song of the Cheese

I sing of processed American cheese, the glory of these States,
Factory sliced and shredded by white-apron’d workers clean and strong,
But I do not decline to feast also on the cheeses of Europe.
See me at the reception, hovering over the hors d’oeuvres,
Consuming a great wheel of Cheddar golden and glowing as the sun,
Making short work of the snowy-rinded Brie,
Gobbling up every crumb of the Morbier and its layer of smoky ash,
Devouring the blue mold of Roquefort, and Gouda with its crimson wax.
In vain does soft Camembert run in the heat to escape me,
In vain does a wedge of Stinking Bishop brandish its bristling name,
In vain does ripe Limburger assault my nose with its stench of sweaty feet,
In vain does the remotest iota of fermented milk in the vast wheel’d Universe
Conceal itself on a darkened moon, or the bottom shelf of a locked-up larder,
Or in a protective crust of puff pastry.
I find I incorporate all, all are part of me,
Out of them all I press the cheese of my Self.

(First published in The Spectator)                       

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Cally Conan-Davies: Cheese

I think that I shall never seize
A glass of red without some cheese,

A cheese to please the swilling throat
Like chèvre from a mountain goat.

When I dine out I always get a
Salad tossed with Grecian feta

Round since man first tilled the soil,
The perfect pal for olive oil.

And if you want your love to stay,
Cut the curd, release the whey,

For wine and verse beneath the trees
Won’t pin her down without some cheese.                        

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Brian Allgar: Hard Cheese!

O poets! Eloquent on birds and bees,
On love and death, on daffodils and trees,
Why shun you so the noble theme of cheese?

(My mind’s eye sees, like something out of Escher,
Kaleidoscopic cheeses, ripe or fresher,
An epic poem built from chunks of Cheshire.)

Mysteriously silent, poets lost a
Rewarding subject; Byron might have tossed a
Stanza or two in praise of Double Gloucester.

No Scottish Cheddar (mousetrap with a kilt on)
From Robert Burns? No elegiac Stilton -
The favourite cheese of Lycidas - from Milton?

No cheesy odes, delectable or smelly,
From Tennyson or Browning, Keats or Shelley?
No Dylan Thomas ‘Cheeses of Pwllheli’?

I speak, of course, of proper English curd’s worth,
And not that French muck, hardly what a turd’s worth,
Unless from sheep - in which case, where is Wordsworth?

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Sally Cook: Cheese That Has Pleased Us

Oh, Keats would gobble Gouda in a non-productive phase,
Preferred it over other cheeses. Walnut Gourmandaise
Pleased Proust, with a warm toast – sometimes he chose to have it plain,
Most often he would add to it a perfect madeleine.

Old Roman poets liked to chew the aromatic curd,
Shakespeare was fond of bread and cheese. I think you must have heard
Of Cheddar Gorge, where Englishmen came up with Cheddar cheese.
They couldn’t eat it fast enough, so sent it overseas.

A favorite of Dickens, in a nineteenth-century way,
Was Stilton, and he shared it with his cat most every day.
The Kings of France took a firm stance in favour of their Brie,
Washington crossed the Delaware on Camembert and tea.

Oh, the subject of fermented milk keeps conversation light
At exclusive cocktail parties in the middle of the night.
A protein with a wide appeal to every upturned eye
That sees the moon as green cheese, ripening in the evening sky.

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John Whitworth: A Cheesy Song

They can roar out a toast to a sizzling roast.
They can whisper a trope to a stew.
They can chant an address to a haggis, no less,
(Though it’s best to be Scotch when they do).
They can eulogize booze any way that they choose.
In a verse that’s as long as you please
And there’s many a fine disquisition on wine,
Yet the poets are silent on cheese.

Where oh where is the Milton who’ll celebrate Stilton,
The Rimbaud who’ll rhapsodize Brie?
Where the curd-kissing Homer who’ll praise the aroma
Of Cheddar on toast for your tea?
There are poets so clever they go on for ever
And publish their epics with ease.
Then they toss off a scrawl about nothing at all.
Can they really stay silent on cheese?

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Basil Ransome-Davies: Grand Fromage

Some men dream big: fantastic wealth, a life on sunny shores
Of sumptuous, pampered indolence and ease,
But my dream-objects are minute: the Penicillium spores
That grow the tasty veins in Roquefort cheese.
The hard-wired artistry they show, the energy and zeal,
Prodigious in their low-lit limestone caves,
Inscribing emerald traces in each immature white wheel,
A multitude of tiny, willing slaves,
Amenable and mellow as the lovely Lacaune ewes
Whose salted milk they magically enhance,
A beneficial fungus with a mission to infuse,
The pride of the Larzac – indeed, of France.
I'm cheesy as Bill Clinton. Cheese concludes my every meal.
I play the fromage field and wouldn't jib
At any blue bar Danish, but my fantasy ideal
Is Côtes du Tarn and Roquefort, ad lib.

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Susan de Sola: Thoughts on Cheese

A standing block of cheese
Is milk not at its ease.
Seen through a microscope
It's writhing with false hope
and swarming with bacilli
that scurry willy-nilly.

It seems like this must be
the milk's finality
but is in fact a plea
for immortality.

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George Simmers: Gifts

So long ago, I raised to your sweet lips
A perfect fruit, that heart-shaped strawberry.
You bit its sweetness, laughing; as for me,
I kissed the chin that ran with juicy drips.
Then stupidly I let us part and drift,
But now life's proved far kinder than I'd thought.
We've met again, and this time I have brought
No strawberries but this cheese, a riper gift.

Age has increased its flavour, and its power
To thrill the senses with a charm mature,
And subtleties excitingly impure,
Well-suited to life's after-dinner hour,
Which calls for candlelight and dark red wines,
And laughter and rich slivers of ripe cheese.
Dare I beg you to share such joys as these?
Accept my gift. Forgive these cheesy lines.

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Robert Schechter: God Save the Cheese

My tastebuds, thanks to thee,
sweet land of Swiss or Brie,
of cheese I sing;
buds where saliva pools
round cheesy molecules,
loved by savants and fools,
my heart takes wing.

Let music swell the breeze
in tribute to the cheese,
and I shall hum.
I love cheese, sheep or cow,
I'd love some cheese right now,
I will not shirk or bow
till I have some.

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Jerome Betts: Cheddar Peril?

That solid chunk consumed just now
Began as liquid in a cow.

There’s lots of fat in every slice,
A fact that pleases rats and mice.

But what about the human heart?
Should I and tempting Cheddar part?

If so, then why abstain by halves?
Milk’s meant for lambs and kids and calves.

To keep their arteries pristine
Some have embraced the soya bean.

Still others claim, no ifs or buts,
The substitute du jour is nuts.

How can a puzzled patient choose
When doctors offer differing views . . . ?

So, dietary sword of Damocles
Or not, I’ll dare my daily cheese.

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Ann Drysdale: Head Cheese

When the rest of the body is consumed
there still remains the makings of a cheese.
The recipe is simple. Boil your head.
Stir it about till all the meat drops off,
reduce the heat and let it simmer slowly
during long wakeful nights. Stir in self-doubt.
Season to taste and thicken with discretion.
Impurities will rise, but do not skim -
these are what give the finished dish its flavour.
Cool it. Leave it alone and let it gel.
Wrapped up in paper, it will keep forever.
Time-honoured standby. Never be without it.
At any time you may be called upon
to scoop and serve a spoonful on a cracker
and, piled on buttered toast, it’s just the thing
for eager little boys with hollow legs.

(From Ann Drysdale’s collection Miss Jekyll’s
Gardening Boots published by Shoestring Press.)

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Catherine Tufariello: A Poet’s Wish

A poet’s wish: to be like some valley cheese,
local but prized elsewhere. –W.H. Auden

I wish I were some valley cheese,
Reclining equally at ease
On cutting board or crystal plate,
In ballrooms or a country breeze.

Farmers, clerks and heads of state
Would call my pungent ripeness great.
While poets strained to “make it new,”
I’d age, complacent and sedate.

If I could be a Danish Blue,
A Wensleydale or Waterloo,
A wheel of Brie or Camembert,
I’d never get a bad review,

Just nestle on a slice of pear,
A Cheshire grin without a care,
A by-your-leave or if-you-please.
If only I could be a cheese!

(First published in Per Contra.)

Dutch cheese wheels

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