In Competition No. 2672 you were invited to disprove G.K. Chesterton’s assertion that the poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. In his essay ‘The Poet and the Cheese’ Chesterton himself takes steps to put this right, penning a sonnet to a Stilton cheese, which, as he acknowledges, contains ‘echoes’ of another well known poem:
Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I —
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour…
Ray Kelley, John Whitworth and George Simmers were unlucky losers, and while I was impressed by Clementine Travers’s Whitman pastiche the bonus fiver goes to Noel Petty by a whisker. His fellow winners pocket £30 each.
Lord bless you, Ma’am! We poets aim to please —
What Charles Lamb did for pork we’ll do for
Let’s say a simple Frankish dairymaid
Was so besotted of her royal master
She was distracted from her lowly trade
And left the milk to curdle. A disaster!
But, testing if the mess was fit to eat,
She found she’d chanced upon a peerless treat.
The Kaiser, passing by, and in no haste,
Sampled a piece, and with a look serene
Baptised it Käse for its royal taste,
And took the dairymaid to be his Queen.
The name of Cheese spread North, West, South
And sets the final seal on every feast.
We’ll add some spice to this folkloric brew,
Then Wikipedia it to make it true.
I sing of processed American cheese, the glory of
Factory sliced and shredded by white-apron’d
workers clean and strong,
But I do not decline to feast also on the cheeses
See me at the reception, hovering over the hors
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
In vain does a wedge of Stinking Bishop brandish
its bristling name,
In vain does ripe Limberger 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.
I’m watched by the holes in my Gruyère,
Disdained by the rind on my Brie;
A Fourme of Montbrison reminds me of
It seems I’m condemned to be free.
Paranoia’s induced by the Comté.
I can’t face the ripe Neufchâtel.
Could I possibly go for a morsel of Beaufort?
No, it’s like other people — sheer hell.
The menace of Olivet Cendré
Is equalled by Rocamadour.
When cheese is prolific it’s monstrous,
I really can’t take any more.
Cabecou, Chevrotin, Tomme de Savoie,
Saint-Nectaire, Pont-l’Évêque, Laguiole…
All sourced from the ovine, the caprine, the
No wonder I feel like De Gaulle.
From time immemorial cheese has appealed
To poets inspired to please,
There are poems by Claverley, Kipling and
All attributing tributes to cheese.
Chesterton, too, in his critical Song
Against Grocers, augmented these three,
Making four, and by adding my name to the
I make five — with my Homage to Brie.
Be it Brie, Cheddar, Cheshire, Romano or
Or any cheese churned upon Earth,
We poets, imbued with that magical spark,
Have awakened the world to its worth.
So Chesterton, missing the wood for the trees,
Was clearly mistaken, you see,
Since poets have never been silent on cheese
As this poem proves. QED!
‘I’m very fond of cheeses.’
Said the vicar, as we dined;
‘Me, too,’ I said, detaching
Some Red Leicester from its rind.
‘That Wensleydale was nice,’ I said,
‘And what a perfect Brie!’
Then I heard the vicar chuckle.
And he looked askance at me.
‘You’re getting rather deaf, old chum,’
He smiled, and wagged his head:
‘“I’m very fond of Jesus”
Is what, in fact, I said!’
No. 2675: Reader REPELLENT
You are invited to submit a book-jacket blurb for a well-known work of fiction (please specify), designed to be as off-putting as possible (150 words max.). Please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 24 November.