The Piles Of Grease After Lord Byron The Isles Of Greece

Poem By Jonathan ROBIN

The piles of grease, the piles of grease
in unloved kitchen gloved are sung,
where baked the cakes which piece by piece
King Arthur might have eaten young,
infernal mummer rhymes them yet;
though all, except sublime, their set.

The vision earns no magic muse,
nor lover's lute, fantastic flute,
to pipe the refuse from one's home
to place of berth, pollution's chute,
as gurgles echo further west
than fabled Islands of the Blest.

Piled mountains look a marathon,
and marathon finds me at sea:
as, musing here an hour alone,
I dreamed from grease I might be free;
for, shored by disinfectant, brave,
who should submit as kitchen slave?

Grease ring sat on the china, grim,
which looks on teeth-torn salamis;
while bugs by millions, brim to brim,
men's consternation salaam Sis!
One counted few at break of day -
yet when the sun sets, billions play!

And where were they? Well, as before,
in pile great rile, mate, stimulates,
if aught, its greater - more and more
grease stored as if each plate's templates
cannot degenerate, - divine
but replicate through hands like mine!

'Tis nothing on this Earth where fame
is sought or bought by fettered race
to shift the spotlight from the shame
suffusing cheek while losing face -
For what is left the poet here?
for grease a blush - for grease a tear.

Must we but weep for days more blest?
must we but blush where mothers bled
in pantries where bubonic pest
once decimated household head.
Disposable make cutlery
while thermal pile may set us free.

What! silent still dishwashe's call?
Why so? - the eardrums of the dead
recall a distant torrent's fall,
and answer, 'Let one plumber sped, -
but one, arrive! But come, come, come!
'Tis but the living who are dumb.

In vain, - in vain; cheese other boards;
pour supper's poor tight tannic wine,
leave battle to the cleaner hordes,
who'll scupper greasy intertwine.
How, rising to flush lucre's call,
now answers life's old Lupercal?

We whet piscean chance wit yet,
where is wet pyrex beaker gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
the nobler and the manlier one?
We have the letters Cadmus gave, -
who'll think them meant for kitchen slave?

Released from greasy stainless sink,
to turquoise atoll waves waist high,
may we find peace, released from stink
of man, maid waste Thermopylae.
A land of kitchen slaves, not mine, -
hears end of grease-free pantomime.

(30 December 2006 robi03_1546_byro02_0006)

The Isles of Greese - Don Juan Canto III
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet;
But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,
The hero's harp, the lover's lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires' Islands of the Blest.

The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea:
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For, standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

A king sat on the rocky brow
Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations - all were his!
He counted them at break of day -
And when the sun set, where were they?

And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now,
The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?

'Tis something in the dearth of fame,
Though linked among a fettered race,
To feel at least a patriot's shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush - for Greece a tear.

Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
Must we but blush? Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

What! silent still? and silent all?
Ah no! - the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, 'Let one living head,
But one, arise - we come, we come! '
'Tis but the living who are dumb.

In vain, - in vain; strike other chords;
Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
And shed the blood of Scio's vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call,
How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet, -
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave, -
Think ye he meant them for a slave?

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon's song divine:
He served, but served Polycrates, -
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom's best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
O that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
On Suli's rock and Parga's shore
Exists the remnant of a line
Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there perhaps some seed is sown
The Heracleidan blood might own.

Trust not for freedom to the Franks, -
They have a king who buys and sells:
In native swords, and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Our virgins dance beneath the shade, -
see their glorious black eyes shine;
But, gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-dropp laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die.
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine, -
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

The Schoolmaster Abroad
The Steam-Yacht Argonaut was chartered from Messrs. Perowne and Lunn by a body of Public School Masters for the purposes of an educative visit to the Levant.

O Isles, as Byron said, of Greece!
For which the firm of Homer sang,
Especially that little piece
Interpreted by Mr. Lang;
Where the unblushing Sappho wrote
The hymns we hardly like to quote; -

I cannot share his grave regret
Who found your fame had been and gone;
There seems to be a future yet
For Tenedos and Marathon;
Fresh glory gilds their deathless sun
And this is due to Dr. Lunn!

What though your harpers twang no more?
What though your various lyres are dumb?
See where by Cirrha's sacred shore,
Bold Argonauts, the Ushers come!
All bring their maps and some their wives
And at the vision Greece revives!

The Delphic oracles are off,
But still the site is always there;
The fumes that made the Pythian cough
Still permeate the conscious air;
Parnassus, of the arduous grade,
May still be climbed, with local aid.

Lunching upon the self-same rock
Whence Xerxes viewed the wine-red frith,
They realise with vivid shock
The teachings of the smaller Smith;
With bated breath they murmur: This
Is actually Salamis!

The visit where Penelope
Nightly unwove the work of day,
Staving her suitors off till he,
Ulysses, let the long-bow play,
And on his brave grass-widow's breast
Forgot Calypso and the rest.

In Crete, where Theseus first embraced
His Ariadne, they explore
(Just now authentically traced)
The footprints of the Minotaur;
And follow, to the maze's source,
The thread of some profound discourse.

That isle where Leto, sick with fright,
So scandalised her mortal kin,
Where young Apollo, lord of light,
Commenced his progress as a twin!
Fair Delos they shall get to know
And Paros, where the marbles grow.

Not theirs the course of crude delight
On which the common tourist wends;
From faith they move, by way of sight,
To knowledge meant for noble ends;
Twill be among their purest joys
to work it off upon the boys.

One hears the travelled tacher call
Upon the Upper Fifth to note
(Touching the Spartan counter-wall)
How great the lore of Mr. Grote;
And tell them, His are just the views
I formed myself at Syracuse!

When Jones is at a loss to show
Where certain islands ought to be,
How well to whack him hard and low
And say, The pain is worse for me,
To whom the Cyclades are quite
Familiar, like the Isle of Wight.

And then the lecture after prep!
The Magic Lantern's lurid slide!
The speaker pictured on the step
Of some old shrine, with no inside;
Or groping on his reverent knees
For Eleusinian mysteries!

Hellas defunct? O say not so,
While Public Schoolboys faint to hear
The tales of antique love or woe,
Brought home and rendered strangely clear
With instantaneous Kodak shots
Secured by Ushers on the spots!
Sir Owen Seaman 1861_1936

The Town of Nice
The town of Nice! the town of Nice!
Where once mosquitoes buzzed and stung,
And never gave me any peace,
The whole year round when I was young!
Eternal winter chills it yet,
It's always cold, and mostly wet.

Lord Brougham sate on the rocky brow,
Which looks on sea-girt Cannes, I wis,
But wouldn't like to sit there now,
Unless 'twere warmer than it is;
I went to Cannes the other day,
But found it much too damp to stay.

The mountains look on Monaco,
And Monaco looks on the sea;
And, playing there some hours ago,
I meant to win enormously;
But, tho' my need of coin was bad,
I lost the little that I had.

Ye have the southern charges yet
Where is the southern climate gone?
Of two such blessings, why forget
The cheaper and the seemlier one?
My weekly bill my wrath inspires;
Think ye I meant to pay for fires?

Why should I stay? No worse art thou,
My country! on thy genial shore
The local east-winds whistle now,
The local fogs spread more and more;
But in the sunny south, the weather
Beats all you know of put together.

I cannot eat I cannot sleep
The waves are not so blue as I;
Indeed, the waters of the deep
Are dirty-brown, and so's the sky:
I get dyspepsia when I dine
Oh, dash that pint of country-wine!
Herman Charles Merivale May 1874

The Isles of Greece, Transplanted The Baths of France
O baths of France, O baths of France,
Tis not to praise you that I sing;
Rather, to ask by what mischance
Are all your plugs tied up with string;
Rather to ask what strange mishaps
Eternally assail your taps.

On with the Chaud! It marches not.
But vidaged waters rise again:
The sportive froid turns fiercely hot,
And every pull destroys a chain:
And every stream deserts its post
Just at the hour when needed most!

From Vintimille to Cap Gris-Nez
Is heard the music of their plight,
Unwashered taps that drip by day,
Convulsive pipes that roar by night.
Send us, they cry, O send us some
French plumber who can really plumb!

How gladly would I leave behind
This model gaol our rulers plan
For skies more warm, for hearts more kind,
For Europe and the Rights of man!
One thought alone my flight restrains
The Frenchman's bath, the Frenchman's drains.
Punch 12 October 1949

Hellas Bent
The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece,
Where Sappho and her fellow shades
Implore the gods to grant surcease
From tourists in those mellow glades
To which such swarms have lately flocked
That all the aisles of Greece are blocked.

Arriving by the squad to see
The great and hallowed ancient sites,
They rip right through the Odyssey
In seven days and seven nights,
With motor-boosted vagrant breeze
To whip them through the wine-dark seas.

The hordes who come by air and ship
To island-hop in Doric yachts
And cultivate awaremanship
Of all the best historic spots
So crowd each Attic vale and peak
That where on earth can Greek meet Greek?

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