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“Lift Now the Soft Curds” (with Apologies to Everyone)

CheeseIt was G.K. Chesterton who complained that the poets had been "strangely silent on the subject of cheese." In this, the mistake of yesterday,  is the opportunity for today. I am not a poet (I am certain you will agree), but given the dearth of verse on cheese, I have taken up his challenge more than one hundred years after it was laid down.

What follows is simply a poem that praises cheese with reckless abandon. Such stuff ought to be confined to private letters sent between lovers. But since cheese lacks the ability to read (perhaps the only thing it lacks), this poem is now presented to you. Bon appetit!

Unplug thine eyes, hear what I say
On the terrible beauty: cheese
From milk it comes, if-or-not you please
There is no other whey


Come ye Muses!
Sing thee Nymphs!
Sing of cheese
The greatest gift.

Lift now the soft curds from the whey
For they are not yet thy cheese
Form them, wash them with mist of seas
Salty water shall bring decay

But not decay as that of rot
Silence children! Certainly not!
Decay like wine, or love grown old
The perfecting work of ancient mold

Leave it rest, now in passing breeze
Air and time shall bring thy cheese
On shelves so quiet, in rooms so cold
Shall grow and glisten this food of gold

Wait you craftsman!
Stay thy tongue!
Cheese is worst,
When it is young.

Ev’ry nation has claimed its own
A block of cheese that tastes like home
Gouda, swiss, Wisconsin cheddar
Try Havarti; it is better

For I, myself
It’s cheese in wax
Eaten on bread
With wine from a cask

My cheese in crimson must be wrapped
Like perfect Beatrice of old
Ah! My words will never be apt
For a treasure so precious to hold.

If Virgil had shown too much Roman restraint in his verse on cheese, perhaps I have shown too much American abandon. My rhymes are inconsistent. My meter runs ragged. My images flounder and fail. I suspect I now know why poets have avoided cheese: none can do it justice. Perhaps it is better simply to eat the stuff and keep silent. After all: it is rude to talk with one's mouth full, and perhaps cheese is a poem all by itself.


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