Friday, July 08, 2016



Ezekiel 4.12:
And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), "The Tale of the T––d," in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan, ed. Robert Hogan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), pp. 177-178:
A pastry-cook once moulded up a t––d
(You may believe me when I give my word)
With nice ingredients of the fragrant kind
And sugar of the best, right doubl' refin'd.
He blends them all, for he was fully bent        5
Quite to annihilate its taste and scent.
With outstretched arms, he twirls the rolling-pin,
And spreads the yielding ordure smooth and thin.
'Twas not to save his flour, but show his art,
Of such foul dough to make a sav'ry tart.        10
He heats his ov'n with care, and baked it well,
But still the crust's offensive to the smell;
The cook was vexed to see himself so soiled,
So works it to a dumpling, which he boiled;
Now out it comes, and if it stunk before,        15
It stinks full twenty times as much, and more.
He breaks fresh eggs, converts it into batter,
Works them with spoon about a wooden platter,
To true consistence, such as cook-maids make
At Shrovetide, when they toss the pliant cake.        20
In vain he twirls the pan; the more it fries,
The more the nauseous, fetid vapors rise.
Resolved to make it still a sav'ry bit,
He takes the pancake, rolls it round a spit,
Winds up the jack, and sets it to the fire;        25
But roasting raised its pois'nous fumes the high'r.
Offended much (although it was his own),
At length he throws it where it should be thrown;
And in a passion, storming loud, he cried,
"If neither baked, nor boiled, nor roast, nor fried,        30
Can thy offensive, hellish taint reclaim,
Go to the filthy jake from whence you came."

                                                 The Moral
This tale requires but one short application,
It fits all upstart scoundrels in each nation,
Minions of fortune, wise men's jest in pow'r,        35
Like weeds on dunghills, stinking, rank and sour.
According to the editor's note on p. 351,
This adroit and noxious piece first appeared in the fourteenth Intelligencer, for which Woolley suggests a dating of "probably 29 October-2 November 1728." The printing here is based on the first collected edition (London: A. Moor, 1729, pp. 153-55). The poem's most recent appearance is in Woolley's 1992 edition of The Intelligencer.
Woolley's edition is unavailable to me. Hogan modernizes punctuation and spelling (see pp. 18-19 of his edition), but it's obvious from the 1729 edition of The Intelligencer that, in line 13, foiled should be read (for soiled). Here are the title page and pp. 153-155 of the 1729 edition:

Sheridan and Swift were friends, and Sheridan's poem reminds me of this passage from Gulliver's Travels (visit to the Academy of Lagado):
I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being almost overcome with a horrible stink. My conductor pressed me forward, conjuring me in a whisper "to give no offence, which would be highly resented;" and therefore I durst not so much as stop my nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient student of the academy; his face and beard were of a pale yellow; his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I could well have excused. His employment, from his first coming into the academy, was an operation to reduce human excrement to its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odour exhale, and scumming off the saliva. He had a weekly allowance, from the society, of a vessel filled with human ordure, about the bigness of a Bristol barrel.
Cf. also H.L. Mencken, Happy Days: 1880-1892 (1936; rpt. New York: Knopf, 1968), pp. 135-136:
The humor of the young bourgeoisie males of Baltimore, in those days, was predominantly skatological, and there was no sign of the revolting sexual obsession that Freudians talk of. The favorite jocosities had to do with horse apples, O.E.A. wagons and small boys who lost control of their sphincters at parties or in Sunday school; when we began to spend our summers in the country my brother and I also learned the comic possibilities of cow flops. Even in the city a popular ginger-and-cocoanut cake, round in contour and selling for a cent, was called a cow flop, and little girls were supposed to avoid it, at least in the presence of boys.
O.E.A. = odorless excavating apparatus, used to clean cesspools and privies. In my childhood we called a truck which cleaned septic tanks a cuckah suckah (i.e. caca sucker).

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