Tuesday Poem: Ode on the Mammoth Cheese by James McIntyre
June 26, 2012
Ode on the Mammoth Cheese
Weighing over seven thousand pounds
We have seen the Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze –
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.
All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.
Cows numerous as a swarm of bees –
Or as the leaves upon the trees –
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.
May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World’s show at Paris.
Of the youth — beware of these –
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing o’ Queen of Cheese.
We’rt thou suspended from baloon,
You’d cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.
Two weeks ago, Helen McKinlay posted a subtle, surprising and interesting poem by Judy Brown called ‘The Cheese Room’. In her editorial notes, however, she mentioned James McIntyre, ‘Canada’s worst poet’, who wrote a lot about cheese. Now, as someone who recently published a poem by the Great McGonagall himself, the invitation to explore was impossible to resist. And this led me to this Homage to Fromage.
Now, the poem scans, unlike most of McGonagall, but the rhymes are dreadful. I particularly like ‘Beau’ and ‘Toronto’ which makes for a pronunciation of the Canadian city that one will surely never hear in real life. Most satisfying. Far less annoying to me than the GPS on my phone, which has an American accent and pronounces Canberra with the emphasis on the last syllable. (By the way, a University of ToronTOE site gives the spelling baloon, so who am I to argue?)
I must point out that McIntyre was born in Scotland, seemingly in 1827 (possibly 1828), making him a near contemporary of McGonagall (the latter’s dates are also somewhat murky, but 1825 seems to be generally accepted as the true birth year). ‘Oh Scotland, Scotland!’ as Macduff says. There must have been something in the air in the mid to late 1820s, when these two were conceived. If one reads the Ode, one can still catch a whiff.
I promise to be serious next time. Press this feather to see if any other Tuesday Poets have been scraping the bottom of the barrel, or if I’m the only one to go that whey.