April 8, 2014

Field praises pie: That viand all-inspiring!

Eugene Field was a prolific writer with a wide range, particularly in his poetry. But he never took himself too seriously and, as a result, plenty of the work of the Missouri-born Field is humor writing. Few other poets would dare tackle such a serious topic as baked goods, but such is the case in his poem "In Praise of Pie," dated April 8, 1890:

I'd like to weave a pretty rhyme
   To send my Daily News.
What shall I do? In vain I woo
   The too-exacting Muse;
In vain I coax the tyrant minx,
   And this the reason why:
She will not sing a plaguy thing,
   Because I've eaten pie.

A pretty pass it is, indeed,
   That I have reached at last,
If I, in spite of appetite,
   Must fast, and fast, and fast!
The one dear boon I am denied
   Is that for which I sigh.
Take all the rest that men hold best,
   But leave, oh, leave me pie!

Field sings the praises of pie in an even more poetic way when he names fellow poets and authors who equally enjoy the treat:

I hear that Whittier partakes
   Of pie three times a day;
And it is rife that with a knife
   He stows that pie away.
There's Stoddard—he was raised on pie;
   And he is hale and fat.
And Stedman's cry is always "pie,"
   And hot mince-pie at that!

Of course I'm not at all like those
   Great masters in their art,
Except that pie doth ever lie
   Most sweetly next my heart,
And that I fain would sing my songs
   Without surcease or tiring
If 'neath my vest and else could rest
   That viand all-inspiring!

What I object to is the harsh,
   Vicarious sacrifice
I'm forced to make if I partake
   Of fair and proper pies;
The pangs I suffer are the pangs
   To other sinners due.
I'd gladly bear my righteous share,
   But not the others', too.

How vain the gift of heavenly fire,
   How vain the laurel wreath,
If these crown not that godlike spot,
   A well-filled paunch beneath!
And what is glory but a sham
   To those who pine and sigh
For bliss denied, which (as implied)
   Is pie, and only pie!

Well, since it's come to such a pass,
   I boldly draw the line;
Go thou, O Muse, which way you choose,
   While I meander mine.
Farewell, O fancies of the pen,
   That dazzled once mine eye;
My choice may kill, but still, oh, still,
   I choose and stand for pie!

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