The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

World Poetry Day, Porcine Edition

Today, 21 March, is World Poetry Day as proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999. To recognize this designation we will look at a bit of newly-acquired poetry found here in the collections at the MHS. 

A few years ago here on the Beehive I published a post, "Porcineographs and Piggeries" about a man named William Emerson Baker and his vast estate, Ridge Hill Farms. In the original post I included references to a Guide to Ridge Hill Farms held here at the Society, as well as an invitation "to assist in laying the corner stone of a new piggery" on the estate, and my personal favorite, the Porcineograph.* 


The Society recently acquired several more items related to Ridge Hill Farms and Baker, generally, and some that specifically detail the lavish party held to lay the corner stone of his new piggery. In a printing titled "Fete Champetre at the laying of the coner-stone for the new piggery...", a contributor mourns the dearth of verse dedicated to pigs: 



The Pig and the Poets.

Almost every domestic animal has found his Homer among the poets. The horse, the dog, the cat, all have been celebrated in immortal verse. The pig, on the contrary, has been neglected by the brotherhood of bards; and the most persons would find it difficult to cite a single friendly reference to this despised creature in the writings of British poets. The pig seems to have been born under an evil star. He is never esteemed until he is dead. During his life, man gives him the cold shoulder: when he is dead, man takes it back.


What follows this brief lamentation is a series of responses to Baker's invitations to join the festivities, including a handful of poems dedicated to his porcine pals. In honor of World Poetry Day, I present one such poem here. 


To the Ridge Hill Piggery.


Tall oaks from little acorns grow;

Great deeds from little causes flow.

The corner-stone of this new piggery

Is monument of past-time Whiggery,

When porkers, rooting for their dinner,

Cured old Great Britain, that great sinner,

And, making war upon strange gardens,

Set the old lady asking pardons;

And so she yielded up her knavery

That bound our seamen in her slavery.

All honor to the pigs immortal

Who brought the key to freedom's portal!

They shall be praised with feast and song

As years roll on, and ages long, 

And voices chant the glorious bravery

Of those who broke our seamen's slavery;

While grunting piggeries shall proclaim

From shore to shore each glorious name

Of porcine pilgrim, who began

The contest brave, that swiftly ran

Through House and Senate, and put down

The claim to search from Britain's crown.

Let their bold choruses of grunts

Still meet all national affronts,

And stir the hearts of man and beast,

From North to South, from West to East.

All praise to all brave pigs forever!

Let piggeries multiply; and never

The glorious race, or noble donors,

Live but in health and wealth and honors!*

Mrs. G. L. Ford


Stay tuned to the Beehive for more recently-acquired items relating to the eccentric William Emerson Baker and Ridge Hill Farms. And if you just cannot wait until then, consider Visiting the Library. Who knows, there could be many a piggy punny you just might find funny.




*The Porcineograph provides a small tidbit of information that sheds some light on the topic of Mrs. Ford's poem: "Litigation about the killing of two hogs found trespassing in a garden in Rhode Island in 1811, is said to have resulted in the election of the opposition candidate, Howell, to the United States Senate, and the Declaration of War in 1812." 

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 4:28 PM


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