Of all the gracious gifts of Spring,
Is there another can safely surpass
This delicate, voluptuous thing—
This dapple-green, plump-shouldered bass?
Upon a damask napkin laid,
What exhalations superfine
Our gustatory nerves pervade,
Provoking quenchless thirsts for wine.
The ancients loved this noble fish,
And, coming from the kitchen fire
All piping hot upon a dish,
What raptures did he not inspire!
“Fish should swim twice,” they used to say—
Once in their native vapid brine,
And then a better way—
You understand? Fetch on the wine!
Ah, dainty monarch of the flood,
How often have I cast for you—
How often sadly seen you scud
Where weeds and pussy willows grew!
How often have you filched my bait!
How often have you snapped my treacherous line!—
Yet here I have you on this plate.
You shall swim twice, and now in wine!
And, harkee, garcon! let the blood
Of cobwebbed years be spilt for him—
Aye, in a rich Burgundy flood
This piscatorial pride should swim;
So, were he living, he should say
He gladly died for me and mine,
And, as it was his native spray,
He’d lash the sauce—What, ho! the wine!
I would it were ordained for me
To share your fate, oh finny friend!
I surely were not loath to be
Reserved for such a noble end;
For when old Chronos, gaunt and grim,
At last reels in his ruthless line,
What were my ecstacy to swim
In wine, in wine, in glorious wine!
Well, here’s a health to you, sweet
And, prithee, whilst I stick to earth,
Come hither every year and bring
The boons provocative of mirth;
And should your stock of bass run low,
However much I might repine,
I think I might survive the blow
If plied with wine, and still more wine!
TO JOHN J. KNICKERBOCKER, JR.
Whereas, good friend, it doth appear
You do possess the notion
To his awhile away from here
To lands across the ocean;
Now, by these presents we would show
That, wheresoever wend you,
And wheresoever gales may blow,
Our friendship shall attend you.
What though on Scotia’s banks and
You pluck the bonnie gowan,
Or chat of old Chicago days
O’er Berlin brew with Cowen;
What though you stroll some boulevard
In Paris (c’est la belle ville!),
Or make the round of Scotland Yard
With our lamented Melville?
Shall paltry leagues of foaming brine
True heart from true hearts sever?
No—in this draught of honest wine
We pledge it, comrade—never!
Though mountain waves between us roll,
Come fortune or disaster—
’Twill knit us closer soul to soul
And bind our friendships faster.