(Poem #842) To a Goose
If thou didst feed on western plains of yore; Or waddle wide with flat and flabby feet Over some Cambrian mountain's plashy moor; Or find in farmer's yard a safe retreat From gipsy thieves, and foxes sly and fleet; If thy grey quills, by lawyer guided, trace Deeds big with ruin to some wretched race, Or love-sick poet's sonnet, sad and sweet, Wailing the rigour of his lady fair; Or if, the drudge of housemaid's daily toil, Cobwebs and dust thy pinions white besoil, Departed Goose! I neither know nor care. But this I know, that thou wert very fine, Season'd with sage and onions, and port wine.
Today's poem is not just a neat bit of humorous verse, but a marvellous send up of the sonnet form. The late lamented bird is limned, in keeping with the finest traditions of the sonnet, in nothing but the most 'poetic' of language - my favourite line, I think, being ... trace Deeds big with ruin to some wretched race - and then, where a Shakespeare or a Milton would have wrapped the whole up neatly in a two line apothegm that delivered the message of the sonnet, Southey deftly undercuts it, descending in the space of three lines from the sublime to the dinner table. Constructionwise, too, 'To a Goose' adheres perfectly to the conventions of the sonnet. The ababbccbdeedff rhyme scheme is slightly unusual, but sonnets are allowed some flexibility in that matter. The development of the poem too, would be not at all out of place in a serious sonnet - Southey lending credence to the fact that in order to effectively parody something, you have to know it first. Biography: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=70710 Links: Two poems very similar in spirit are Poem #448 William Cowper, 'To The Immortal Memory of the Halibut, On Which I Dined This Day, Monday, April 26, 1784' Poem #589 Rupert Brooke, 'Sonnet Reversed' Other Southey poems on Minstrels: Poem #203 'The Battle of Blenheim' Poem #652 'The Cataract of Lodore' -martin