The Cook: part one (poem)

Posted by ractrose on 2 Jul 2018 in Art, Poems

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structure



The Cook: part one


His armor-clad henchmen heralded

By the ring of metal only, efface behind pillars

That the king

May like a friend stroll entering


Here in pits over embers roast

Pigs and goats on great spits skewered;

And by scullions leathern-visaged

Bred to the kitchen fire tended

Warned by the cook to lower their eyes

Yet scarce in their lives have these servants heard

The speech of their high-born sovereign

The cook mid-winter gains a purse

A coin to each, and puts by most. He hopes

That these strange guests may mark

A time of feasting; that this visit prove enriching

The king jokes in a vulgar way

Of pigs and men; and smiles the more

That the scullions have not understood


“Cook, I ask you a riddle.”

Humbly, the cook cups an ear

“How, like the fatted swine served at table,

Is the use to his Lord of a man


“I dare, in obedience, answer thus:

Sire, more dead than alive. For the flesh of the swine

Is food for the man; and the man is food

For the gibbet

And the heart delights at a golden spread

But the blackened corpse sobers the spirit”


“In obedience, Cook, you will build a fire

A hotter fire than this; a fire beneath a chamber of iron—”

And on the tower where prisoners are chained

The king’s eyes draw the cook’s, and rest

“Thou hast heard of the recent sport?”

“Nay, sire,” the cook, in his wisdom, retorts

“Then play your part. What have I asked?”

“A fire, my king. You will show me the place.”



The Cook: part one

Virtual cover for poetry collection Mystery PlaysThe Cook: part two
You’ve Lost Me















(2016, Stephanie Foster)



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