a self portrait
One of my regular delights at this time of year, a kind of Christmas present I give to myself, is William Makepeace Thackeray's wonderful 88-line poem The Ballad of Bouillabaisse. A bouillabaisse is a kind of fish soup. I think they throw everything in! The last 4 verses are reproduced here. To absent friends, then.
Where are you, old companions trusty,
Of early days, here met to dine?
Come, waiter! quick, a flagon crusty -
I'll pledge them in the good old wine.
The kind old voices and old faces
My memory can quick retrace;
Around the board they take their places,
And share the wine and Bouillabaisse.
There's Jack has made a wondrous marriage;
There's laughing Tom is laughing yet;
There's brave Augustus drives his carriage;
There's poor old Fred in the °Gazette;
On James's head the grass is growing:
Good Lord! The world has wagged apace
Since here we set the Claret flowing,
And drank, and ate the Bouillabaisse.
Ah me! how quick the days are flitting?
I mind me of a time that's gone,
When here I'd sit, as now I'm sitting,
In this same place - but not alone.
A fair young form was nestled near me,
A dear, dear face looked fondly up,
And sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer me.
- There's no one now to share my cup.
I drink it, as the Fates ordain it.
Come, fill it, and have done with rhymes:
Fill up the lonely glass, and drain it
In memory of dear old times.
Welcome the wine, whate'er the seal is;
And sit you down and say your grace
With thankful heart, whate'er the meal is.
- Here comes the smoking Bouillabaisse.
William Makepeace Thackeray
- a man with a wonderful middle name -
18th July 1811 - 24th December 1863.
° probably a reference to The Police Gazette - a publication containing photographs of wanted criminals.