Thursday, 23 December 2010

from The Ballad of Bouillabaisse

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.


  1. Never seen this before and it really does underline his sense of humour doesn't it? Have a lovely Christmas Gwilym - I wonder if you are back in the UK for it - if so then hope you avoid all the hold ups.

  2. may I wish you and your loved ones a joyous Christmas and peaceful new-year

  3. Pat, It's true what you say. We'll have to dig out more of him in 2011. I'm staying put for Christmas. Europe seems in chaos travelwise.

    Many thanks, doing OK so far, hope you are too.


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