The Wail Of The Waiter
By Marcus Clarke
All day long, at Scott’s or Menzies’, I await the gorging crowd,
Panting, penned within a pantry, with the blowflies humming loud,
There at seven in the morning do I count my daily cash,
While the home-returning reveller calls for ‘soda and a dash’.
And the weary hansom-cabbies set the blinking sqautters down,
Who, all night, in savage freedom, have been ‘knocking round the town’.
Soon the breakfast gong resounding bids the festive meal begin,
And, with appetites like demons, come the gentle public in.
‘Toast and butter!’ ‘Eggs and coffee!’ ‘Waiter, mutton cops for four!’
‘Flatheads!’ ‘Ham!’ ‘Beef!’ ‘Where’s the mustard?’ ‘Steak and onions!’ ‘Shut the door!’
Here sits bandicoot, the broker, eating in a desparate hurry,
Scowling at his left-hand neighbour, Cornstalk from the Upper Murray,
Who with brandy-nose enpurpled, and with blue lips cracked and dry,
In incipient delirium shoves the eggspoon in his eye.
‘Bloater paste!’ ‘Some tender steak, sir?’ ‘Here, confound you, where’s my chop?’
‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!’ ‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!!’ – running till I’m fit to drop.
Then at lunch time – fearful crisis! In by shoals the gorgers pour,
Gobbling, crunching, swilling, munching – ten times hungrier than before.
‘Glass of porter!’ ‘Ale for me, John!’ ‘Where’s my stick?’ ‘And where’s my hat!’
‘Oxtal soup!’ ‘I asked for curry!’ ‘Cold boiled beef, and cut it fat!’
‘Irish stew!’ ‘Some pickled cabbage!’ ‘What, no beans?’ ‘Bring me some pork!’
‘Soup, sir?’ ‘Yes. You grinning idiot, can I eat it with a FORK?’
‘Take care, waiter!’ ‘Beg your pardon.’ ‘Curse you, have you two left legs?’
‘I asked for bread an hour ago, sir!’ ‘Now then, have you laid those eggs?’
‘Sherry!’ ‘No, I called for beer – of all the fools I ever saw!’
‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!’ ‘WAITER!!’ ‘Here, sir!’ ‘Damme, sir, this steak is RAW!’
Thus amid this hideous Babel do I live the livelong day,
While my memory is going, and my hair is turing grey.
All my soul is slowly melting, all my brain is softening fast,
And I know that I’ll be taken to the Yarr bend at last.
For at night from fitful slumbers I awaken with a start,
Murmuring of steak and onions, babbling of apple-tart.
While to me the Poet’s cloudland a gigantic kitchen seems,
And those mislaid table-napkins haunt me even in my dreams
Is this right? – Ye sages tell me! – Does a man live but to eat?
Is there nothing worth enjoying but one’s miserable meat?
Is the mightiest task of genius but to swallow buttered beans,
And has man but been created to demolish pork and greens?
Is there no unfed Hereafter, where the round of chewing stops?
Is the atmosphere of heaven clammy with perpetual chops?
Do the friends of Mr Naylor sup on spirit-reared cow-heel?
Can the great Alexis Soyer really say ‘Soyez tranquille?’
Or must I bring spirit beefsteak grilled in spirit regions hotter
For the spirit delectation of some spiritual squatter?
Shall I in a spirit kitchen hear the spirit blowflies humming,
Calming spiritual stomachs with a spiritual ‘Coming!’?
Shall – but this is idle chatter, I have got my work to do.
‘WAITER!!’ ‘Yessir.’ ‘Wake up, stupid! Boiled calves’ feet for Number Two!’