The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

True Hospitality

Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Source: Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets. Sixth Edition. (London: Ward, Lock & Tyler, 1872), pp. 77-79.

A Panegyric to Sir Lewis Pemberton

Till I shall come again, let this suffice,
    I send my salt, my sacrifice
To thee, thy lady, younglings, and as far
    As to thy Genius and thy Lar;1
To the worn threshold, porch, hall, parlour, kitchen,
    The fat-fed smoking temple, which in
The wholesome savour of thy mighty chines,
    Invites to supper him who dines:
Where laden spits, warp'd with large ribs of beef,
    Not represent, but give relief
To the lank stranger and the sour swain,
    Where both may feed and come again;
For no black-bearded Vigil from thy door
    Beats with a button'd-staff the poor;
But from thy warm love-hatching gates, each may
    Take friendly morsels, and there stay
To sun his thin-clad members, if he likes;
    For thou no porter keep'st who strikes.
No comer to thy roof his guest-rite wants;
    Or, staying there, is scourged with taunts
Of some rough groom, who, yirk'd with corns, says, 'Sir,
    'You've dipp'd too long i' th' vinegar;
'And with our broth and bread and bits, Sir friend,
    'You've fared well; pray make an end;
'Two days you've larded here; a third, ye know,
    'Makes guests and fish smell strong; pray go
'You to some other chimney, and there take
    'Essay of other giblets; make
'Merry at another's hearth; you're here
    'Welcome as thunder to our beer;
'Manners knows distance, and a man unrude
    'Would soon recoil, and not intrude
'His stomach to a second meal.'--No, no,
    Thy house, well fed and taught, can show
No such crabb'd vizard: Thou hast learnt thy train
    With heart and hand to entertain;
And by the arms-full, with a breast unhid,
    As the old race of mankind did,
When either's heart, and either's hand did strive
    To be the nearer relative;
Thou dost redeem those times: and what was lost
    Of ancient honesty, may boast
It keeps a growth in thee, and so will run
    A course in thy fame's pledge, thy son.
Thus, like a Roman Tribune, thou thy gate
    Early sets ope to feast, and late;
Keeping no currish waiter to affright,
    With blasting eye, the appetite,
Which fain would waste upon thy cates, but that
    The trencher creature marketh what
Best and more suppling piece he cuts, and by
    Some private pinch tells dangers nigh,
A hand too desp'rate, or a knife that bites
    Skin-deep into the pork, or lights
Upon some part of kid, as if mistook,
    When checked by the butler's look.
No, no, thy bread, thy wine, thy jocund beer
    Is not reserved for Trebius here,
But all who at thy table seated are,
    Find equal freedom, equal fare;
And thou, like to that hospitable god,
    Jove, joy'st when guests make their abode
To eat thy bullocks thighs, thy veals, thy fat
    Wethers, and never grudged at.
The pheasant, partridge, gotwit, reeve, ruff, rail,
    The cock, the curlew, and the quail,
These, and thy choicest viands, do extend
    Their tastes unto the lower end
Of thy glad table; not a dish more known
    To thee, than unto any one:
But as thy meat, so thy immortal wine
    Makes the smirk face of each to shine,
And spring fresh rose-buds, while the salt, the wit,
    Flows from the wine, and graces it;
While Reverence, waiting at the bashful board,
    Honours my lady and my lord.
No scurril jest, no open scene is laid
    Here, for to make the face afraid;
But temp'rate mirth dealt forth, and so discreet-
    Ly, that it makes the meat more sweet,
And adds perfumes unto the wine, which thou
    Dost rather pour forth, than allow
By cruse and measure; thus devoting wine,
    As the Canary isles were thine;
But with that wisdom and that method, as
    No one that's there his guilty glass
Drinks of distemper, or has cause to cry
    Repentance to his liberty.


1. A elfish spirit. Return

Note from Vizetelly:

Although the following poem contains no immediate reference to the Christmas season, still, the pictures which it presents of the hospitality of the period, and the character of the entertainment met with at the table of a county gentleman, of the reign of Charles I., render it peculiarly applicable to that particular season of the year, when open-handed liberality, such as it commemorates, is in the ascendant.

Editor's Note:

This is an excerpt from a longer poem. See: The Lyrical Poems Of Robert Herrick. To locate the poem, perform a search on "Lewis Pemberton." Source: Project Gutenberg.

In the first edition (1851), the poem occurs on pp. 75-77; in the second edition (1852), the poem occurs on pp. 77-79. Both of these editions were published by David Bogue. I haven't seen other editions, but would assume that this poem occurs at about the same place in each subsequent edition. Some copies are available at Google Books.

There is a terrific web page in the Special Collections section of the web site of the University of Glasgow concerning Christmas With the Poets. Also see their Book of the Month and their Book of the Month Archive page that has links to other Christmas-themed pages.

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