The Median Supper

“Harpagus, hast thou salt enough,
   “Hast thou broth enough to thy kid?
“And hath the cook put right good stuff
   “Under the pasty lid?”

“I’ve salt enough, Astyages,
   “And broth enough in sooth;
“And the cook hath mixed the meat and grease
   “Most tickling to my tooth.”

So spake no wild red Indian swine,
   Eating a forest rattle-snake:
But Harpagus, that Mede of mine,
   And king Astyages so spake.

“Wilt have some fruit? Wilt have some wine?
   “Here’s what is soft to chew;
“I plucked it from a tree divine,
   “More precious never grew.”

Harpagus took the basket up,
   Harpagus brushed the leaves away
But first he filled a brimming cup,
   For his heart was light and gay.

And then he looked, and saw a face,
   Chopped from the shoulders of some one;
And who alone could smile in grace
   So sweet? Why, Harpagus, thy son.

“Alas!” quoth the king, “I’ve no fork,
   “Alas! I’ve no spoon of relief,
“Alas! I’ve no neck of a stork
   “To push down this throttling grief.

“We’ve played at kid for child, lost both;
   “I’d give you the limbs if I could;
“Some lie in your platter of broth:
   “Good night, and digestion be good.”

Now Harpagus said not a word,
   Did no eye-water spill:
His heart replied, for that had heard;
   And hearts’ replies are still.

A cannibal of his own boy,
   He is a cannibal uncommon;
And Harpagus, he is my joy,
   Because he wept not like a woman.

From the old supper-giver’s pole
   He tore the many-kingdomed mitre;
To him, who cost him his son’s soul,
   He gave it; to the Persian fighter:
                  And quoth,
“Old art thou, but a fool in blood:
   “If thou hast made me eat my son,
“Cyrus hath ta’en his grandsire’s food;
   “There’s kid for child, and who has won?

“All kingdomless is thy old head,
   “In which began the tyrannous fun;
“Thou’rt slave to him, who should be dead:
   “There’s kid for child, and who has won?”

[Kelsall, 1851]