Poets on Pigs

Poets on Pigs - (2005)

Mary Buchanan, Noel Coward, Sian Davies, 'Mother Goose,' Alfred Scott Gatty, 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ogden Nash, Sara Teasdale, Christopher Smart, Archibald Stodart-Walker, 

a traditional anonymous poem and a poem by the composer

Twelve songs for mezzo soprano and piano

for Lisa Cutler Gomberg

i.   The Pig  (Ogden Nash)   [ 1 page, circa 22" ]

The Pig, if I am not mistaken,
Gives us ham and pork and Bacon.
Let others think his heart is big,
I think it stupid of the Pig.

ii.   The Pig - A Fable  (Christopher Smart)   [ 13 pages, circa 6' 55" ]

In ev'ry age, and each profession,
Men err the most by prepossession;
But when the thing is clearly shown,
And fairly stated, fully known,
We soon applaud what we deride,
And penitence succeeds to pride.--
A certain Baron on a day
Having a mind to show away,
Invited all the wits and wags,
Foot, Massey, Shuter, Yates, and Skeggs,
And built a large commodious stage,
For the Choice Spirits of the age;
But above all, among the rest,
There came a Genius who profess'd
To have a curious trick in store,
Which never was perform'd before.
Thro' all the town this soon got air,
And the whole house was like a fair;
But soon his entry as he made,
Without a prompter, or parade,
'Twas all expectance, all suspense,
And silence gagg'd the audience.
He hid his head behind his wig,
With with such truth took off* a Pig,
All swore 'twas serious, and no joke,
For doubtless underneath his cloak,
He had conceal'd some grunting elf,
Or was a real hog himself.
A search was made, no pig was found--
With thund'ring claps the seats resound,
And pit and box and galleries roar,
With--"O rare! bravo!" and "Encore!"
Old Roger Grouse, a country clown,
Who yet knew something of the town,
Beheld the mimic and his whim,
And on the morrow challeng'd him.
Declaring to each beau and bunter
That he'd out-grunt th'egregious grunter.
The morrow came--the crowd was greater--
But prejudice and rank ill-nature
Usurp'd the minds of men and wenches,
Who came to hiss, and break the benches.
The mimic took his usual station,
And squeak'd with general approbation.
"Again, encore! encore!" they cry--
'Twas quite the thing--'twas very high;
Old Grouse conceal'd, amidst the racket,
A real Pig berneath his jacket--
Then forth he came--and with his nail
He pinch'd the urchin by the tail.
The tortur'd Pig from out his throat,
Produc'd the genuine nat'ral note.
All bellow'd out--"'Twas very sad!
Sure never stuff was half so bad!
That like a Pig!"--each cry'd in scoff,
"Pshaw! Nonsense! Blockhead! Off! Off! Off!"
The mimic was extoll'd, and Grouse
Was hiss'd and catcall'd from the house.--
"Soft ye, a word before I go,"
Quoth honest Hodge--and stooping low
Produc'd the Pig, and thus aloud
Bespoke the stupid, partial crowd:
"Behold, and learn from this poor creature,
How much you Critics know of Nature."

iii.  This Pig Went to Market  (Anonymous English)   [ 1 page, circa 25" ]

This pig went to market,
That pig staid at home;
This pig had roast meat,
That pig had none;
This pig went to the barn-door,
And cry'd week, week, for more.

iv.  Dickory, dickory, dare  (Mother Goose)   [ 1 page, circa 22" ]

Dickory, dickory, dare,
The pig flew up in the air;
The man in brown
soon brought him down,
Dickory, dickory, dare.

v.  Three Little Pigs  (Sian Davies)   [ 9 pages, circa 4' 45" ]


Long ago, in days of old,
When pigs were pink and nights were cold
Three little pigs lived with their mum
With curly tails upon their bum

One day, she shooed them out the house
'Go!' she said. 'But be as quiet as a mouse!
The big bad wolf lies in wait-
He wants little pigs on his plate!

They came upon a man selling straw.
Pig number one bought more and more!
He took the itchy yellow hay
And built a house in only one day!

Pigs two and three left their brother
Came upon a peddler, then another.
Man number two was selling sticks
While pig number three was buying bricks
They all had houses by the wood
And by his house each pig was stood.
The wolf returned, one sunny day,
And saw the piggies out to play!

They saw the wolf-ran as fast as they could
Into their houses, by the wood.
The wolf crept up to the house of straw
And knocked upon its yellow door…

'No no! I won't let you in!
Not by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!'
The wolf let out a mighty roar,
And said to the pig in the house of straw:

'I'll huff and puff 'til my throat is sore!
I'm stronger than your yellow door!'
The pig was scared and ran away!
Left the wolf to the house of hay!

The same happened in the house of sticks
The piggies ran to the house of bricks!
Again the wolf knocked on the door
The frightened pigs hit the floor!

The pigs were scared, the wolf was hungry
And fed up with all this skullmongery!
He climbed the chimney-up and up!
Desperately wanting a pig for his sup!

Said pig one-'you know, we ought'er
Fill a cauldron with boiling water!
We've gotta go as fast as we can-
Make the wolf fall in the pan!'

Down the chimney the big wolf leapt
Into the pan where hot water was kept!
The pigs were happy-together they pranced
The wolf was dead! Oh how they danced!

Long ago, in days of old,
When wolves were dead and pigs were bold
Three little pigs left their mother
To live together-brother to brother.

[in memory of Miss Anne Gordon, of Guildford High School]

Copyright © 2001-2004 Sian Davies. All international rights reserved. 

Used by permission.

vi.  The Spectre Pig - A Ballad (Oliver Wendell Holmes)    [ 15 pages, circa 11' 25" ]

It was the stalwart butcher man,
That knit his swarthy brow,
And said the gentle Pig must die,
And sealed it with a vow.

And oh! it was the gentle Pig
Lay stretched upon the ground,
And ah! it was the cruel knife
His little heart that found.

They took him then, those wicked men,
They trailed him all along:
They put a stick between his lips,
And through his heels a thong;

And round and round an oaken beam
A hempen cord they flung,
And, like a mighty pendulum,
All solemnly he swung.

Now say thy prayers, thou sinful man,
And think what thou hast done,
And read thy catechism well,
Thou bloody-minded one;
For if his sprite should walk by night,
It better were for thee,
That thou wert mouldering in the ground,
Or bleaching in the sea.

It was the savage butcher then,
That made a mock of sin,
And swore a very wicked oath,
He did not care a pin.

It was the butcher's youngest son,--
His voice was broke with sighs,
And with his pocket-handkerchief
He wiped his little eyes;

All young and ignorant was he,
But innocent and mild,
And, in his soft simplicity,
Out spoke the tender child:--

"Oh, father, father, list to me
The Pig is deadly sick,
And men have hung him by his heels,
And fed him with a stick."

It was the bloody butcher then,
That laughed as he would die,
Yet did he soothe the sorrowing child,
And bid him not to cry;--

"Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what's a Pig,
That thou shouldst weep and wail?
Come, bear thee like a butcher's child,
And thou shalt have his tail!"

It was the butcher's daughter then,
So slender and so fair,
That sobbed as if her heart would break,
And tore her yellow hair;

And thus she spoke in thrilling tone,--
Fast fell the tear-drops big:--
"Ah! woe is me! Alas! Alas!
The Pig! The Pig! The Pig!"

Then did her wicked father's lips
Make merry with her woe,
And call her many a naughty name,
Because she whimpered so.

Ye need not weep, ye gentle ones,
In vain your tears are shed,
Ye cannot wash his crimson hand,
Ye cannot soothe the dead.

The bright sun folded on his breast
His robes of rosy flame,
And softly over all the west
The shades of evening came.

He slept, and troops of murdered Pigs
Were busy with his dreams;
Loud rang their wild, unearthly shrieks,
Wide yawned their mortal seams.

The clock struck twelve; the Dead hath heard;
He opened both his eyes,
And suddenly he shook his tail
To lash the feeding flies.

One quiver of the hempen cord,--
One struggle and one bound,--
With stiffened limb and leaden eye,
The Pig was on the ground!

And straight towards the sleeper's house
His fearful way he wended;
And hooting owl and hovering bat
On midnight wing attended.

Back flew the bolt, up rose the latch,
And open swung the door,
And little mincing feet were heard
Pat, pat along the floor.

Two hoofs upon the sanded floor,
And two upon the bed;
And they are breathing side by side,
The living and the dead!

"Now wake, now wake, thou butcher man!
What makes thy cheek so pale?
Take hold! take hold! thou dost not fear
To clasp a spectre's tail?"

Untwisted every winding coil;
The shuddering wretch took hold,
All like an icicle it seemed,
So tapering and so cold.

"Thou com'st with me, thou butcher man!"--
He strives to loose his grasp,
But, faster than the clinging vine,
Those twining spirals clasp:

And open, open swung the door,
And, fleeter than the wind,
The shadowy spectre swept before,
The butcher trailed behind.

Fast fled the darkness of the night,
And morn rose faint and dim;
They called full loud, they knocked full long,
They did not waken him.

Straight, straight towards that oaken beam,
A trampled pathway ran
A ghastly shape was swinging there,--
It was the butcher man.

vii.  Piggy Patter, Piggy Platter  (Mary Buchanan)   [ 5 pages, circa 2' 15" ]

Oh, I'll sing of the pig, be he little or big,
For we can't very well do without him,
Tho' he cares not a fig to be neat or be trig
And hasn't much beauty about him.

But there's meat-juicy meat-and spare ribs so sweet
That many times graces our table,
There's the head, and the feet, and the carcase complete,
And we oft eat as much as we're able.

And there's lard-snowy lard-sometimes soft, sometimes hard,
And we use it when doing our baking.
Oh, the pig is a pard that we cannot discard,
Tho' sometimes new friends we be making.

But the pig is a friend that will last to the end
Altho', as I've said he's no beauty,
And to you I can send this good recommend
That he always keeps doing his duty.

He may dig, he may root, and our gardens oft loot,
But that, you must know is his natur';
We may after him scoot, and threaten the "Brute"
And breathe out bad cess to the cratur'.

But then with a will he will come to us still
And thrive if we give him attention;
If his trough we but fill with plenty of swill
And other good food I might mention.

And if we have cares in our money affairs,
If at any time there is a shortage,
Then the pig nobly shares, and our burden oft bears
And he's great at reducing a mortgage.

Oh, the pig is a gent, on mischief oft bent,
To take him all through he's a corker,
But we will repent and lose many a cent
If we ever go back on the porker.

viii.   The Star and the Pig  (Sara Teasdale)   [ 4 pages, circa 2' 45" ]

A white star born in the evening glow
Looked to the round green world below,
And saw a pool in a wooded place
That held like a jewel her mirrored face.
She said to the pool: "Oh, wondrous deep,
I love you, I give you my light to keep.
Oh, more profound than the moving sea
That never has shown myself to me!
Oh, fathomless as the sky is far,
Hold forever your tremulous star!"
But out of the woods as night grew cool
A brown pig came to the little pool;
It grunted and splashed and waded in
And the deepest place but reached its chin.
The water gurgled with tender glee
And the mud churned up in it turbidly.
The star grew pale and hid her face
In a bit of floating cloud like lace.

ix.   Politics is where the pig  (Gary Bachlund)   [ 4 pages, circa 1' 45" ]

Politics is when the pig
says that he's your mister big;
privately he gives a fig
while he wheels and deals
and steals and feels that this is his gig.

Lobbyists all bring him cash,
fattening his campaign stash,
lapping up the balderdash,
while they seal their deals
and squeal the spiel's political hash.

Common folks bear common yokes,
while the fat cats come to play;
and the common woes of the common Joes
never seem to get in the way.

Politics is when the pork
serves itself with knife and fork;
celebrate and pop the cork,
"Cheers" from Boston to Austin, Key Largo to Fargo
and L. A. to New York.

"Money talks, and walks the walks,
'cross this big wide Pork Chop land"
squawk the "Pigs in Plunderland."

Oh yez, politics is when the pig
pig-like wheels and deals and steals
and feels that he's mister big.

Text -- Copyright © 2005 Gary Bachlund. All international rights reserved.

x.  The Three Little Pigs  (Alfred Scott Gatty)    [ 3 pages, circa 1' 05" ]

A jolly old sow once lived in a sty,
And three little piggies had she,
And she waddled about saying "Umph! Umph! Umph!"
While the little ones said "Wee! wee!"

"My dear little brothers," said one of the brats,
"My dear little piggies," said he;
"Let us all for the future say, Umph! Umph! Umph!"
And they wouldn't say "Wee! wee! wee!"

So after a time these little pigs died,
They all died of pleurisy;
From trying to hard to say "Umph! Umph! Umph!"
For they only could say "Wee! wee!"

A moral there is to this little song,
A moral that's easy to see;
Don't try when you're young to say "Umph! Umph! Umph!"
For you only can say "Wee! wee!"

xi.   Early Bacon (Archibald Stodart-Walker)  [ 2 pages, circa 55" ]

Early bacon, early bacon!
Oh, the pleasant sight to see,
Sires come down for early bacon,
With an egg and pot of tea.

Early bacon, early bacon!
Oh, the happy hours I fed,
Deep in joy on early bacon,
Coming from a comfy bed.

Early bacon, early bacon!
That's the breakfast dish for me,
All alone with early bacon
With the paper on my knee!

xii.  Any Part of Piggy  (Sir Noël Coward)    [ 4 pages, circa 1' 25" ]

Any part of the piggy
Is quite alright with me.
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York,
Trotters, sausages, hot roast pork.
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm neither a crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of the darling pig
Is perfectly fine by me.

Total cycle [ 62 pages, circa 32' 24" ]

Three Little Pigs

I had found posted on a website Sian Davies' fanciful retelling of the tale of the "Three Little Pigs, and wrote asking her permission to include it with the wonderful nonsense works of other poets. She, at the time a student at Oxford, has granted permission for this, and so I set her "Three Little Pigs" in memory of one her her teachers, using four harmonic domains, each a minor third away from its former. And so, the opening statement begins in C, with the progression through to E flat, G flat and then A, as do the structural parts of the song themselves  follow the same logic.

The progression's harmonic elements are then stretched apart in time and juxtaposition, each related then individually to the original tonic, C major.

Reaching the domain of E-flat, the oft-heard theme from the time of silent movies announcing the villain in the story announces this villain - the wolf. Melodramatic as this portion of the story is, it seems only right to draw from the greatest time in melodrama from the early days of film and silent movie accompaniment. An accompanist should therefore take liberty in overdoing this just a little -- please?

The wolf carries on through to the domain of A major, distant from the original tonic of the song setting, as the plot thickens with the stress of the harmonic distance.

The recapitulation of the harmonic series is complete and climbs higher in the accompaniment as the triumphant pigs dance and "prance" for joy at their victory over the dreaded wolf..

Sian's poem is a wonderful addition to the tradition of children's tales and poetic nonsense which have given rise to so many significant poets choosing to treat pigs among their topics of interest, language craft and art. The cycle is meant for fun; performers choosing the cycle or individual songs from it are therefore encouraged to be sometimes "over the top." For the fun of it.

Lisa Cutler Gomberg


Known to musical theater audiences in southern California by her maiden name, Lisa Cutler, this fine actress and musical theater performer has played many of the standard Broadway roles, and debuted Buddy Ebsen's Turn To the Right. Together we had sung a number of pops concerts in the southland. I recall one fine performance of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, in which she starred. One of her passions is collecting ceramic pigs, pewter pigs, clay pigs, pictures of pigs and pigs, pigs and more pigs. It seemed quite natural to set these poems specifically for her.