Pork or death?
The next day the weather turned suddenly, and it became hot. Even in the early morning there was a sticky sultriness in the atmosphere, the wind carried the rotten smell of the swamp, and delicate shrill mosquitoes webbed the green millpond. It was unseasonable, worst than August, and much damage was done. For nearly everyone in the county who owned a hog had copied Miss Amelia and slaughtered the day before. And what sausage could keep in such weather as this? After a few days there was everywhere the smell of slowly spoiling meat, and an atmosphere of dreary waste. Worse yet, a family reunion near the Forks Falls highway ate pork roast and died, every one of them. It was plain that their hog had been infected — and who could tell whether the rest of the meat was safe or not? People were torn between the longing for the good taste of pork, and the fear of death. It was a time of waste and confusion.
—McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café
I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the naked trees
The pigeons nestled round the coat
On dull November days like these
The cock upon the dung-hill crowing
The mill sails on the heath agoing.
The feather from the ravens breast
Falls on the stubble lea
The acorns near the old crows nest
Fall pattering down the tree
The grunting pigs that wait for all
Scramble and hurry where they fall.
Elegy, on the Death of a Swine.
Mute is that tongue which late would squeal so shrill,
Clos’d are those eyes oft to thy safety true;
Unmov’d the limbs which oft so nimbly mov’d,
When the replenish’d trough stood full in view.
The cruel knife has drank thy spouting blood,
And unrelenting pierc’d thy beating heart,
Had laid thee weltering in a crimson flood,
And soon forever, must thy breath depart.
No more thou’lt range the wood, by instinct led,
Or, with thy kindred pigs, the spacious field,
In search of nut or acorn newly shed,
Or root nutritious ‘neath the turf conceal’d;
No more with mischief fraught, and nose upheld,
Seek the sly breach in fence or tumbling wall,
Through which to steal, and in the cultur’d field
Lay waste and riot on the lab’rer’s toil.
Ah! little didst thou think, when in the stye
Thy master fed thee with such watchful care,
With corn, potatoes boil’d, and mouldy rye,
Thy life would pay for such delicious fare.
Full many a bard in lofty verse has sung
The praise of heroes and of patriots true,
Of wisdom’s sons; and in sweet melting strains
Fond lovers oft the listening maidens woo.
And not alone have themes like these inspir’d
The maddening, sublime, or melting song,
But broken mugs, pipes, cats, and dogs have fir’d
The Muse to sing with pity-waking tongue.
Shall then thy parting breath expire unsung,
Thou swine of varied and sensual worth?
Shall black oblivion enshroud thy fate?
Forbid it Justice stern, forbid it truth.
Thy passing worth, when smoaking on the board
Thou’rt laid; and briskly move the knife and fork;
The gorging epicure shall oft declare,
And all who like fat bacon or good pork.