Here’s a funny little English poem by the assuredly serious Helen Maria Williams about the pleasures of home and friendship — condensed in a traditional Christmas cake. I like it because it reminds me that objects’ significance resides in their relations to people and ideas important to us, and because I’ll be missing my Cleveland family this year at Christmas. And because my best friend always sends out Christmas cookies as an expression of her love.
To Mrs. K—-, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris
What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!