James McIntyre - Canada's "Cheese Poet" 



The ancient poets ne’er did dream
That Canada was land of cream
They ne’er imagined it could flow
In this cold land of ice and snow
Where everything did solid freeze
They ne’er hoped or looked for cheese. 
— from James McIntyre’s Oxford Cheese Ode


James McIntyre (1827-1906) was born in Forres, Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1841 at the age of 14. He worked as a hired hand, clearing land and collecting maple sap, and became a furniture dealer selling coffins in Ingersoll, Ontario -  cheese making country.

 

Inspired by the wonders of Canada, here McIntyre found his inner muse and published two volumes of poetry, Musings on the Banks of the Canadian Thames, and Poems of James McIntyre. McIntyre is most infamous for his poems about cheese, and he came to be known as “The Cheese Poet.” His best-known “dairy ode” was about the four-ton cheese displayed at the Toronto Exposition of 1855. 

MammothCheese.jpg
Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 pounds

We have seen thee, queen of cheese
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.
All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.
Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,
Or as the leaves upon the trees,
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.
May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great world’s show at Paris.
Of the youth beware of these,
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek, then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.
We’rt thou suspended from a balloon,
You’d cast a shade even at noon,
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.
— James McIntyre, Canada's Cheese Poet

PROPHECY OF A TEN TON CHEESE

Who hath prophetic vision sees
In future times a ten ton cheese,
Several companies would join
To furnish curd for great combine,
More honor far than making gun
Of mighty size and many a ton.
Machine it could be made with ease
That could turn this monster cheese
The greatest honour to our land
Would be this orb of finest brand,
Three hundred curd that would need squeeze
For to make this mammoth cheese.
So British lands could confederate
Three hundred provinces in one state,
When all in harmony agrees
To be pressed in one like this cheese,
Then one skilful hand could acquire
Power to move British empire.
But various curds must be combined
And each factory their curd must grind,
To blend harmonious in one
This great cheese of mighty span,
And uniform in quality
A glorious reality.
— James McIntyre, Canada's Cheese Poet

But a cheese weighing a mere four tons was not enough for McIntyre.  He saw in a holy vision a cheese weighing TEN tons, that would have the political power to unite the British Empire.  It would be produced by the powerful machine invented by James Ireland at the West Oxford cheese making factory.

This Scottish emigrant to Canada also wrote awful poems about bear hunting, and an 18-foot ox exhibited at a fair. But his worst poem, exhibiting unbelieveably bad taste (and we don’t mean cheese) was about a man with a wooden leg. Perhaps it was inspired by the harsh Canadian winter. Perhaps he envied the amputee whose leg never froze.  We’ll never know.

WOODEN LEG

Misfortune sometimes is a prize,
And is a blessing in disguise,
A man with a stout wooden leg,
Through town and country he can beg.
And the people in the city,
On poor man they do take pity;
He points them to his timber leg
And tells them of his poor wife, Meg.
And if a dog tries him to bite,
With his stiff leg he doth him smite,
Or sometimes he will let him dig
His teeth into the wooden leg.
…And when he has only one foot,
He needs to brush only one boot;
Through world he does jolly peg,
So cheerful with his wooden leg.
In mud or water he can stand
With his foot on the firm dry land,
For wet he doth not care a fig,
It never hurts his wooden leg.
No aches he has but on the toes
Of one foot, and but one gets froze;
He has many a jolly rig,
And oft enjoys his wooden leg.
— James McIntyre, Canada's worst Scottish poet


Was all this bad poetry inspired by Scotland’s William Topaz McGonagall, considered the World’s Worst Poet?





















TamsHorizontal.jpg