Speaking of Collard Greens

Image from Austin360

Speaking of collards, we note a very funny paragraph in Uncle Frank Sanborn’s literary letter to The Springfield Republican. He is reviewing in an appreciative way a book of poems (“Way-Songs and Wanderings”) by Claiborne Addison Young. This poet, who is a new-comer, and who seems to have come to stay, has a beautiful lyric on the subject of collards. It is entitled “Texas Vision.” Mr. Sanborn quotes it to show that Mr. Young has “thought, fancy and sentiment in plenty” — “if the reader only knew what collards are; a prairie sunflower, or climbing rose, perhaps, with its wind-tossed blossoms!” Well, as Mr. Sanborn has taken the pains to quote the ode to collards in full we cannot do better than to follow his example:

Many friends and I,
Collards bright and gay,
Jocund as the day;
This is what they say
While to and fro they sway:
“We nod to every breeze,
We’re gods of grace and ease.”

They at my window lean,
And whispering, seem to nod
And peer, as doth some god
At toiling son of sod;
Yet when again they lean,
They shift like shifting scene,
They weave into my dream.

The dead and quick they seem;
Past, present — warp and woof,
The Great no more aloof;
Socrates, Montaigne,
And Emerson, the Plain,
Carlyle, great Sham-killer,
And Love-melodious Miller,
And Byron, son of Scorn,
And Rousseau, passion-torn,
Grasp hands, shake hands, are brothers,
Are sons of self-same mothers.

They bid me rise and stand,
They reach and clasp my hand;
They deign to call me brother —
Aye, son of self-same mother.
Ah! there the vision’s gone,
And collards still wave on:
“A joke, a thing to please;
We’re gods of grace and ease;
Like Alcibiades
Our mission is to please;
Trust not half we say
As to and fro we sway.”

We thank the muses that a man has at last arisen who can see, and feel, and express the poetry of the kitchen garden collards — coleworts, Mr. Sanborn, and the finest of all our garden “sass.” They are to be eaten only after frost fails. From that moment until far in the winter they are the dainties of the vegetable world — always supposing that they are prepared by an expert.

If allowed to remain in the garden during the winter, they send up long central stalks in the early spring, the tops of which become waving plumes of small yellow flowers that nod and wave obedient to the vagrant. It was at this season that they attracted the eye of the poet, and his description is apt. It is the blue stem, standing on one long and wrinkled leg, that reaches highest, and bends supplest to the breeze.

Many of our contemporaries have taken pains to note that we treat these matters of the kitchen and kale-yard sentimentally. Well, why not? The poet, as we have just seen, treats collards poetically. Are they any the worse for the sentiment and poetry? We think not. That which belongs to the past must needs be treated sentimentally, and if good cooking and good food are not things of the past in the great majority of southern homes today, then the doctor’s bills are swindles. A lady remarked the other day that “turnip greens read better than they tasted.” She was referring to our remarks upon them. But if instead of aiming an epigram at The Constitution, she had taken the rolling-pin to the cook, the turnip greens would have acquired a flavor hitherto unknown to them in her household.

If there were more sentiment in the kitchen there would be less pangs at the table, and less need for health pellets. There is no need why sensible people should trust their lives to their cooks. A twenty years’ acquaintance with the woman or man who prepares your food is not too long, and it may be too short. In any event, an hour in the kitchen would save many a fine lady the pains of wearing stays in the hall. An hour in the kitchen, not to invent new dishes or try rash experiments, but to revive the old methods and restore to the table the healthy, wholesome food that could be found there forty years ago.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Oct 31, 1897

Title: Way Songs and Wanderings
Author: Claiborne Addison Young
Publisher:Estes & Lauriat, 1897
Pages 113-114

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10 Responses to “Speaking of Collard Greens”

  1. Blossom O'Meally-Nelson Says:

    I found a copy of the first edition of Way-Songs and Wanderings in my cousin’s library, it was signed by the author Claiborne Addison Young in 1898. I woud like to learn more about him but I can’t find his biography anywhere.
    The intrigue is that this library is in Aboukir, Cave Valley, St. Ann, Jamaica WI. What a journey for this book.

  2. Blossom O'Meally-Nelson Says:

    Please let me hear from you or your readers who might know something about this

  3. Claiborne Addison Young – Alone « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] reader commented on a previous post, Speaking of Collard Greens, wanting more information about the author, whose book somehow ended up in Jamaica! Here is what I […]

  4. Geo. Comeau Says:

    I’d like to get in touch with the author of this post… can you email me at geocomeau@gmail.com

    • oldnews Says:

      What are you interested in asking?

      • Geo. Comeau Says:

        I am researching Clairborne Addison Young and would like to know if you have any additional information, or if your blog posts are the full extent of your knowledge on this individual. – Thx.!

  5. oldnews Says:

    That is all I have; whatever I have posted. I just find this stuff in old newspapers, do a little research, if warranted then post it. Sorry, I don’t have more, but I think I looked for additional info on him before and didn’t find much.

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