Saturday, February 02, 2013

Sepia Saturday 161 - 2: So sorry about the oysters

The funny aspects of the bananas in the Dughi store first caught my eye in last week's prompt. But then there were darker thoughts from a blog I wrote some time ago......

I began to think about the plight of the poor oysters in this Oyster Saloon. I remembered an article in the New Yorker magazine some time ago about freezing corpses for thawing in the future. The famous baseball player Ted Williams opted to be frozen in this way and sparked a huge controversy. The primary research into this practice was done on oyster embryos. A former cryogenic researcher claimed that he pays $100.00 a year to keep two oyster embryos frozen; he has been maintaining them for 25 years. Somehow he just couldn't pull the plug on them - or let them thaw out and swim away, which he claims they will do. It fascinated me that a person could bond to, of all things, a frozen oyster embryo. Whenever I see anything about eating oysters I'm reminded of this researcher and his empathy for the bivalves we shuck and gulp down without a second thought.

Cruelest of all the stories about oysters is my childhood favorite, the narrative poem , "The Walrus and The Carpenter" from "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll. My father knew this poem by heart and used to enjoy reciting it for me with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a handkerchief for mopping up my tears for the poor little oysters in the other one. To this day, I cannot read the poem without feeling sad.

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.


  1. OMG! This reminds me of how I feel every time I eat meat, or any animal. I didn't know that's what this poem was about. Thanks, Helen, now I'll have to go meatless again today (at least).

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  3. After reading this,
    I'm just glad I never felt remorse when eating those oysters.
    It would be haunting me for the rest of my life...