This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
"Few persons know what an instructive fiction, Familiar to our eyes from childhood's date, Is told us in dramatic dark-blue diction At meal-times on a, Willow-pattern plate.
So, I propose to represent the story, And to perform its plot upon my page; But let me first depict in all their glory,
The scenic beauties of our stone-ware stage!
Be seated, pray, and take in hand a platter,
Fetched by trim Phyllis from the kitchen shelf;
Then, like a classic Chorus, I will chatter The while you look attentive on the delf.
- Just where an actor from the left would enter Its inner circle, splendid buildings stand, Having a proud Pagoda in their centre,
With upper chambers, opulent and grand.
High above these an Orange-tree outreaches Its golden-fruited boughs, a background fair;
And on each side of the Pavilion, peaches, With tender green, and crimson deck the air.
In front a spacious Park the Palace faces,
Fenced at its foremost lines with palings strong;
Whilst, on the right, approach from other places Is hindered by an Ocean, broad, and long;
A bridge runs over to the gardener's dwelling Built on an island lying near the shore;
Its one small tree of poor resources telling, Plain as the Cottage with a single floor.
Deep-rooted near the bridge, with boughs depending, A gnarled old Willow weeps, and sheds its leaves,
In token that the summer-time is ending, And mindful of the tale our drama weaves.
Far off across the sea, where Stage direction Says a ' right upper entrance ' must be made,
Another Island needs remote attention, On which much cultivation has been paid.
Thus is the picture of our Stage completed, With middle scene, and side-wings duly set;
Now, while you still are comfortably seated, The curtain rises, and the play you get.
- In Act the First, two children we discover, Left by their parents to a Guardian's care, Sweet little Tsing, and Lin, her promised lover, He a brave boy, she five years old, and fair.
Lin, when he comes to manhood, will inherit The Park, Pagoda, and the buildings grand;
Likewise, if faithful still, he then will merit Fulfilled possession of Tsing's heart, and hand.
But Fang, a Mandarin of dastard cunning, Into whose care these orphan children come,
Determines while their youthful years are running, To seize by fraud their heritage, and home;
He takes the lad to sea, for pleasure sailing, Then turns him at the dead of night adrift;
Deplores his loss with much pretence of wailing, And shirks suspicion by the crafty shift.
Sweet little Tsing he holds in close seclusion Year after year, within the Palace bounds,
Locked on all sides, as shown, in stern allusion, By the key-border which our Plate surrounds.
She, mindful always of the love departed, Maintains her courage, and on hope depends,
Plies patient threads, and bides her time true-hearted, Trusting to Lin. And so the First Act ends.
- Next, on the Island far across the ocean,
Where has been made the fruitful home of Lin, Who by the gardener's son, with much devotion, Was saved, we find the Second Act begin;
Together Lin, and he, escaped the water,
And, by a marvel, reached this distant shore;
Meantime at home the gardener's faithful daughter Was placed by Fang to guard Tsing's chamber door.
Through her comes round at length the glad assurance, Told secretly to Tsing, that Lin survives;
Through her to let Lin know what long endurance She suffers, Tsing by needle-work contrives.
Wrought by her skill in silk, a plain recital Of Fang's perfidious wiles thus reaches Lin;
With Deeds she finds which clearly show his title Herself and all his birthright back to win.
True to her troth she bids him cross the water, And, grown to manhood, claim her as his wife,
Confronting Fang by ways her wit has taught her On chance occasions in her captive life.
Lin joyfully obeys when backward beckoned, And meets her purpose with responsive heart;
He straight sets sail; - and thus on Act the Second The curtain drops as Lin prepares to start.
- In Act the Third, and last, our Play, proceeding, Conveys a Moral, helpful, and divine; Its scene the Bridge; its characters the leading Performers on our Stage, - arranged in line:
Lin on the right speeds forward, swiftly bearing His box of Deeds for refuge towards the strand;
Sweet Tsing, whose rescue tells of dauntless daring, Takes middle flight, with distaff in her hand;
Fang from the left pursues, intent on slaughter, With scourge upraised (and hirelings at his heels);
He drives the luckless pair into the water, Half slain already by the blows he deals.
When, lo! a change of scene we view with wonder!
The powers on high work for their children's good; With flash of lightning, and loud peal of thunder,
A rugged Willow looms where Fang had stood;
Its knotted trunk, and downcast branches drooping, Tell of fraud punished by avenging fate;
A record of remorse - amid the grouping Of Actors on our Willow-pattern Plate.
Above, the sun shines forth, where, fondly mated, A loving pair of turtle-doves appears;
Sweet Tsing, and Lin, thus happily translated As plighted spirits to celestial spheres.
Our lesson is - that truth, and trust unswerving Cast on the waters bear eternal fruit;
And heavenly tunes are taught to the deserving, The music of whose days on earth was mute.
As for our harps - we hang them on the Willows, Sadly through life, but striving for the best;
Then at the last, like doves across the billows, So shall we fly away, and be at rest".
"Solvitur; hie victor coestus, artemque repono".