Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jesse + Jessie (for Jesse or Jessie)

Jesse Williams, according to the winter 2013 issue of New York Archives, "pioneered the cheese factory system and thereby helped to propel New York State into the dominant cheese-making state in the nineteenth century." The New York State Museum of Cheese is located near Rome, New York. So is the cheese plant pictured here; Edmeston is south of Utica. But to me, the biggest of the big cheeses in the big-cheese-tributes category has got to be Canadian James McIntyre's infamous "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds" (about an actual cheese produced in Perth, Ontario, in 1866, and exhibited in Toronto, New York, and Britain). The poem breathlessly begins: "We have seen thee, queen of cheese / Lying quietly at your ease / Gently fanned by evening breeze / Thy fair form no flies dare seize..." The author goes on to hope: "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..." (It may have been that very verse that pushed this one into the annals of Very Bad Poetry, although I kind of love the rhyme scheme!) The ode concludes on the following feverish note: "We'rt thou suspended from balloon / You'd cast a shade even at noon / Folks would think it was the moon / About to fall and crush them soon." We looked up and found a crushing 148 examples of this typo in OhioLINK, and a mammoth 1186 in WorldCat. Some of these will undoubtedly be false positives (two different people named Jesse and Jessie), but most of them are probably the real deal.

(South Edmeston, NY, cheese plant, no date, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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