Fresh sea food has become a staple of that style of cooking now known as California Cuisine, which emphasizes the kind of fresh ingredients that are abundant here in the Golden State. But long before Wolfgang Puck became a household hero, Carmel
artists were already singing the praises of one of our most delicious--and now protected--varieties of sea food.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the sturdy mollusk called abalone
became the subject of a ballad. "The Abalone Song
" was a collaborative work which—among others—featured the talents of poet George Sterling
. Here are a few of its verses.
Haliotis rufescensOh! Some folks boast of quail on toast,
, red abalone interior of shell, photographer, date unknown. Larger.
Because they think it's tony;
But I'm content to owe my rent,
And live on abalone.
Oh! Mission Point's a friendly joint,
Where every crab's a crony,
And true and kind you'll ever find
The clinging abalone.
He wanders free beside the sea,
Where e'er the coast is stony;
He flaps his wings and madly sings–
The plaintive abalone.
By Carmel Bay, the people say,
We feed the lazzaroni
On Boston beans and fresh sardines,
And toothsome abalone.
For a time, George Sterling was a leading member of Carmel bohemian
society, a noted poet and a friend of writers like Jack London
, Robinson Jeffers
, and Mary Austin
Constellatio of Taurus from Prodromus astronomiae,
drawn by Johannes Hevelius, 1690. Larger.
The brightest star in the constellation Taurus
, Aldebaran once inspired the imagination of one of California's great sonneteers.
In quiet, lovely verses, Carmel bohemian George Sterling
captures the magic of the star whose name comes from Arabic for "follower."
Thou art the star for which all evening waits—
O star of peace, come tenderly and soon!
Nor heed the drowsy and enchanted moon
She dreams in silver at the eastern gates
Ere yet she brim with light the blue estates
Abandoned by the eagles of the noon.
But shine thou swiftly on the darkling dune
And woodlands where the twilight hesitates.
Above that wide and ruby lake to-West,
Wherein the sunset waits reluctantly,
Stir silently the purple wings of Night.
She stands afar, upholding to her breast,
As mighty murmurs reach her from the sea,
Thy lone and everlasting rose of light.
George Sterling's sonnet "Aldebaran at Dusk" was included in his 1911 collection " class="bookPDFTitle">The House of Orchids and Other Poems
In the sloping valleys to the north of San Francisco lies California's wine country
, whose products have been known to encourage not only romance but a fanciful imagination.
's 1923 poem "Ballad of the Grapes" is an ode to Daphne, the virgin goddess of Greece. Its a biting satire of the rise of commercialization.
It was in San Francisco town
"Bon Ami Cleanser," adverstisement in Pictorial Review
, 1925. Larger.
Once dedicate to joy,
Now given up to hypocrites
And all reform's annoy.
Oh! Daphne was as brave a girl
As ever wore a glove.
She made her prayer to Bacchus, Pan
And all the gods of love.
Now Daphne bought a load of grapes
With ocean-purple skin;
She bought some golden muscatel
And called her lover in.
And thrice she scoured her bath-tub
(A needless act, we know)
With Bon Ami, Dutch Cleanser
And much Sapolio.
And thrice she washed her snowy legs,
At which the faun might kneel,
With Ivory soap and Colgate soap
And soap we call Castile.
Then in the tub they dumped the grapes
And in the tub she stepped;
And oh! to see her nudity
The men of God had wept!
Not as the grapes of wrath are trod
Trod she the vintage there,
Up to her knees in scarlet foam, -
Unhidden by her hair;
But rather as when dryads white
Pace slowly in the dance,
She proved our old delicious lies
And certified romance.
Sterling published "Ballad of the Grapes" in his Selected Poems
–Contributed by Jessica Barganski.
arrived in California in 1890 and quickly became part of the literary establishment. After he moved to Carmel
, he wrote some of his best poems, including "Black Vulture
," a 1911 sonnet that imagines the world of the great scavenger
threatened by the human innovation of flight.
Coragyps atratusAloof upon the day's immeasured dome,
, American Black Vulture, photograph by Bois Christian, 2007. Larger.
He holds unshared the silence of the sky.
Far down his bleak, relentless eyes descry
The eagle's empire and the falcon's home-
Far down, the galleons of sunset roam;
His hazards on the sea of morning lie;
Serene, he hears the broken tempest sigh
Where cold sierras gleam like scattered foam.
And least of all he holds the human swarm-
Unwitting now that envious men prepare
To make their dream and its fulfillment one,
When, poised above the caldrons of the storm,
Their hearts, contemptuous of death, shall dare
His roads between the thunder and the sun.
Sterling became one of the chief members of Carmel Bohemia
and a friend of a later arrival, poet Robinson Jeffers
, about whom Sterling wrote a brief, appreciative book.
If you had to characterize the outlook of a typical Californian—survivor of earthquake, flood, and wind-driven flames—you could do worse than George Sterling
, who emphasized our visionary impulses.
In his "Ode: On the Opening of the Panama Pacific Exposition
," Sterling sounds a note of hopefulness rooted in a vision of a future of brotherhood.
O armies of the sun,
"Panama-Pacific International Exposition," photographer unknown, 1915. Larger.
Your war is on the darkness and the tears
Across the gulf of years
We hear your song and see your banners shine.
Know that we too would share your toils divine,
On self and madness hastening their end.
Lo! from our Age we send
A music brief and broken and august
To mingle with your own—
A strain from silence flown,
Saying we too have hungered to the sky,
And built from many tears and humble dust
A Dream that shall not altogether die—
The vision of that day
When human strength shall serve the common good,
And man, forever loyal to the race,
Find, far beyond our seasons of dismay,
The guerdon of its grace:
One hope, one home, one song, one brotherhood,
And in each face the best-beloved's face.
George Sterling's "Ode" celebrated the opening of the Pan-Pacific Exposition
on February 20, 1915.