Poor Man's Pudding

‘You see,’ said poet Blandmour, enthusiastically—as some forty years ago we walked along the road in a soft, moist snowfall, towards the end of March—‘you see, my friend, that the blessed almoner, nature, is in all things beneficent; and not only so, but considerate in her charities, as any discreet human philanthropist might be. This snow, now, which seems so unseasonable, is in fact just what a poor husbandman needs. Rightly is this soft March snow, falling just before seed-time, rightly is it called poor man’s manure. Distilling from kind heaven upon the soil, by a gentle penetration it nourishes every clod, ridge and furrow. To the poor farmer it is as good as the rich farmer’s farmyard enrichments. And the poor man has no trouble to spread it, while the rich man has to spread his.’

‘Perhaps so,’ said I, without equal enthusiasm, brushing some of the damp flakes from my chest. ‘It may be as you say, dear Blandmour. But tell me, how is it that the wind drives yonder drifts of poor man’s manure off poor Coulter’s two-acre patch here, and piles it up yonder on rich Squire Teamster’s twenty- acre field?’

‘Ah! to be sure—yes—well; Coulter’s field, I suppose, is sufficiently moist without further moistenings. Enough is as good as a feast, you know.’

‘Yes,’ replied I, ‘of this sort of damp fare,’ shaking another shower of the damp flakes from my person. ‘But tell me, this warm spring-snow may answer very well, as you say; but how is it with the cold snows of the long, long winters here?’

‘Why, do you not remember the words of the psalmist?—“The Lord giveth snow like wool”—meaning not only that snow is white as wool, but warm, too, as wool. For the only reason, as I take it, that wool is comfortable, is because air is entangled, and therefore warmed, among its fibres. Just so, then, take the temperature of a December field when covered with this snow-fleece, and you will no doubt find it several degrees above that of the air. So, you see, the winter’s snow itself is beneficent; under the pretence of frost—a sort of gruff philanthropist—actually warming the earth, which afterwards is to be fertilisingly moistened by these gentle flakes of March.’

‘I like to hear you talk, dear Blandmour; and, guided by your benevolent heart, can only wish to poor Coulter plenty of this poor man’s manure.’

‘But that is not all,’ said Blandmour, eagerly. ‘Did you never hear of the poor man’s eye-water?’


‘Take this soft March snow, melt it, and bottle it. It keeps pure as alcohol. The very best thing in the world for weak eyes. I have a whole demijohn of it myself. But the poorest man, afflicted in his eyes, can freely help himself to this same all-bountiful remedy. Now, what a kind provision is that!’

‘Then poor man’s manure is poor man’s eye-water too?’

‘Exactly. And what could be more economically contrived? One thing answering two ends—ends so very distinct.’

‘Very distinct, indeed.’

‘Ah! that is your way. Making sport of earnest. But never mind. We have been talking of snow; but common rainwater—such as falls all the year round—is still more kindly. Not to speak of its known fertilising quality as to fields, consider it in one of its minor lights. Pray, did you ever hear of a poor man’s egg?’

‘Never. What is that, now?’

‘Why, in making some culinary preparations of meal and flour, where eggs are recommended in the receipt-book, a substitute for the eggs may be had in a cup of cold rainwater, which acts as leaven. And

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