Cowper, William

British, (1731-1800)

The Love of the World Reproved:
or, Hypocrisy Detected.

  1. Thus says the prophet of the Turk,
  2. “Good Mussulman, abstain from pork;
  3. There is a part in every swine
  4. No friend of follower of mine
  5. May taste, whate’er his inclination,
  6. On pain of excommunication.”
  7. Such Mahomet’s mysterious charge,
  8. And thus he left the point at large.
  9. Had he the sinful part express’d,
  10. They might with safety eat the rest;
  11. But for one piece they thought it hard
  12. From the whole hog to be debarr’d;
  13. And set their wit at work to find
  14. What joint the prophet had in mind.
  15. Much controversy straight arose,
  16. These choose the back, the belly those;
  17. By some ’tis confidently said
  18. He meant not to forbid the head;
  19. While others at that doctrine rail,
  20. And piously prefer the tail.
  21. Thus, conscience freed from every clog,
  22. Mahometans eat up the hog.
  23. You laugh — ’tis well — the tale applied
  24. May make you laugh on t’other side.
  25. Renounce the world — the preacher cries.
  26. We do — a multitude replies.
  27. While one as innocent regards
  28. A snug and friendly game at cards;
  29. And one, whatever you may say,
  30. Can see no evil in a play;
  31. Some love a concert, or a race;
  32. And others shooting, and the chase.
  33. Reviled and loved, renounced and follow’d,
  34. Thus, bit by bit, the world is swallow’d;
  35. Each thinks his neighbour makes too free,
  36. Yet likes a slice as well as he:
  37. With sophistry their sauce they sweeten,
  38. Till quite from tail to snout ’tis eaten.

The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper. New York: Appleton & Co., 1854.

Editor’s Note:

This poem satirizes the eating customs of Muslims and how unclear it seemed to Cowper, reading the the words of Mahomet, as to which parts of the hog can be eaten and which were forbidden:

But for one piece they thought it hard
From the whole hog to be debarr’d;

This section is claimed by some to be the origin of the expression “to go the whole hog”, meaning “to engage in something completely,” just as the Muslims in this poem
decide to eat the whole hog. This is only one of several suggested origins for this expression. The actual origin remains elusive.

About the Poet

William Cowper (1731-1800), English poet, hymn-writer, letter-writer and translator. He wrote Olney Hymns (1779) with the Anglican Evangelical preacher John Newton (1725-1807), and also translated Homer, Milton, Virgil, Ovid and Horace.

Cowper is considered one of the greatest English letter-writers of his time. In his correspondence he wrote about everyday life and contemporary political and literary events. [DES-6/03]

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