Great Literature

Quotations concerning pigs,
and what rests on the back of a pig

reading pig

In the warm lands where pigs are still a totem, the people tell a story about a foreign pilgrim who came among them seeking the divine attributes of existence.

Again and again, the pilgrim was told that the world rested on a platform that rested on the outspread wings of a crow, which rested in turn on the back of a pig.

The pilgrim then asked, “What did the pig rest on?” He was told another pig. “And that pig?” he asked, again and again. “Ah, quenchless one,” he was finally told, “after that it is pigs all the way down.”

“You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,” said Alice. “Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called ‘Jabberwocky’?”

“Let’s hear it,” said Humpty Dumpty. “I can explain all the poems that were ever invented — and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.”

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
   ’twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
   All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

“That’s enough to begin with,” Humpty Dumpty interrupted: “there are plenty of hard words there…”

“And then ‘MOME RATHs’?” said Alice. “I’m afraid I’m giving you a great deal of trouble.”

“Well, a ‘RATH’ is a sort of green pig: but ‘MOME’ I’m not certain about. I think it’s short for ‘from home’ — meaning that they’d lost their way, you know.”

“And what does ‘OUTGRABE’ mean?”

“Well, ‘OUTGRABING’ is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you’ll hear it done, maybe — down in the wood yonder — and when you’ve once heard it you’ll be QUITE content. Who’s been repeating all that hard stuff to you?”

“I read it in a book,” said Alice.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a British mathematician and author of Through the Looking Glass (1871).

…We who still labour by the cromlec on the shore,
The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Irish poet and author. “The Valley of the Black Pig” from The Wing Among the Reeds (1899).

Book 3, The oracle at Delos tells Aeneas what place the gods had appointed for his habitation:

Then round th’ Italian coast your navy steer;
And, after this, to Circe’s island veer;
And, last, before your new foundations rise,
Must pass the Stygian lake, and view the nether skies.
Now mark the signs of future ease and rest,
And bear them safely treasur’d in thy breast.
When, in the shady shelter of a wood,
And near the margin of a gentle flood,
Thou shalt behold a sow upon the ground,
With thirty sucking young encompass’d round;
The dam and offspring white as falling snow —
These on thy city shall their name bestow,
And there shall end thy labors and thy woe.

Book 8, Tiber, god of the Tiber River comes to Aeneas in a dream and clarifies the words of the oracle at Delos (above), telling Aeneas where he and his son, Ascanius, should build their city:

And that this nightly vision may not seem
Th’ effect of fancy, or an idle dream,
A sow beneath an oak shall lie along,
All white herself, and white her thirty young.
When thirty rolling years have run their race,
Thy son Ascanius, on this empty space,
Shall build a royal town, of lasting fame,
Which from this omen shall receive the name…
The god am I, whose yellow water flows
Around these fields, and fattens as it goes:
Tiber my name; among the rolling floods
Renown’d on earth, esteem’d among the gods.
This is my certain seat. In times to come,
My waves shall wash the walls of mighty Rome.

Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (70-19 BC)
Roman poet and philosopher. Aeneid (c. 25-19 BC), an epic mythological poem telling the wanderings of the Trojan hero, Aeneas, after the sack of Troy and his eventual founding of the city of Rome.

I said to my piggies, “Tatty bye, little old piggie-wiggies; you’re going to make ever such lovely hams!”

The piggies had no particular desire for such glory, I knew, but all of us have the one death coming to us, and nature is merciful. Everything alive that has to die in a moment, everything is gripped by honor, as if the fuses go for both man and beast, and then you feel nothing and nothing hurts.

That timorousness lowers the wicks in the lamps, till life just dimly flickers and is unaware of anything in its dread. It was Mr. Myclik too who taught me to get one extra spare cauldron… only for boiling sausages and blood puddings and brawn and offal and heating fat, because whatever cooks in the pan leaves something of itself behind, and a pig-slaughtering, lady, it’s the same as a priest serving mass, because, after all, both are a matter of flesh and blood.

Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997)
Czech author, considered one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century. Cutting It Short (1993).

original Middle English text:
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That seint peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til jhesu crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye.

  He said he had a piece of the very sail
  That good Saint Peter had, what time he went
  Upon the sea, till Jesus changed his bent.
  He had a latten cross set full of stones,
  And in a bottle had he some pig’s bones.
  But with these relics, when he came upon
  Some simple parson, then this paragon
  In that one day more money stood to gain
  Than the poor dupe in two months could attain.

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400)
English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat, and diplomat and regarded as the greatest literary figure of Medieval England. From “The Pardoner” in The Canterbury Tales (c. 1380s-1390s).

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A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.