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Featured Poem: Breakfast by Mary Lamb

Written by The Reader, 23rd July 2018

This week our Featured Poem celebrates the most important meal of the day, Breakfast by British poet Mary Lamb.

With schools breaking up for the summer holidays and many teenagers enjoying a spell of long-awaited lie-ins, their breakfast times may break away from family routines and slip into lunchtime or later, perhaps causing a little disorder in the family home. Mary Lamb's poem reminds us that this isn't a modern phenomena with "sleepy Robert" in her poem, Breakfast.

Born in 1764, Mary Lamb writes about the coming together of a family over breakfast, "the welcomer of new-born days". The social gathering of sitting down around the table, "refreshed by sleep"Lamb reflects on the lively sounds of the morning meal such as the kettle on the fire.

But "sleepy Robert" cannot be stirred even by these sounds. For him, that breakfast time is a moment of quiet away from the hubbub of the family table.

Whether Lamb is critical of sleepy Robert's lie ins or whether she has excused his absence from the table as "his own pleasure", it may feel a familiar tussle for families thrown out of routine by the coming of the summer holidays.


A dinner party, coffee, tea,
Sandwich, or supper, all may be
In their way pleasant. But to me
Not one of these deserves the praise
That welcomer of new-born days,
A breakfast, merits; ever giving
Cheerful notice we are living
Another day refreshed by sleep,
When its festival we keep.
Now although I would not slight
Those kindly words we use ‘Good night’,
Yet parting words are words of sorrow,
And may not vie with sweet ‘Good Morrow’,
With which again our friends we greet,
When in the breakfast-room we meet,
At the social table round,
Listening to the lively sound
Of those notes which never tire,
Of urn, or kettle on the fire.
Sleepy Robert never hears
Or urn, or kettle; he appears
When all have finished, one by one
Dropping off, and breakfast done.
Yet has he too his own pleasure,
His breakfast hour’s his hour of leisure;
And, left alone, he reads or muses,
Or else in idle mood he uses
To sit and watch the venturous fly,
Where the sugar’s piled high,
Clambering o’er the lumps so white,
Rocky cliffs of sweet delight.
By Mary Lamb

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