THe Camels of Trebizond and Elsewhere

Today’s tea was an absolutely lovely black tea called Brown Sugar Bourbon. We should probably preface this with the caveat that we know nothing about bourbon, so can’t speak to that side of the favour.

But the use of brown sugar was ingenious. Brown Sugar Bourbon isn’t showy like Glitter and Gold. It doesn’t sparkle or anything like that. But it does feature a beautifully dark brown sugar to lightly flavour the tea.

As far as we can tell, there’s nothing else there. Like we say, we’re not experts on Bourbon and won’t pretend to be. But what we could detect was a rich and complex semi-sweet black tea that we would happily buy more of.

In the past, we’ve grumbled about some of the flavoured black teas as being too sweet – typically green tea works better to balance the sweeter flavours like apple or maple out. But because dark muscovado sugar has more in it than undiluted sweetness, this particular combination works.

It’s a lovely way to dress up a breakfast table or a therapeutic way to end the afternoon. In this instance, it was the later. We have had an absolutely unrelenting day. The poor dachshunds still aren’t speaking to us because we took exception to some over-exuberant barking five hours ago. But it was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

The Camel
Wislawa Szymborska with translation by Joanna Trzeciek

Don’t tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips
pursed
in perpetual kiss,
the dangerous lashes
of a born coquette.

The camel is an animal
grateful for less.

It keeps to itself
the hidden spring choked with grass,
the sharpest thorn
on the sweetest stalk.

When a voice was heard crying in the wilderness,

when God spoke
from the burning bush,

the camel was the only animal
to answer back.

Dune on stilts,
it leans into the long horizon,
bloodhounding

the secret caches of watermelon

brought forth like manna
from the sand.

It will bear no false gods
before it:
not the trader
who cinches its hump
with rope,
nor the tourist.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,
heat and light,
silence and science,

it is the last great hope.

What’s fascinating about this poem to us is the symbolism it gives the camel. The only other place we’ve seen them used to represent hope and faith is in Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, and we thought that was a one-off. So, our question to you; Is there a whole academic sub-culture of camel symbolism we’ve missed out on? And if so, where is it and how can we read it?

Also, if you haven’t read The Towers of Trebizond, haste ye to a library. We don’t recommend it to just anyone, but it has the best opening sentence of all time, and if you like tea and poetry, it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy Macaulay’s prose.  

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