"Thus, conscience freed from ev'ry clog, / Mahometans eat up the hog."

— Cowper, William (1731-1800)

Place of Publication
November 9, 1779
"Thus, conscience freed from ev'ry clog, / Mahometans eat up the hog."
Metaphor in Context
Thus says the prophet of the Turk,
Good mussulman, abstain from pork;
There is a part in ev'ry swine
No friend or follower of mine
May taste, whate'er his inclination,
On pain of excommunication.
Such Mahomet's mysterious charge,
And thus he left the point at large.
Had he the sinful part express'd,
They might with safety eat the rest;
But for one piece they thought it hard
From the whole hog to be debarr'd,
And set their wit at work to find
What joint the prophet had in mind.

Much controversy straight arose,
These choose the back, the belly those;
By some 'tis confidently said
He meant not to forbid the head,
While others at that doctrine rail,
And piously prefer the tail.
Thus, conscience freed from ev'ry clog,
Mahometans eat up the hog

You laugh!--'tis well,--the tale apply'd
May make you laugh on t'other side.
Renounce the world, the preacher cries--
We do--a multitude replies,
While one as innocent regards
A snug and friendly game at cards;
And one, whatever you may say,
Can see no evil in a play;
Some love a concert or a race,
And others, shooting and the chase.
Reviled and loved, renounced and follow'd,
Thus bit by bit the world is swallow'd;
Each thinks his neighbour makes too free,
Yet likes a slice as well as he,
With sophistry their sauce they sweeten,
Till quite from tail to snout 'tis eaten.
Reading. Text from Oxford UP edition of Poems, which uses a 1782 printing as its copy-text.
First printed in the Leeds Mercury (November 9, 1779). See also John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp, eds. The Poems of William Cowper, vol. i (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 412-3.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.