"Serious over my cereal"
April 25, 2010 4:49 AM   Subscribe

QuotationFilter: "Serious over my cereal, I broke one morning my fast, with something-to-read-searching retina ... "

My grandmother, born in 1925, has been asking me about the source of this quotation for about five years. I've never come across it elsewhere and Googling doesn't find anything. I'm assuming it is verse and that she has it right - she knows a lot of poetry by heart, mostly canonical nineteenth-century stuff, and very rarely makes mistakes.

She has suggested that it might be Hopkins or Betjeman, but I don't think these are very likely, and she does get sources wrong.

It is possible, I guess, that "cereal" could be "serial". The word "something" is actually in the quotation as she gives it, not a replacement for an unknown word.

Thanks for any help you can offer.
posted by paduasoy to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is from "Breakfast with Gerard Manley Hopkins" by Anthony Brode. Here is the complete text:
Breakfast with Gerard Manley Hopkins
"Delicious heart-of-the-corn, fresh-from-the-oven
flakes are sparkled and spangled with sugar for a
can't-be-resisted flavour." — Legend on a packet of
breakfast cereal.
Serious over my cereals I broke one breakfast my fast
With something-to-read-searching retinas retrained by print on a packet;
Sprung rhythm sprang, and I found (the mind fact-mining at last)
An influence Father-Hopkins-fathered on the copy-writing racket.

Parenthesis-proud, bracket-bold, happiest with hyphens,
The writers stagger intoxicated by terms, adjective-unsteadied—
Describing in graceless phrases fizzling like soda siphons
All things, crisp, crunchy, malted, tangy, sugared and shredded.

Far too, yes, too early we are urged to be purged, to savour
Salt, malt, and phosphates in English twisted and torn,
As, sparkled and spangled with sugar for a can't-be-resisted flavour,
Come fresh-from-the-oven flakes direct from the heart of the corn.
You can find a copy of this in The Oxford Book of Parodies by John Gross.
posted by RichardP at 5:19 AM on April 25, 2010 [19 favorites]

If you're curious, I found this with a Google Books search.
posted by RichardP at 5:21 AM on April 25, 2010

Amazing! Thanks so much. This has been driving me round the bend - she has dementia so asks over and over again what the source of quotations is. I will now be able to reassure her and stop myself going mad too. (Telling her that I don't know the source gets us into a repetitive and tangled maze.)

Thanks for the Google Books advice too.
posted by paduasoy at 5:53 AM on April 25, 2010

What a great poem! Both the ad copy and the resulting poem feel ahead of their time.

It seems like in the last line he is describing the ad copy itself (the words are "fresh-from-the-oven flakes"), and implying it's corny.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:47 AM on April 25, 2010

I've been hunting around trying to find any biographical details for Anthony Brode, but he appears to be pretty obscure. It looks like The Columbia World of Quotations (1996) has a single biographical fact about Anthony Brode — he was born in 1923.

I don't know if it is the same author or not, but an Anthony Brode born in 1923 published a couple of short stories in Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950's. There is also an Anthony Brode who wrote a couple of books, mostly about local English history, starting in the 1950's.

The earliest publication of "Breakfast with Gerard Manley Hopkins" that I can find was in 1978. It appears in The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse by Kingsley Amis.
posted by RichardP at 7:25 AM on April 25, 2010

Yes, this is completely glorious. Thanks, gramma paduasoy!
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:15 AM on April 25, 2010

To remember that so precisely through dementia - a great poem and not a common one at all - your grandma's my hero!
posted by kitcat at 10:15 AM on April 25, 2010

Well, I suppose it's good to get a new and more positive perspective on her - thanks for that, nebulawindphone and kitkat. I like the way she improved the first line, getting rid of the repetition of "breakfast" (possibly adding "morning" because of remembering The Windhover).

Thanks for the Brode-stalking too, RichardP. I think she has a copy of the Amis anthology, so will have a hunt for that. Some of his (if it is indeed the same person) books appear to be autobiog, and I'll see if I can get hold of some of them. I don't know, you start with doggerel about breakfast and end up on the trail of a mysterious hack ...
posted by paduasoy at 2:55 PM on April 25, 2010

I've got a copy of To Bed on Monday, wch is autobiog about journalism - I'm pretty sure it's the same person. Am going to pass it on to my grandmother - I think she's beyond reading, but she can pretend to read it, wch she'll like.
posted by paduasoy at 12:37 AM on May 17, 2010

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