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Poetry

A Philosophical Lunch

by Sarah Rochelle

In seventeen hundred and seventy three –
The flow’ring of Britain’s Philosophy –
George Berkeley’d been dead for nigh on twenty year
And his friends thought a jolly would give them some cheer.

‘Twas Bentham who first of all mooted the plan
And soon he had listed some guests, and began
To write letters to all in his spidery hand;
For some lived abroad in a faraway land.

Immanuel Kant was invited to come
And Bentham wrote, “Pleasure? I think there’ll be some.
The pain of the journey will soon be repaid
By meeting admirers of works that you made.”

But Kant was regretful, his RSVP
Said imperative reasons meant he was not free:
“I’ve made it a rule, categoric’lly so,
To home never leave, or to travelling go.”

So Bentham tried others – J. Priestley in Leeds,
Whose ideas he’d found out could chime well with his creeds:
An original thinker, a chemist as well
With plenty of after-lunch stories to tell.

But Priestley replied he was busy just now,
And went on to give his excuses, and how
He had nearly succeeded dephlogisting air
And to halt the experiment would not now be fair.

Next came Dr Johnson, and sidekick Boswell,
Whose diction’ry so many copies would sell.
He laughed as he struck a large rock with his toe
And quipped, “Will a lunch still exist if I go?”

Now Bentham was worried; he’d hired them a room.
The last letter went out to the Scot David Hume.
He’d known Berkeley’s works and had followed his line;
Surely this fact alone would compel him to dine?

But Hume was now frail and replied that the fact
Of his debt to George Berkeley was no cause to act:
“A statement of is cannot lead on to ought,
And the journey to England would kill me, it’s thought.”

So Bentham was left to toast Berkeley alone
And to ponder upon some ideas of his own;
He’d done right to plan and to write to his friends –
Utility lies in the good of our ends.

© Sarah Rochelle 2022

Sarah Rochelle is a social scientist, musician, practical philosopher, and writer of philosophical poems, which will be featured in a forthcoming book Eh-Up! Rhyme and Reason: An Alternative Guide to the History of Western Philosophy and can be seen and heard at notequalpress.com.

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