Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Hail, Juice Benignant!

Thomas Warton (1728-1790), A Panegyric on Oxford Ale:
      Mea nec Falernae
Temperant vites, neque Formiani
      Pocula colles.

BALM of my cares, sweet solace of my toils,
Hail, JUICE benignant! O'er the costly cups
Of riot-stirring wine, unwholesome draught,
Let Pride's loose sons prolong the wasteful night;
My sober evening let the tankard bless,    5
With toast embrown'd, and fragrant nutmeg fraught,
While the rich draught with oft-repeated whiffs
Tobacco mild improves. Divine repast!
Where no crude surfeit, or intemperate joys
Of lawless Bacchus reign; but o'er my soul    10
A calm Lethean creeps; in drowsy trance
Each thought subsides, and sweet oblivion wraps
My peaceful brain, as if the leaden rod
Of magic Morpheus o'er mine eyes had shed
Its opiate influence. What tho' sore ills    15
Oppress, dire want of chill-dispelling coals
Or cheerful candle (save the make-weight's gleam
Haply remaining) heart-rejoicing ALE
Cheers the sad scene, and every want supplies.
Meantime, not mindless of the daily task    20
Of Tutor sage, upon the learned leaves
Of deep SMIGLECIUS much I meditate;
While ALE inspires, and lends its kindred aid,
The thought-perplexing labour to pursue,
Sweet Helicon of Logic! But if friends    25
Congenial call me from the toilsome page,
To Pot-house I repair, the sacred haunt,
Where, ALE, thy votaries in full resort
Hold rites nocturnal. In capacious chair
Of monumental oak and antique mould,    30
That long has stood the rage of conquering years
Inviolate, (nor in more ample chair
Smokes rosy Justice, when th' important cause,
Whether of hen-roost, or of mirthful rape,
In all the majesty of paunch he tries)    35
Studious of ease, and provident, I place
My gladsome limbs; while in repeated round
Returns replenish'd the successive cup,
And the brisk fire conspires to genial joy:
While haply, to relieve the ling'ring hours    40
In innocent delight, amusive Putt
On smooth joint-stool in emblematic play
The vain vicissitudes of fortune shews.
Nor reckoning, name tremendous, me disturbs,
Nor, call'd for, chills my breast with sudden fear;    45
While on the wonted door, expressive mark,
The frequent penny stands describ'd to view,
In snowy characters and graceful row.—

Hail, TICKING! surest guardian of distress!
Beneath thy shelter, pennyless I quaff    50
The cheerful cup, nor hear with hopeless heart
New oysters cry'd;—tho' much the Poet's friend,
Ne'er yet attempted in poetic strain,
Accept this tribute of poetic praise!

Nor Proctor thrice with vocal heel alarms    55
Our joys secure, nor deigns the lowly roof
Of Pot-house snug to visit: wiser he
The splendid tavern haunts, or coffee-house
Of JAMES or JUGGINS, where the grateful breath
Of loath'd tobacco ne'er diffus'd its balm;    60
But the lewd spendthrift, falsely deem'd polite,
While steams around the fragrant Indian bowl,
Oft damns the vulgar sons of humbler Ale:
In vain—the Proctor's voice arrests their joys;
Just fate of wanton pride and loose excess!    65

Nor less by day delightful is thy draught,
All-pow'rful ALE! whose sorrow-soothing sweets
Oft I repeat in vacant afternoon,
When tatter'd stockings ask my mending hand
Not unexperienc'd; while the tedious toil    70
Slides unregarded. Let the tender swain
Each morn regale on nerve-relaxing tea,
Companion meet of languor-loving nymph:
Be mine each morn with eager appetite
And hunger undissembled, to repair    75
To friendly buttery; there on smoaking crust
And foaming ALE to banquet unrestrain'd,
Material breakfast! Thus in ancient days
Our ancestors robust with liberal cups
Usher'd the morn, unlike the squeamish sons    80
Of modern times: nor ever had the might
Of Britons brave decay'd, had thus they fed,
With British ALE improving British worth.

With ALE irriguous, undismay'd I hear
The frequent dun ascend my lofty dome    85
Importunate: whether the plaintive voice
Of Laundress shrill awake my startled ear;
Or Barber spruce with supple look intrude;
Or Taylor with obsequious bow advance;
Or Groom invade me with defying front    90
And stern demeanour, whose emaciate steeds
(Whene'er or Phoebus shone with kindlier beams,
Or luckier chance the borrow'd boots supply'd)
Had panted oft beneath my goring steel.
In vain they plead or threat: all-pow'rful ALE    95
Excuses new supplies, and each descends
With joyless pace, and debt-despairing looks:
E'en SPACEY with indignant brow retires,
Fiercest of duns! and conquer'd quits the field.

Why did the Gods such various blessings pour    100
On hapless mortals, from their grateful hands
So soon the short-liv'd bounty to recall?—
Thus while, improvident of future ill,
I quaff the luscious tankard uncontroll'd,
And thoughtless riot in unlicens'd bliss;    105
Sudden (dire fate of all things excellent!)
Th' unpitying Bursar's cross-affixing hand
Blasts all my joys, and stops my glad career.
Nor now the friendly Pot-house longer yields
A sure retreat, when night o'ershades the skies;    110
Nor SHEPPARD, barbarous matron, longer gives
The wonted trust, and WINTER ticks no more.

Thus ADAM, exil'd from the beauteous scenes
Of Eden, griev'd, no more in fragrant bow'r
On fruits divine to feast, fresh shade and vale    115
No more to visit, or vine-mantled grot;
But, all forlorn, the dreary wilderness
And unrejoicing solitudes to trace:
Thus too the matchless bard, whose lay resounds
The SPLENDID SHILLING'S praise, in nightly gloom    120
Of lonesome garret, pin'd for cheerful ALE;
Whose steps in verse Miltonic I pursue,
Mean follower: like him with honest love
Of ALE divine inspir'd, and love of song.
But long may bounteous Heav'n with watchful care    125
Avert his hapless lot! Enough for me
That burning with congenial flame I dar'd
His guiding steps at distance to pursue,
And sing his favorite theme in kindred strains.
A few notes:
22 Martinus Smiglecius' Logica (1618) was a textbook at Oxford.

49, 112 Tick (from ticket) as a noun means "credit," as a verb means "buy on credit." Could TICKING in line 49 be not a proper name but the practice of giving or getting credit?

50 A reference to Penniless Bench: see John Richard Green, Oxford Studies (London: Macmillan, 1901), pp. 275-276.

120 Splendid Shilling was a poem by John Philips (1676-1708).
Charles Spencelayh, Good Health


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