Robert Hinckley Messinger (1811-1874), "Give Me the Old," in The Poets and Poetry of America
, ed. Rufus Wilmot Griswold (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848), p. 528 (where it is attributed to anonymous):
OLD WINE TO DRINK, OLD WOOD TO BURN, OLD BOOKS TO READ, AND OLD FRIENDS TO CONVERSE WITH.
Old wine to drink!
Ay, give the slippery juice
That drippeth from the grape thrown loose
Within the tun;
Plucked from beneath the cliff
Of sunny-sided Teneriffe,
And ripened 'neath the blink
Of India's sun!
Peat whiskey hot,
Tempered with well-boiled water!
These make the long night shorter,—
Good stout old English porter.
Old wood to burn!
Ay, bring the hill-side beech
From where the owlets meet and screech,
And ravens croak;
The crackling pine, and cedar sweet;
Bring too a clump of fragrant peat,
Dug 'neath the fern;
The knotted oak,
A fagot too, perhap,
Whose bright flame dawning, winking,
Shall light us at our drinking;
While the oozing sap
Shall make sweet music to our thinking.
Old books to read!
Ay, bring those nodes of wit,
The brazen-clasp'd, the vellum writ,
The same my sire scanned before,
The same my grandsire thumbed o'er,
The same his sire from college bore,
The well-earned meed
Of Oxford's domes:
Old HOMER blind,
Old HORACE, rake ANACREON, by
Old TULLY, PLAUTUS, TERENCE lie;
Mort ARTHUR's olden minstrelsie,
Quaint BURTON, quainter SPENSER, ay!
And GERVASE MARKHAM's venerie—
Nor leave behind
The Holye Book by which we live and die.
Old friends to talk!
Ay, bring those chosen few,
The wise, the courtly, and the true,
So rarely found;
Him for my wine, him for my stud,
Him for my easel, distich, bud
Bring WALTER good,
With soulful FRED, and learned WILL,
And thee, my alter ego, (dearer still
For every mood.)
These add a bouquet to my wine!
These add a sparkle to my pine!
If these I tine,
Can books, or fire, or wine be good?
In the penultimate line, "tine" means "lose." The poem apparently first appeared in the New York American
(April 26, 1838). On the motto, see Francis Bacon, Apophthegms New and Old
Alonso of Arragon was wont to say, in commendation of age, That age appeared to be best in four things: Old wood best to burn; old wine to drink; old friends to trust; and old authors to read.