Charles Bukowski’s “Beer”

bukowski
Today is the birthday of American poet, novelist, and short story writer Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920-March 9, 1994). Bukowski was a hard-living individual, as well as a hard drinker. Wikipedia gives a summary of his life, albeit a very brief one.

His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City.

In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.” Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

If you haven’t read his work, you’re definitely missing out. I think my favorite quote by him is from an interview he did in Life magazine, in December of 1988. “We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” A collection of his poems, entitled “Love Is a Dog From Hell,” was published in 1977, and includes the poem “Beer.” A few months ago, an Italian animation studio, NERDO, created a short animated film of that poem, and it’s pretty awesome.

The Drunkard And His Wife

fairy-tale
Today is the birthday of Jean de La Fontaine, who “was a famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional languages.” One of his fables is called “The Drunkard and His Wife.” It’s an odd little story about a wife who came up with a novel cure for her husband’s drinking. Why it hasn’t caught on is anybody’s guess.

Chauveau_-_Fables_de_La_Fontaine_-_03-07

This is a modern translation, done by Craig Hill for “The Complete Fables of La Fontaine: A New Translation in Verse.”

drunkard-and-his-wife-1
drunkard-and-his-wife-2

SH142-1

Just for fun, here’s an earlier version from 1886, translated by Walter Thornbury, and with an illustration by Gustave Doré:

FABLE LIII.

THE DRUNKARD AND HIS WIFE.

Each one’s his faults, to which he still holds fast,
And neither shame nor fear can cure the man;
‘Tis apropos of this (my usual plan),
I give a story, for example, from the past.
A follower of Bacchus hurt his purse,
His health, his mind, and still grew each day worse;
Such people, ere they’ve run one-half their course,
Drain all their fortune for their mad expenses.
One day this fellow, by the wine o’erthrown,
Had in a bottle left his senses;
[Pg 168]His shrewd wife shut him all alone
In a dark tomb, till the dull fume
Might from his brains evaporate.
He woke and found the place all gloom,
A shroud upon him cold and damp,
Upon the pall a funeral lamp.
“What’s this?” said he; “my wife’s a widow, then!”
On that the wife, dressed like a Fury, came,
Mask’d, and with voice disguised, into the den,
And brought the wretched sot, in hopes to tame,
Some boiling gruel fit for Lucifer.
The sot no longer doubted he was dead—
A citizen of Pluto’s—could he err?
“And who are you?” unto the ghost he said.
“I’m Satan’s steward,” said the wife, “and serve the food
For those within this black and dismal place.”
The sot replied, with comical grimace,
Not taking any time to think,
“And don’t you also bring the drink?”

laf_head_054

And here’s one more translation of the fable:

Each has his fault, to which he clings
In spite of shame or fear.
This apophthegm a story brings,
To make its truth more clear.
A sot had lost health, mind, and purse;
And, truly, for that matter,
Sots mostly lose the latter
Ere running half their course.
When wine, one day, of wit had fill’d the room,
His wife inclosed him in a spacious tomb.
There did the fumes evaporate
At leisure from his drowsy pate.
When he awoke, he found
His body wrapp’d around
With grave-clothes, chill and damp,
Beneath a dim sepulchral lamp.
‘How’s this? My wife a widow sad?’
He cried, ‘and I a ghost? Dead? dead?’
Thereat his spouse, with snaky hair,
And robes like those the Furies wear,
With voice to fit the realms below,
Brought boiling caudle to his bier –
For Lucifer the proper cheer;
By which her husband came to know –
For he had heard of those three ladies –
Himself a citizen of Hades.
‘What may your office be?’
The phantom question’d he.
‘I’m server up of Pluto’s meat,
And bring his guests the same to eat.’
‘Well,’ says the sot, not taking time to think,
‘And don’t you bring us anything to drink?’

m078402_0002056_p

SH142-2

Visual Poetry: Let’s Have A Beer

poetry
So this post will be chiefly for the literary, and especially poetry lovers, among you, a small subset of beer lovers who also enjoy art. Visual poetry is “a development of concrete poetry but with the characteristics of intermedia in which non-representational language and visual elements predominate. In other words, it was experimental or avant-garde poetry in which the arrangement of the text also was a part of the poem’s meaning, which was communicated both visually and through the text itself.

Two Mexican poets in the 1920s, José D. Frias and José María González de Mendoza were both expatriates living in France and became friends, later exchanging humorous letters between themselves and their literary friends. Today is Mendoza’s birthday, which is what reminded me of this.

In 1923, the pair wrote a letter from Paris to fellow poet Francisco Orozco Muñoz that included four visual poems. They were based on the work of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who a few years before wrote a book of visual poetry entitled Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War 1913-1916. They also were influenced by Japanese Haiku, which had become popular at the time in their literary circles, as opposed to Apollinaire’s more cubist or l’esprit nouveau poetry.

Three of the visual poems were written by Frias and translated visually by Mendoza. But the fourth poem was done entirely by Mendoza, and it’s the one below. All four poems contain witty references to the fact that Muñoz was living in Brussels.

lets-have-a-beer

The text is in the shape of a mug of beer, sitting on a table, and reads, according to several books on visual poetry, “Let’s Have a Beer” followed by “The Sun Has Already Set in Flanders.”

Jean Verdenal’s Letter To T.S. Eliot

reading-book
This will probably only be of interest to the most hardcore literati among you, but if you like poetry, literature or weird history, read on McDuff. According to Wikipedia, Jean Jules Verdenal “(May 11, 1890–May 2, 1915) was a French medical officer who served, and was killed, during the First World War. Verdenal and his life remain cloaked in obscurity; the little we do know comes mainly from interviews with family members and several surviving letters.”

Verdenal was born in Pau, France, the son of Paul Verdenal, a medical doctor. He had a talent for foreign languages. He was athletically inclined. Verdenal as a student was interested in literature and poetry and possessed copies of Stéphane Mallarmé’s Poésies and of Jules Laforgue’s Poésies and Moralités Légendaires. It was perhaps Verdenal’s literary inclinations that led him to become friends with American poet T.S. Eliot, whom he met in 1910 at the Sorbonne. After they parted ways, Verdenal and Eliot corresponded through letters. Verdenal was killed on May 2, 1915, while treating a wounded man on the battlefield. This was just a week into the Gallipoli Campaign and a few days shy of his twenty-fifth birthday.”

ts-eliot

T.S. Eliot, of course, was an American-born poet, who most people know of because his 1939 collection of poems, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” was later adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber into the popular musical, “Cats,” which debuted in 1981. But here’s the basics, again from Wikipedia:

Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) was a British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and “one of the twentieth century’s major poets”. He moved from his native United States to England in 1914 at the age of 25, settling, working, and marrying there. He eventually became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39, renouncing his American citizenship.

Eliot attracted widespread attention for his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), which was seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land (1922), “The Hollow Men” (1925), “Ash Wednesday” (1930), and Four Quartets (1943). He was also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry.”

There is also speculation that Verdenal was the inspiration for the character “Phlebas the Phoenician” in Eliot’s long-form poem “The Wasteland,” which he published in 1922. Eliot certainly dedicated some of his works to Verdenal, including “his first volume of poetry, ‘Prufrock and Other Observations,’ which was published two years after Verdenal’s death, in 1917.

Here’s another account of their meeting and friendship:

In 1910 T.S. Eliot, then a graduate student studying philosophy at Harvard University, went to Paris to study a year at the Sorbonne. He took a room at a pension where he met and befriended Jean Verdenal, a French medical student who had another room there.

Eliot returned to Harvard in the autumn of 1911 to continue his work toward a doctorate.

Eliot and Verdenal carried on a correspondence at least through 1912. Seven letters from Verdenal to Eliot (written in French) are archived at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. The Verdenal letters have also been published in The Letters of T.S. Eliot: 1898-1922 (Vol 1). Apparently no copies of Eliot’s letters to Verdenal survive.

So why I bring this is up is the following passage, from a letter that Verdenal wrote to T.S. Eliot in July of 1911.

“My dear friend, I am waiting impatiently to hear that you have found some notepaper in Bavaria, and to receive an example of it covered with your beautiful handwriting, before German beer has dulled your wits. As a matter of fact, it would have some difficulty in doing so, and we see that even few natives of the country escaped its effects; history tells us that the formidable Schopenhauer was a great beer-lover. He also played the clarinet, but perhaps that was just to annoy his neighbours. Such things are quite enough to make us cling to life. The will to live is evil, a source of desires and sufferings, but beer is not to be despised — and so we carry on. O Reason!”

Verdenal has an interesting take on German beer. ANd the clarinet, which I used to play, too.

Phlebas-the-Phoenician

And this is passage from “The Wasteland,” about which some scholars believe Verdenal was the inspiration for Phlebas the Phoenician. You can read more about why at this page about T.S. Eliot and Jean Verdenal.

          IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
                                 A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
                               Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Craft Beer & Ale: A Parody of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham

Seuss-logo
Today, of course, is the birthday of Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. Almost eight years ago my kids were on a Dr. Seuss kick and we read quite a few of his books multiple times, with Green Eggs & Ham emerging as the family favorite. I was playing around with the words one night, as I often do, and decided to see if I could come up with a beer-themed parody of the book. I originally posted the results seven years ago, and here they are once again; Craft Beer & Ale, by Dr. J. Enjoy!

CRAFT BEER & ALE

Sam I am

I am Sam

Sam I am

That Sam’s upscale.
That Sam regales.
I do not like that Sam wholesale!

Do you drink
craft beer & ale?
Seuss-2

I do not drink them, Sam, they’re stale.
I do not drink
craft beer & ale.

Would you drink them
weak or strong?

I would not drink them
weak or strong.
I would not drink them, it is wrong.

I do not drink
craft beer & ale.
I do not drink them, Sam, curtail.

Would you drink them with more hops?
Would you drink them chased with schnapps?

I do not drink them
with more hops.
I do not drink them
chased with schnapps.
I do not drink them
weak or strong.
I do not drink them
all night long.
I do not drink
craft beer & ale.
I do not drink them,
Sam, you’re off the trail.

Would you drink them
in a pub?
Would you drink them
at a club?

Not in a pub.
Not at a club.
Not with more hops.
Not chased with schnapps.
I would not drink them
weak or strong.
I would not drink them, it is wrong.
I would not drink craft beer & ale.
I do not drink them, Sam — no sale.

Would you? Could you? In a bar?
Drink them! Drink them! Here they are.

I would not, could not, in a bar.

You may like them. You will see.
You may like them with some cheese!
cheese

I would not, could not with some cheese.
Not in a bar! You let me be.

I do not like them in a pub.
I do not like them at a club.
I do not like them with more hops.
I do not like them chased with schnapps.
I do not like them weak or strong.
I do not like them all night long.
I do not like craft beer & ale.
I do not like them, Sam, you’re beyond the pale.

A stein! A stein!
A stein! A stein!
Could you, would you,
in a stein?

Not in a stein! Not in a stein!
Not with some cheese! Sam! Let me be!
stein

I would not, could not, in a pub.
I could not, would not, at a club.
I will not drink them with more hops.
I will not drink them chased with schnapps.
I will not drink them weak or strong.
I will not drink them, it is wrong.
I do not like craft beer & ale.
I do not like them, Sam, you’ve gone off the rail.

Say! In a glass?
Here in a glass!
Would you, could you,
in a glass?

I would not, could not, in a glass.
glass

Would you, could you, while you dine?

I would not, could not, while I dine.
Not in a glass. Not in a stein.
Not in a bar. Not with some cheese.
I do not drink them, Sam, you see.
Not with more hops. Not in a pub.
Not chased with schnapps. Not in a club.
I will not drink them weak or strong.
I will not drink them all night long.

You do not drink
craft beer & ale?

I do not drink them,
Sam, you make me wail.

Could you, would you,
drink with Charlie?

I would not, could not,
drink with Charlie.

Would you, could you,
with more barley?

I could not, would not,
with more barley,
I will not, will not,
drink with Charlie.

I will not drink them while I dine.
I will not drink them in a stein.
Not in a glass! Not with some cheese.
Not in a bar! You let me be!
I do not drink them in a pub.
I do not drink them at a club.
I do not drink them with more hops.
I do not drink them chased with schnapps.
I do not drink them weak or strong.
I do not drink them IT IS WRONG!

I do not drink craft beer & ale!
I do not drink them, Sam — you fail.

You do not drink them. So you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.

Sam! If you will let me be,
I will try them. You will see.

Seuss-1

Say! I like craft beer & ale!
I do! I like them, Sam, you prevail!
And I would drink them with more barley.
And I would drink with homebrew Charlie…

And I will drink them while I dine.
And in a glass. And in a stein.
And in a bar. And with some cheese.
They are so good, so good, you see!

So I will drink them in a pub.
And I will drink them at a club.
And I will drink them with more hops.
And I will drink them chased with schnapps.
And I will drink them weak or strong.
Say! I will drink them ALL NIGHT LONG!

I do so love
craft beer at home!
Thank you!
Thank you, Sam-Cala-Gione!

ILikeit


All artwork by Rob Davis. Thanks, Rob! All words after Theodore Seuss Geisel by Dr. J. If you’re so inclined, you can also see the original text side by side with my parody at Craft Beer & Ale Compared.

The Kalevala Of Finland

finland
February 28 is Finnish Culture Day, more commonly known as Kalevala Day. According to the Finnish Embassy, “Kalevala Day is celebrated in Finland on the 28th of February, in honour of the day on which the Old Kalevala’s foreword was dated by Lönnrot (February 28, 1835). Kalevala Day is an official flag-raising day in Finland, and simultaneously the Day of Finnish culture.”

Kullervon_sotaanlähtö

Here’s one account about why the Kalevala is so important to Finland, and specifically Finnish identity:

The first edition of the Kalevala appeared in 1835, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot on the basis of the epic folk poems he had collected in Finland and Karelia. This poetic song tradition, sung in an unusual, archaic trochaic tetrametre, had been part of the oral tradition among speakers of Balto-Finnic languages for 2,000 years.

When the Kalevala appeared in print for the first time, Finland had been an autonomous Grand Duchy under Russia for a quarter of a century. Prior to this, until 1809, Finland had been a part of the Swedish empire.

The Kalevala marked an important turning point for Finnish-language culture and caused a stir abroad, as well. It brought a small, unknown people to the attention of other Europeans, and bolstered the Finns’ self-confidence and faith in the possibilities of the Finnish language and culture. The Kalevala began to be called the Finnish national epic.

Elias Lönnrot and his colleagues continued their efforts to collect folk poetry, and new material quickly accumulated. Using this new material, Lönnrot published a second, expanded version of the Kalevala in 1849. This New Kalevala is the version which has been read in Finland ever since and upon which most translations are based.

gallen_kallela_the_aino_triptych
Aino-Triptych by Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1891. Left: The first meeting of Aino and Väinämöinen. Right: Aino laments her woes and decides to end her life rather than marry an old man. Middle: The end of the story arc – Väinämöinen catches the Aino fish but is unable to keep hold of her.

And this is the introduction from the Kalevala page on Wikipedia:

The Kalevala or The Kalewala (/ˌkɑːləˈvɑːlə/; Finnish: [ˈkɑle̞ʋɑlɑ]) is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.

It is regarded as the national epic of Karelia and Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. The Kalevala played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity, the intensification of Finland’s language strife and the growing sense of nationality that ultimately led to Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.

The first version of The Kalevala (called The Old Kalevala) was published in 1835. The version most commonly known today was first published in 1849 and consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty songs (Finnish: runot). The title can be interpreted as “The Land of Kaleva” or “Kalevia”.

kavella

I wrote about it several years ago, because one of the chapters, Chapter or Rune XX, is all about brewing beer for a wedding. The parts that talks about brewing begins after the art work from the Kalevala below, after the short post I did for a page here a while back. Enjoy.


The Kalevala

The Kalevala is a book and epic poem which the Finn Elias Lönnrot compiled from Finnish and Karelian folklore in the nineteenth century. It is held to be the national epic of Finland and is traditionally thought of as one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. Karelian citizens and other Balto-Finnic speakers also value the work. The Kalevala is credited with some of the inspiration for the national awakening that ultimately led to Finnish governments independence from that of Russia in 1917.

The name can be interpreted as the “lands of Kaleva” (by the Finnish suffix -la/lä for place). The epic consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty cantos or “chapters” (Finnish runo). Of those 22,795 verses, more lines were devoted to the oriins of beer than of the origins of mankind.

Virtual Finland also has some basic information about the epic poem. Below is Chapter or Rune XX, which is all about brewing beer for a wedding. The parts that talks about brewing begins after the second art work from the Kalevala below. If you’re keen to read the whole thing, it’s online at the Sacred Texts website.

kalevala-1

RUNE XX
THE BREWING OF BEER

Now we sing the wondrous legends,
Songs of wedding-feasts and dances,
Sing the melodies of wedlock,
Sing the songs of old tradition;
Sing of Ilmarinen’s marriage
To the Maiden of the Rainbow,
Fairest daughter of the Northland,
Sing the drinking-songs of Pohya.

Long prepared they for the wedding
In Pohyola’s halls and chambers,
In the courts of Sariola;
Many things that Louhi ordered,
Great indeed the preparations
For the marriage of the daughter,
For the feasting of the heroes,
For the drinking of the strangers,
For the feeding of the poor-folk,
For the people’s entertainment.

Grew an ox in far Karjala,
Not the largest, nor the smallest,
Was the ox that grew in Suomi;
But his size was all-sufficient,
For his tail was sweeping Jamen,
And his head was over Kemi,
Horns in length a hundred fathoms,
Longer than the horns his mouth was;
Seven days it took a weasel
To encircle neck and shoulders;
One whole day a swallow journeyed
From one horn-tip to the other,
Did not stop between for resting.
Thirty days the squirrel travelled
From the tail to reach the shoulders,
But he could not gain the horn-tip
Till the Moon had long passed over.

This young ox of huge dimensions,
This great calf of distant Suomi,
Was conducted from Karjala
To the meadows of Pohyola;
At each horn a hundred heroes,
At his head and neck a thousand.
When the mighty ox was lassoed,
Led away to Northland pastures,
Peacefully the monster journeyed
By the bays of Sariola,
Ate the pasture on the borders;
To the clouds arose his shoulders,
And his horns to highest heaven.
Not in all of Sariola
Could a butcher be discovered
That could kill the ox for Louhi,
None of all the sons of Northland,
In her hosts of giant people,
In her rising generation,
In the hosts of those grown older.

Came a hero from a distance,
Wirokannas from Karelen,
And these words the gray-beard uttered:
“Wait, O wait, thou ox of Suomi,
Till I bring my ancient war-club;
Then I’ll smite thee on thy forehead,
Break thy skull, thou willing victim!
Nevermore wilt thou in summer
Browse the woods of Sariola,
Bare our pastures, fields, and forests;
Thou, O ox, wilt feed no longer
Through the length and breadth of Northland,
On the borders of this ocean!”

When the ancient Wirokannas
Started out the ox to slaughter,
When Palwoinen swung his war-club,
Quick the victim turned his forehead,
Flashed his flaming eyes upon him;
To the fir-tree leaped the hero,
In the thicket hid Palwoinen,
Hid the gray-haired Wirokannas.

Everywhere they seek a butcher,
One to kill the ox of Suomi,
In the country of Karelen,
And among the Suomi-giants,
In the quiet fields of Ehstland,
On the battle-fields of Sweden,
Mid the mountaineers of Lapland,
In the magic fens of Turya;
Seek him in Tuoni’s empire,
In the death-courts of Manala.
Long the search, and unsuccessful,
On the blue back of the ocean,
On the far-outstretching pastures.

There arose from out the sea-waves,
Rose a hero from the waters,
On the white-capped, roaring breakers,
From the water’s broad expanses;
Nor belonged he to the largest,
Nor belonged he to the smallest;
Made his bed within a sea-shell,
Stood erect beneath a flour-sieve,
Hero old, with hands of iron,
And his face was copper-colored;
Quick the hero full unfolded,
Like the full corn from the kernel.
On his head a hat of flint-stone,
On his feet were sandstone-sandals,
In his hand a golden cleaver,
And the blade was copper-handled.
Thus at last they found a butcher,
Found the magic ox a slayer.
Nothing has been found so mighty
That it has not found a master.

As the sea-god saw his booty,
Quickly rushed he on his victim,
Hurled him to his knees before him,
Quickly felled the calf of Suomi,
Felled the young ox of Karelen.
Bountifully meat was furnished;
Filled at least a thousand hogsheads
Of his blood were seven boatfuls,
And a thousand weight of suet,
For the banquet of Pohyola,
For the marriage-feast of Northland.

In Pohyola was a guest-room,
Ample was the hall of Louhi,
Was in length a hundred furlongs,
And in breadth was nearly fifty;
When upon the roof a rooster
Crowed at break of early morning,
No one on the earth could hear him;
When the dog barked at one entrance,
None could hear him at the other.

kalevala-2

Louhi, hostess of Pohyola,
Hastens to the hall and court-room,
In the centre speaks as follows:
“Whence indeed will come the liquor,
Who will brew me beer from barley,
Who will make the mead abundant,
For the people of the Northland,
Coming to my daughter’s marriage,
To her drinking-feast and nuptials?
Cannot comprehend the malting,
Never have I learned the secret,
Nor the origin of brewing.”
Spake an old man from his corner:
“Beer arises from the barley,
Comes from barley, hops, and water,
And the fire gives no assistance.
Hop-vine was the son of Remu,
Small the seed in earth was planted,
Cultivated in the loose soil,
Scattered like the evil serpents
On the brink of Kalew-waters,
On the Osmo-fields and borders.
There the young plant grew and flourished,
There arose the climbing hop-vine,
Clinging to the rocks and alders.

“Man of good-luck sowed the barley
On the Osmo hills and lowlands,
And the barley grew and flourished,
Grew and spread in rich abundance,
Fed upon the air and water,
On the Osmo plains and highlands,
On the fields of Kalew-heroes.

“Time had travelled little distance,
Ere the hops in trees were humming,
Barley in the fields was singing,
And from Kalew’s well the water,
This the language of the trio:
‘Let us join our triple forces,
Join to each the other’s powers;
Sad alone to live and struggle,
Little use in working singly,
Better we should toil together.’

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Brewer of the drink refreshing,
Takes the golden grains of barley,
Taking six of barley-kernels,
Taking seven tips of hop-fruit,
Filling seven cups with water,
On the fire she sets the caldron,
Boils the barley, hops, and water,
Lets them steep, and seethe, and bubble
Brewing thus the beer delicious,
In the hottest days of summer,
On the foggy promontory,
On the island forest-covered;
Poured it into birch-wood barrels,
Into hogsheads made of oak-wood.

“Thus did Osmotar of Kalew
Brew together hops and barley,
Could not generate the ferment.
Thinking long and long debating,
Thus she spake in troubled accents:
‘What will bring the effervescence,
Who will add the needed factor,
That the beer may foam and sparkle,
May ferment and be delightful?’

Kalevatar, magic maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Swiftly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps upon the birch-wood bottom,
Turns one way, and then another,
In the centre of the caldron;
Finds within a splinter lying
From the bottom lifts the fragment,
Turns it in her fingers, musing:
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of magic maidens,
In the virgin hands of Kapo,
Snowy virgin of the Northland!’

“Kalevatar took the splinter
To the magic virgin, Kapo,
Who by unknown force and insight.
Rubbed her hands and knees together,
And produced a snow-white squirrel;
Thus instructed she her creature,
Gave the squirrel these directions:
‘Snow-white squirrel, mountain-jewel,
Flower of the field and forest,
Haste thee whither I would send thee,
Into Metsola’s wide limits,
Into Tapio’s seat of wisdom;
Hasten through the heavy tree-tops,
Wisely through the thickest branches,
That the eagle may not seize thee,
Thus escape the bird of heaven.
Bring me ripe cones from the fir-tree,
From the pine-tree bring me seedlings,
Bring them to the hands of Kapo,
For the beer of Osmo’s daughter.’

Quickly hastened forth the squirrel,
Quickly sped the nimble broad-tail,
Swiftly hopping on its journey
From one thicket to another,
From the birch-tree to the aspen,
From the pine-tree to the willow,
From the sorb-tree to the alder,
Jumping here and there with method,
Crossed the eagle-woods in safety,
Into Metsola’s wide limits,
Into Tapio’s seat of wisdom;
There perceived three magic pine-trees,
There perceived three smaller fir-trees,
Quickly climbed the dark-green branches,
Was not captured by the eagle,
Was not mangled in his talons;
Broke the young cones from the fir-tree,
Cut the shoots of pine-tree branches,
Hid the cones within his pouches,
Wrapped them in his fur-grown mittens
Brought them to the hands of Kapo,
To the magic virgin’s fingers.
Kapo took the cones selected,
Laid them in the beer for ferment,
But it brought no effervescence,
And the beer was cold and lifeless.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Kapo, brewer of the liquor,
Deeply thought and long considered:
‘What will bring the effervescence,
Who will lend me aid efficient,
That the beer may foam and sparkle,
May ferment and be refreshing?’

“Kalevatar, sparkling maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Softly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps again upon the bottom,
Turns one way and then another,
In the centre of the caldron,
Sees a chip upon the bottom,
Takes it from its place of resting,
Looks upon the chip and muses
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of mystic maidens,
In the hands of magic Kapo,
In the virgin’s snow-white fingers.’

“Kalevatar took the birch-chip
To the magic maiden, Kapo,
Gave it to the white-faced maiden.
Kapo, by the aid of magic,
Rubbed her hands and knees together,
And produced a magic marten,
And the marten, golden-breasted;
Thus instructed she her creature,
Gave the marten these directions.
‘Thou, my golden-breasted marten,
Thou my son of golden color,
Haste thou whither I may send thee,
To the bear-dens of the mountain,
To the grottoes of the growler,
Gather yeast upon thy fingers,
Gather foam from lips of anger,
From the lips of bears in battle,
Bring it to the hands of Kapo,
To the hands of Osmo’s daughter.’

“Then the marten golden-breasted,
Full consenting, hastened onward,
Quickly bounding on his journey,
Lightly leaping through the distance
Leaping o’er the widest rivers,
Leaping over rocky fissures,
To the bear-dens of the mountain,
To the grottoes of the growler,
Where the wild-bears fight each other,
Where they pass a dread existence,
Iron rocks, their softest pillows,
In the fastnesses of mountains;
From their lips the foam was dripping,
From their tongues the froth of anger;
This the marten deftly gathered,
Brought it to the maiden, Kapo,
Laid it in her dainty fingers.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Brewer of the beer of barley,
Used the beer-foam as a ferment;
But it brought no effervescence,
Did not make the liquor sparkle.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Thought again, and long debated:
‘Who or what will bring the ferment,
Th at my beer may not be lifeless?’

“Kalevatar, magic maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Softly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps again upon the bottom,
Turns one way and then another,
In the centre of the caldron,
Sees a pod upon the bottom,
Lifts it in her snow-white fingers,
Turns it o’er and o’er, and muses:
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of magic maidens,
In the hands of mystic Kapo,
In the snowy virgin’s fingers?’

“Kalevatar, sparkling maiden,
Gave the pod to magic Kapo;
Kapo, by the aid of magic,
Rubbed the pod upon her knee-cap,
And a honey-bee came flying
From the pod within her fingers,
Kapo thus addressed her birdling:
‘Little bee with honeyed winglets,
King of all the fragrant flowers,
Fly thou whither I direct thee,
To the islands in the ocean,
To the water-cliffs and grottoes,
Where asleep a maid has fallen,
Girdled with a belt of copper
By her side are honey-grasses,
By her lips are fragrant flowers,
Herbs and flowers honey-laden;
Gather there the sweetened juices,
Gather honey on thy winglets,
From the calyces of flowers,
From the tips of seven petals,
Bring it to the hands of Kapo,
To the hands of Osmo’s daughter.’

“Then the bee, the swift-winged birdling,
Flew away with lightning-swiftness
On his journey to the islands,
O’er the high waves of the ocean;
Journeyed one day, then a second,
Journeyed all the next day onward,
Till the third day evening brought him
To the islands in the ocean,
To the water-cliffs and grottoes;
Found the maiden sweetly sleeping,
In her silver-tinselled raiment,
Girdled with a belt of copper,
In a nameless meadow, sleeping,
In the honey-fields of magic;
By her side were honeyed grasses,
By her lips were fragrant flowers,
Silver stalks with golden petals;
Dipped its winglets in the honey,
Dipped its fingers in the juices
Of the sweetest of the flowers,
Brought the honey back to Kapo,
To the mystic maiden’s fingers.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Placed the honey in the liquor;
Kapo mixed the beer and honey,
And the wedding-beer fermented;
Rose the live beer upward, upward,
From the bottom of the vessels,
Upward in the tubs of birch-wood,
Foaming higher, higher, higher,
Till it touched the oaken handles,
Overflowing all the caldrons;
To the ground it foamed and sparkled,
Sank away in sand and gravel.

“Time had gone but little distance,
Scarce a moment had passed over,
Ere the heroes came in numbers
To the foaming beer of Northland,
Rushed to drink the sparkling liquor.
Ere all others Lemminkainen
Drank, and grew intoxicated
On the beer of Osmo’s daughter,
On the honey-drink of Kalew.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Kapo, brewer of the barley,
Spake these words in saddened accents:
‘Woe is me, my life hard-fated,
Badly have I brewed the liquor,
Have not brewed the beer in wisdom,
Will not live within its vessels,
Overflows and fills Pohyola!’

“From a tree-top sings the redbreast,
From the aspen calls the robin:
‘Do not grieve, thy beer is worthy,
Put it into oaken vessels,
Into strong and willing barrels
Firmly bound with hoops of copper.’

“Thus was brewed the beer or Northland,
At the hands of Osmo’s daughter;
This the origin of brewing
Beer from Kalew-hops and barley;
Great indeed the reputation
Of the ancient beer of Kalew,
Said to make the feeble hardy,
Famed to dry the tears of women,
Famed to cheer the broken-hearted,
Make the aged young and supple,
Make the timid brave and mighty,
Make the brave men ever braver,
Fill the heart with joy and gladness,
Fill the mind with wisdom-sayings,
Fill the tongue with ancient legends,
Only makes the fool more foolish.”

When the hostess of Pohyola
Heard how beer was first fermented,
Heard the origin of brewing,
Straightway did she fill with water
Many oaken tubs and barrels;
Filled but half the largest vessels,
Mixed the barley with the water,
Added also hops abundant;
Well she mixed the triple forces
In her tubs of oak and birch-wood,
Heated stones for months succeeding,
Thus to boil the magic mixture,
Steeped it through the days of summer,
Burned the wood of many forests,
Emptied all the, springs of Pohya;
Daily did the, forests lesson,
And the wells gave up their waters,
Thus to aid the hostess, Louhi,
In the brewing of the liquors,
From the water, hops, and barley,
And from honey of the islands,
For the wedding-feast of Northland,
For Pohyola’s great carousal
And rejoicings at the marriage
Of the Malden of the Rainbow
To the blacksmith, Ilmarinen,
Metal-worker of Wainola.

Smoke is seen upon the island,
Fire, upon the promontory,
Black smoke rising to the heavens
From the fire upon the island;
Fills with clouds the half of Pohya,
Fills Karelen’s many hamlets;
All the people look and wonder,
This the chorus of the women:
“Whence are rising all these smoke-clouds,
Why this dreadful fire in Northland?
Is not like the smoke of camp-fires,
Is too large for fires of shepherds!”

Lemminkainen’s ancient mother
Journeyed in the early morning
For some water to the fountain,
Saw the smoke arise to heaven,
In the region of Pohyola,
These the words the mother uttered:
“‘Tis the smoke of battle-heroes,
From the beat of warring armies!”

Even Ahti, island-hero,
Ancient wizard, Lemminkainen,
Also known as Kaukomieli,
Looked upon the scene in wonder,
Thought awhile and spake as follows:
“I would like to see this nearer,
Learn the cause of all this trouble,
Whence this smoke and great confusion,
Whether smoke from heat of battle,
Or the bonfires of the shepherds.”

Kaukomieli gazed and pondered,
Studied long the rising smoke-clouds;
Came not from the heat of battle,
Came not from the shepherd bonfires;
Heard they were the fires of Louhi
Brewing beer in Sariola,
On Pohyola’s promontory;
Long and oft looked Lemminkainen,
Strained in eagerness his vision,
Stared, and peered, and thought, and wondered,
Looked abashed and envy-swollen,
“O beloved, second mother,
Northland’s well-intentioned hostess,
Brew thy beer of honey-flavor,
Make thy liquors foam and sparkle,
For thy many friends invited,
Brew it well for Lemminkainen,
For his marriage in Pohyola
With the Maiden of the Rainbow.”

Finally the beer was ready,
Beverage of noble heroes,
Stored away in casks and barrels,
There to rest awhile in silence,
In the cellars of the Northland,
In the copper-banded vessels,
In the magic oaken hogsheads,
Plugs and faucets made of copper.
Then the hostess of Pohyola
Skilfully prepared the dishes,
Laid them all with careful fingers
In the boiling-pans and kettles,
Ordered countless loaves of barley,
Ordered many liquid dishes,
All the delicacies of Northland,
For the feasting of her people,
For their richest entertainment,
For the nuptial songs and dances,
At the marriage of her daughter
With the blacksmith, Ilmarinen.

When the loaves were baked and ready.
When the dishes all were seasoned,
Time had gone but little distance,
Scarce a moment had passed over,
Ere the beer, in casks imprisoned,
Loudly rapped, and sang, and murmured:
“Come, ye heroes, come and take me,
Come and let me cheer your spirits,
Make you sing the songs of wisdom,
That with honor ye may praise me,
Sing the songs of beer immortal!”

Straightway Louhi sought a minstrel,
Magic bard and artist-singer,
That the beer might well be lauded,
Might be praised in song and honor.
First as bard they brought a salmon,
Also brought a pike from ocean,
But the salmon had no talent,
And the pike had little wisdom;
Teeth of pike and gills of salmon
Were not made for singing legends.

Then again they sought a singer,
Magic minstrel, beer-enchanter,
Thus to praise the drink of heroes,
Sing the songs of joy and gladness;
And a boy was brought for singing;
But the boy had little knowledge,
Could not praise the beer in honor;
Children’s tongues are filled with questions,
Children cannot speak in wisdom,
Cannot sing the ancient legends.

Stronger grew the beer imprisoned
In the copper-banded vessels,
Locked behind the copper faucets,
Boiled, and foamed, and sang, and murmured:
“If ye do not bring a singer,
That will sing my worth immortal,
That will sing my praise deserving,
I will burst these bands of copper,
Burst the heads of all these barrels;
Will not serve the best of heroes
Till he sings my many virtues.”

Louhi, hostess of Pohyola,
Called a trusted maiden-servant,
Sent her to invite the people
To the marriage of her daughter,
These the words that Louhi uttered:
“O my trusted, truthful maiden,
Servant-maid to me belonging,
Call together all my people,
Call the heroes to my banquet,
Ask the rich, and ask the needy,
Ask the blind and deaf, and crippled,
Ask the young, and ask the aged;
Go thou to the hills, and hedges,
To the highways, and the by-ways,
Urge them to my daughter’s wedding;
Bring the blind, and sorely troubled,
In my boats upon the waters,
In my sledges bring the halting,
With the old, and sick, and needy;
Ask the whole of Sariola,
Ask the people of Karelen,
Ask the ancient Wainamoinen,
Famous bard and wisdom-singer;
But I give command explicit
Not to ask wild Lemminkainen,
Not the island-dweller, Ahti!”
This the question of the servant:
“Why not ask wild Lemminkainen,
Ancient islander and minstrel?”

Louhi gave this simple answer:
“Good the reasons that I give thee
Why the wizard, Lemminkainen,
Must not have an invitation
To my daughter’s feast and marriage
Ahti courts the heat of battle,
Lemminkainen fosters trouble,
Skilful fighter of the virtues;
Evil thinking, acting evil,
He would bring but pain and sorrow,
He would jest and jeer at maidens
In their trimly buckled raiment,
Cannot ask the evil-minded!”
Thus again the servant questions:
“Tell me how to know this Ahti,
Also known as Lemminkainen,
That I may not ask him hither;
Do not know the isle of Ahti,
Nor the home of Kaukomieli
Spake the hostess of Pohyola:
“Easy ’tis to know the wizard,
Easy find the Ahti-dwelling:
Ahti lives on yonder island,
On that point dwells Lemminkainen,
In his mansion near the water,
Far at sea his home and dwelling.”

Thereupon the trusted maiden
Spread the wedding-invitations
To the people of Pohyola,
To the tribes of Kalevala;
Asked the friendless, asked the homeless
Asked the laborers and shepherds,
Asked the fishermen and hunters,
Asked the deaf, the dumb, the crippled,
Asked the young, and asked the aged,
Asked the rich, and asked the needy;
Did not give an invitation
To the reckless Lemminkainen,
Island-dweller of the ocean.

Historic Beer Birthday: Robert Burns

burns
Tonight, of course, in Burns Night, with Burns Suppers and other celebrations going on in Scottish, and other, communities worldwide. The reason it’s today is because it’s the day that Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns was born (January 25, 1759–July 21, 1796). He was “also known as Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire, Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.”

BGNMAC

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne” is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and “Scots Wha Hae” served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known across the world today include “A Red, Red Rose”, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, “To a Louse”, “To a Mouse”, “The Battle of Sherramuir”, “Tam o’ Shanter” and “Ae Fond Kiss”.

burns-portrait

Never been to a Burns Night? The Telegraph has an answer to What is Burns night and who was Robert Burns? “It’s a night that features whisky, haggis and poetry in honour of ‘Rabbie’ Burns.” Notice that it’s primarily whisky that is the featured drinks at these events. In a nutshell, “Burns suppers may be formal or informal. Both typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish celebrated by Burns in Address to a Haggis), Scotch whisky and the recitation of Burns’s poetry. Formal dinners are hosted by organisations such as Burns clubs, the Freemasons or St Andrews Societies; they occasionally end with dancing when ladies are present.”

Burns’ favorite drink was most likely whisky, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t drink wine or beer, and that fact was reflected in his poetry and song lyrics. He even did his own well-known version of the folksong John Barleycorn. So after you’ve enjoyed your haggis, and drank your whisky, here are a selection of Burns’ work where he mentions beer or ale. Some are the full poem, though most are simply an excerpt from longer poems or lyrics.

Robert Burns, from “Epitaph On John Dove, Innkeeper,” 1785

“Strong ale was ablution,
Small beer persecution,
A dram was memento mori;
But a full-flowing bowl
Was the saving his soul,
And port was celestial glory.”

Robert Burns, from “The Holy Fair,” 1785

“Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair
Than either school or college;
It kindles wit, it waukens lear,
It pangs us fou o’ knowledge:
Be’t whisky-gill or penny wheep,*
Or ony stronger potion,
It never fails, or drinkin deep,
To kittle up our notion,
By night or day.”

[*Note: a “penny wheep” is English small beer.]

Robert Burns, chorus from “Lady Onlie, Honest Lucky,” 1787

“Lady Onlie, honest Lucky,
Brews gude ale at shore o’ Bucky;
I wish her sale for her gude ale,
The best on a’ the shore o’ Bucky.”

Robert Burns, from “Duncan Davison,” 1788

“A man may drink, and no be drunk;
A man may fight, and no be slain;
A man may kiss a bonie lass,
And aye be welcome back again!”

Robert Burns, from “Tam o’ Shanter,” 1791

“Inspiring bold John Barleycorn, What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil; Wi’ usquebae, we’ll face the devil!”

Robert Burns, “Gude Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon,” 1795

“O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
They drew a’ weel eneugh,
I sald them a’, ane by ane,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

Gude ale hauds me bare and busy,
Gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie,
Stand i’ the stool when I hae done,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.”

Robert Burns, “On Gabriel Richardson,” 1795

“Here brewer Gabriel’s fire’s extinct,
And empty all his barrels:
He’s blest – if as he brew’d he drink –
In upright, honest morals.”

Robert Burns, from “Scroggam, My Dearie,” 1803

“There was a wife wonn’d in Cockpen, Scroggam;
She brew’d gude ale for gentlemen;
Sing auld Cowl lay ye down by me,
Scroggam, my dearie, ruffum.”

Allan-contented-wi-little
Engraving by David Allan, an artist from Alloa, of Burns’ poem Contented Wi’ Little.

Robert Burns, from “Contented Wi’ Little and Cantie Wi’ Mair,” 1794

“Contented wi’ little, & canty wi’ mair,
Whene’er I forgather wi’ sorrow & care
I gi’e them a skelp as they’re creeping alang,
Wi’ a cog of good ale & an auld Scottish sang.”

belhaven_robert_burns
Belhaven’s Robert Burns Scottish Ale.

Tolkien’s ” The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late”

bilbo-baggins
Today is the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien, the English author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But he was also a poet, which shouldn’t be a big surprise to fans since most of his works include pomes and songs as a part of his stories.

Tolkien was also a fan of British beer. One of the 30 Facts about J.R.R. Tolkien mentions his love of beer:

As a young student at Exeter college, Oxford University, he spent his first few years often getting into debt trying to keep up with richer students, who had more disposable income. Tolkien admits he had a great love of beer and talking into the early hours of the morning.

Author Eric San Juan also writes about J.R.R. Tolkien, Hobbits, and BEER. After detailing the ways in which beer influenced his life and work, he concludes that “yes, J.R.R. Tolkien enjoyed his beer, and this is reflected in his life’s work. He enjoyed quiet times and good conversation and a great pint. And who doesn’t?”

tolkien-drinks-1

In 1968 during a BBC interview, part of a series entitled “In Their Own Words British Authors,” Tolkien quips. “I’m very fond of beer.” In fact, the interview is described as “John Izzard meets with JRR Tolkien at his home, walking with him through the Oxford locations that he loves while hearing the author’s own views about his wildly successful high-fantasy novels. Tolkien shares his love of nature and beer and his admiration for ‘trenchermen’ in this genial and affectionate programme.”

Earlier today, I tweeted a Tolkien quote, an excerpt from one of his poems. But while I’d collected the quote years ago, in checking it for accuracy, I encountered some confusion about the poem. It comes from a poem entitled “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late” from 1923 but some misattributed it to a later one, called “The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon,” which also appeared with the latter one in a collection published under the title “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil,” published in 1962.

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late also appeared in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In the Inn at Bree (“At the Sign of the Prancing Pony”, The Fellowship of the Ring Chapter 9) Frodo jumps on a table and recites “a ridiculous song” invented by Bilbo. “Here it is in full,” said Tolkien. “Only a few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered.”

There follows the tale, in thirteen ballad-like five-line stanzas, introducing each element in turn: “the Man in the Moon” himself, the ostler’s “tipsy cat/ that plays a five-stringed fiddle”, the little dog, the “hornéd cow” and the silver dishes and spoons.

Note that the cow is able to jump over the Moon with ease because the Man in the Moon has temporarily brought it down to Earth.

I read all of the books when I was younger — much younger — and I confess I didn’t recall the poem at all. Even when I found the quote, it was an excerpt. So today I figured I’d check out the full poem. The first one is great, filled with cool allusions, references to nursery rhymes, excellent wordplay and fun beeriness. The second doesn’t mention beer at all, only wine and moonshine, but it still interesting, especially as it’s considered a companion poem to the other. I’ve put both of them down below, with illustrations by British artist Alan Lee. Read the first one at least, it’s great — really great — but the second is nice, as well.

alan_lee_the-man-in-the-moon-stayed-up-too-late

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he saws his bow
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there’s good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there’s a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
‘The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master’s been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun’ll be rising soon!’

So the cat on the fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
‘It’s after three!’ he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

man-in-moon

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon

The Man in the Moon had silver shoon,
It and his beard was of silver thread;
With opals crowned and pearls all bound
about his girdlestead,
In his mantle grey he walked one day
across a shining floor,
And with crystal key in secrecy
he opened an ivory door.

On a filigree stair of glimmering hair
then lightly down he went,
And merry was he at last to be free
on a mad adventure bent.
In diamonds white he had lost delight;
he was tired of his minaret
Of tall moonstone that towered alone
on a lunar mountain set.

Hĺ would dare any peril for ruby and beryl
to broider his pale attire,
For new diadems of lustrous gems,
emerald and sapphire.
So was lonely too with nothing to do
but stare at the world of gold
And heark to the hum that would distantly come
as gaily round it rolled.

At plenilune in his argent moon
in his heart he longed for Fire:
fot the limpid lights of wan selenites;
for red was his desire,

For crimson and rose and ember-glows,
for flame with burning tongue,
For the scarlet skies in a swift sunrise
when a stormy day is young.

He’d have seas of blues, and the living hues
of forest green and fen;
And he yearned for the mirth of the populous earth
and the sanguine blood of men.
He coveted song, and laughter long,
and viands hot, and wine,
Eating pearly cakes of light snowflakes
and drinking thin moonshine.

He twinkled his feet, as he thought of the meat,
of pepper, and punch galore;
And he tripped unaware on his slanting stair,
and like a meteor,
A star in flight, ere Yule one night
flickering down he fell
From his laddery path to a foaming bath
in the windy Bay of Bel.

He began to think, lest he melt and sink,
what in the moon to do,
When a fisherman’s boat found him far afloat
to the amazement of the crew,
Caught in their net all shimmering wet
in a phosphorescent sheen
Of bluey whites and opal lights
and delicate liquid green.

Against his wish with the morning fish
they packed him back to land:
‘You had best get a bed in an inn’, they said;
‘the town is near at hand’.
Only the knell of one slow bell
high in the Seaward Tower
Announced the news of his moonsick cruise.

Not a hearth was laid, not a breakfast made,
and dawn was cold and damp.
There were ashes for fire, and for grass the mire,
for the sun a smoking lamp
In a dim back-street. Not a man did he meet,
no voice was raised in song;
There were snores instead, for all folk were abed
and still would slumber long.

He knocked as he passed on doors locked fast,
and called and cried in vain,
Till he came to an inn that had light within,
and tapped at a window-pane.
A drowsy cook gave a surly look,
and ‘What do you want?’ said he.
‘I want fire and gold and songs of old
and red wine flowing free!’

‘You won’t get them here’, said the cook with a leer,
‘but you may come inside.
Silver I lack and silk to my back—
maybe I’ll let you bide’.
A silver gift the latch to lift,
a pearl to pass the door;
For a seat by the cook in the ingle-nook
it cost him twenty more.

For hunger or drouth naught passed his mouth
till he gave both crown and cloak;
And all that he got, in an earthen pot
broken and black with smoke,
Was porridge cold and two days old
to eat with a wooden spoon.
For puddings of Yule with plums, poor fool,
he arrived so much too sooo:
An unwary guest on a lunatic quest
from the Mountains of the Moon.

tolkien-drinks

Twas The Beer Before Christmas: A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas

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While not widely known, St. Nicholas, among his many patronages includes brewers. He is a patron saint of brewers. The way we think of St. Nick in America begins with the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore in 1823. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery. Hoppy Christmas. Enjoy. For more detail on how this came about, and about the original poem, see below.

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Twas the Beer Before Christmas:
A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas

‘Twas the beer before Christmas, when down in the brewery
Not a bottle was stirring, not a mouse dared to scurry;
The hoses were hung by the kettle with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would drink there;

The bottles, like children, nestled snug in their beds,
While visions of candi sugar fermented their heads;
The brewers, in hoodies, gave just the impression,
They’d all settled down for long winter’s session,

When outside by the tanks there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the brewery to see what was the matter.
Away to the rollup I flew like a flash,
Tore open the lock, the door flew up with a crash.

The moon on the breast of the newly-paved tarmack
Gave the lustre of stout looking velvety black,
When, what to my sobering eyes should appear,
But a miniature delivery wagon, and eight kegs of beer,

With a little old brewmaster, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than fermenting his brewers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Now, Busch! Now, Rheingold!, now, Pabst and Carling!
On, Schlitz! on, Schmidt! on, Miller and Yuengling!
To the top of the jockey box! To the top of the cask!
Now drink away! drink away! drink away the whole flask!”

As dry hopping that before the wild bittering fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, toast a drink to the sky;
So up to the brewery-top the brewers they flew,
With the wagon full of Beers, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, glasses tinkling, I heard on the roof
The toasting and drinking of each little goof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out the fermenter St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in red, from his toes to his top,
And his coveralls were soiled with spent grain and hops;
A carton of Beers he had flung on his back,
And his rubber boots squeaked as he opened his pack.

His besotted eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were all rosy, like New Glarus cherry!
His droll little mouth was beseeching our pardon,
And the beard of his chin was as white as Hoegaarden;

The end of a zwickel he held tight in one hand,
While the other held Watermelon Wheat that was canned;
He had a beer belly, that bent two stumpy legs,
That shook when he laughed, like a half-emptied keg.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old brewer,
And I drank when I saw him, for what could be truer;
A wink of his eye as he poured generous heads,
Soon gave me to know he would join us instead;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And emptied the bottles; then sat with a smirk,
And raising his glass, he gave the first toast,
Then each brewer, in turn, drank to his own riposte;

Then he sprang to his wagon, to his brewers gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a hop torpedo missile.
But I heard his last toast, ere he drove out of here,
“Hoppy Christmas to all, and to all drink good beer.”

santa-watermelon

More About the Original Poem & How This Version Came To Be

In late 2009 — a Saturday night — I read Porter and Alice, my two kids, Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. Whenever I read something I know to my children (which happens a lot, kids love repetition) the writer in me edits as I go. I change words as if it was my work, I flatter myself I’m improving it or correcting mistakes. A scatterbrained scheme was hatched as I again read them what’s probably the most famous Christmas poem.

First published in 1823, according to Wikipedia, “it is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.”

As I’ve written about before, St. Nick is also a Patron Saint of Brewers. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery.

As it happens, there are a lot of different versions of the poem, with incremental changes having been made over the years. I used, for no particular reason, an edition from Trans-Pacific Radio. Enjoy. Hoppy Christmas. You can also compare the two versions side by side, which also includes the brewers names I’ve used in previous years. The plan is to change those each year.

Feel free to share my version of the poem, with credit if you please, plus a link back here is always appreciated.

UPDATE: Georgia’s Sweetwater Brewing also did their own beer-themed version called Sweetwater’s Night Before Christmas. There’s also another beer-themed one I shared last year, Twas the Brewer’s Night Before Christmas. For many more parodies, check out the Canonical List of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Variations, which contains 849 different variations on the poem.

Carol Ann Duffy’s John Barleycorn

john-barleycorn
Today is the birthday of Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, who is also currently the Poet Laureate of Great Britain. In 2009, she wrote a poem entitled “John Barleycorn” for a BBC2 program “The Culture Show,” which aired November 26, 2009. They describe it as “a lament for, and a celebration of, the Great British Pub, and was “filmed in various bars in Glasgow, including The Horseshoe Bar, The Vale and The State Bar.”

When it first came out, my friend, and British beer historian, Martyn Cornell, referred to it as “one of the best,” which is high praise indeed. He wrote about it in a piece entitled “The best ever poem in praise of the pub.” He also believes that each and every pub that is mentioned in the poem is a real one, which is pretty cool.

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John Barleycorn, by Carol Ann Duffy

Although I knew they’d laid him low, thrashed him, hung him out to dry,
Had tortured him with water and with fire, then dashed his brains out on a stone,
I saw him in the Seven Stars, and in the Plough.
I saw him in the Crescent Moon and in the Beehive.
In the Barley Mow, my Green Man, newly born, alive, John Barleycorn.

I saw him seasonally, at harvest time, in the Wheatsheaf and the Load of Hay,
I saw him, heard his laughter in the Star and Garter and the Fountain and the Bell,
The Corn Dolly, the Woolpack and the Flowing Spring.
I saw him in the Rising Sun, the Moon and Sixpence and the Evening Star.
I saw him in the Rose and Crown, my Green Man, ancient, barely born, John Barleycorn.

He moved through Britain, bright and dark, like ale in glass.
I saw him run across the fields, towards the Gamekeeper, the Poacher and the Blacksmith’s Arms.
He knew the Ram, the Lamb, the Lion and the Swan,
White Hart, Blue Bull, Red Dragon, Fox and Hounds.
I saw him in the Three Goats’ Heads, the Black Bull and Dun Cow, Shoulder of Mutton, Griffin, Unicorn.
Green Man, beer-born, good health, long life, John Barleycorn.

I saw him festively, when people sang for victory, for love and New Year’s Eve,
In the Raven and the Bird in Hand, the Golden Eagle, the Kingfisher, the Dove.
I saw him grieve and mourn, a shadow at the bar, in the Falcon, the Marsh Harrier,
The Sparrowhawk, the Barn Owl, Cuckoo, Heron, Nightingale.
A pint of bitter in the Jenny Wren for my Green Man, alone, forlorn, John Barleycorn.

Britain’s soul, as the crow flies, so flew he.
I saw him in the Holly Bush, the Yew Tree, the Royal Oak, the Ivy Bush, the Linden.
I saw him in the Forester, the Woodman.
He history: I saw him in the Wellington, the Nelson, Marquis of Granby, Wicked Lady, Bishop’s Finger.
I saw him in the Ship, the Golden Fleece, the Flask
The Railway Inn, the Robin Hood and Little John.
My Green Man, legend-strong, reborn, John Barleycorn.

Scythed down, he crawled, knelt, stood.
I saw him in the Crow, Newt, Stag, all weathers, noon or night.
I saw him in the Feathers, Salutation, Navigation, Knot, the Bricklayer’s Arms, Hop Inn, the Maypole and the Regiment, the Horse and Groom, the Dog and Duck, the Flag.
And where he supped the past lived still.
And where he sipped the glass brimmed full.
He was in the King’s Head and Queen’s Arms. I saw him there:
Green Man, well-born, spellbound, charming one, John Barleycorn.

Even better, here’s Duffy reading her poem for the original BBC2 program, “The Culture Show,” in 2009: