Here’s an odd little love poem to beer, called “A Tankard of Porter.” It was written by William Woty in 1759. I’m not sure if it’s a good poem or a bad one, and history seems divided, as well, at least about the poet. Wikipedia‘s entry refers to Woty as a “hack writer,” describing him as “an English law clerk and hack writer, known for light verse.” Another source describes him a bit more kindly.
William Woty came to London, possibly from the Isle of Wight, to clerk for a solicitor. He participated in debating clubs and published poetry in the newspapers that was later collected his volume, The Shrubs of Parnassus. Woty was involved with William Dodd in the Christian’s Magazine, and with Francis Fawkes in The Poetical Calendar. About 1767 he found a patron in Washington, earl Ferrers, for whom he did legal work. Woty died at Loughborough, 15 March 1791, having acquired some reputation as a bon vivant.
But regardless of whether it’s a good or bad poem, it certainly is rich with descriptive language and allusions. It was originally published February 17, 1759 in either the Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette 2. So decide for yourself. Epic poem or abomination?
A Tankard Of Porter
The foaming Cup replete with mad’ning juice
Of Gallic Vines, to others’ taste I leave.
Why should I sicken for exotic draughts,
Since with kind hand domestic Ceres gives
Potations more robust! — Replenish here—
Boy! take this honest Tankard — fill it high
With buxom Porter, such as Hercules,
Was Hercules in being, would imbibe.
Behold its pyramid of tow’ring froth,
Brown as a nut, and sparkling on the sight;
Tho’ some prefer it white as Alpine snow,
Or Caelia’s milky orbs! encircled oft
Amidst my jovial intimates, to her,
Benignant Goddess of the Barley-mow,
Who ever guards, and swells the smiling ear,
Her own libation let me offer up
With thanks exulting, ’till I can no more.
‘Tis this enlivens the Freethinker’s brain,
Great bulwark of the Robinhood debate!
By this he dares his florid argument,
And pours forth unpremeditated tropes.
How shall I speak its praise! this mental balm
To the desponding chairman, vig’rous nurse
Of spirits warlike, to the soldier’s breast
Impenetrable steel, nerve of his nerves;
And comfort to the sailor in the storm!
Rouz’d from the lethargy of sleeping thought,
By Porter’s fluid, the mechanic prates
Of state-connections, as at night he sits
With smoke envelop’d, over Truemans’ Mild.
Say! is it her, who pleads for British freedom,
This little Monarch in his potent cups!
Is’t he, whose ample mind excursive roves
To where the Prussian Hero leads his troops
Against united forces! this the Man
Who plans an expedition, lays down rules
To settle politic concerns, and dares
With sage advice to dictate to a Throne?
Grant it! but ’tis the Porter’s manly juice
That animates his organs, gives his tongue
The liberty of speech, his hollow thought
Impregnates quick, and sets his brain on fire.
At rich Hortensio’s table tho’ thou’rt held
In estimation cheap, thy charms to me
Are not diminish’d; for secure from ills,
I quaff thy salut’frous stream, whilst he,
(Sad slave to appetite, that knows no bounds)
Drinks in each glass th’ inflammatory gout,
“And thousand other ills that flesh is heir to.”
Can dear-bought Claret boast of services
With thine co-equal? Or can Punch itself,
However temper’d, or with Wenman’s rum,
Or Ashley’s brandy, or Batavian ‘rack,
High-priz’d, diffuse hilarity like thine!
Absurd — before the nodding Barley-sheaf
The Gallic vine must bow, and Gallic butlers
To the stout British Draymen must give way.
Now when the evening creeps with gradual step,
And wraps the day within her sable shroud;
Come, Tankard, to my hand, and with thee bring
The Pipe, companion meet. Attended thus
My nectar will I quaff, and fill the room
With smoak voluminous, ’till Morpheus’ wand
Slow-breaking thro’ the cloud mine eye-lids close,
And fix me snoring in my elbow-chair.