Today is St. Columba’s Day. He’s a patron saint of poets, so I thought I’ll pull out some of my favorite poems with beer in them. I’m excluding limericks (since we’ve done them already) and haikus since Beer Haiku Daily pretty has them covered. So for my 18th Top 10 list I present the Top 10 beer poems, although, like before, the rankings are pretty much meaningless. These are just my ten favorite poems that are about beer or drinking. I sort of prefer number 1 to number 5 or 7, but not to the degree of some of the previous lists. They’re all winners. But, of course, I’d love to hear your choices. Anyway, here’s List #18:
Top 10 Beer Poems
|Beer, by Charles Bukowski,
from Love is A Mad Dog From Hell (1920-1994)
I don’t know how many bottles of beer
the female is durable
while we are going mad
well, there’s beer
|The Tavern, by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273)
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
We have a huge barrel of beer, but no cups.
They say there’s no future for us. They’re right.
|A Glass of Beer, by David O’Bruadair (1625-1698)
The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
That parboiled ape, with the toughest jaw you will see
If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;
|Beer, by George Arnold (1834-1865)
O, finer far
Go, whining youth,
|The Empty Bottle, by William Aytoun (1813-1865)
Ah, liberty! how like thou art
A touch of steel — a hand — a gush —
And what remains? — An empty shell!
|Get Drunk!, by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Always be drunk.
|From The Hour Before Dawn, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
A great lad with a beery face
|Lines on Ale (1848), by Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)
Fill with mingled cream and amber,
|Excerpted from Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff, poem LXII in
A Shropshire Lad (1896), by A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
|John Barleycorn, by Robert Burns (1834-1865)*
[This version is from 1782]
There was three kings into the east,
They took a plough and plough’d him down,
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
The sultry suns of Summer came,
The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
His colour sicken’d more and more,
They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
They laid him down upon his back,
They filled up a darksome pit
They laid him out upon the floor,
They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
And they hae taen his very heart’s blood,
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
* John Barleycorn exists in many forms, and a number of them I prefer over Burns’ version, but his is the only one I know of done by a true poet. The poem has also been turned into a song recorded by many, many artists, including Traffic, Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull, among others. I also have a children’s book of the story with wonderful woodcuts by artist Mary Azarian. You can read more about the history of this poem and story at my John Barleycorn page.
As usual, it was pretty hard to keep the list to ten, and a great many wonderful poems didn’t make the cut. Here’s a few more that almost made it:
From The Old Stone Cross, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote.
A journalist invents his lies, and rams them down your throat.
So stay at home and drink your beer and let the neighbors vote.
Old Irish Tale, author unknown
Some Guinness was spilt on the barroom floor
When the pub was shut for the night.
When out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse
And stood in the pale moonlight.
He lapped up the frothy foam from the floor
Then back on his haunches he sat.
And all night long, you could hear the mouse roar,
“Bring on the goddamn cat!”
Doh, Re, Me, by Homer Simpson
Dough, the stuff that buys me beer.
Ray, the guy who brings me beer.
Me, the guy who drinks the beer.
Far, a long way to get beer.
So, I’ll have another beer.
La, I’ll have another beer.
Tea, no thanks I’m having beer.
That will bring us back to…
(reaching the crescendo of his toast,
Homer looks into his beer mug,
which is empty) …DOH!!!
Beers, a spoof of Joyce Kilmer’s Trees (1886-1918)
I THINK that I shall never hear
A poem lovely as a beer.
A brew that’s best straight from a tap
With golden hue and snowy cap;
The liquid bread I drink all day,
Until my memory melts away;
A beer that’s made with summer malt
Too little hops its only fault;
Upon whose brow the yeast has lain;
In water clear as falling rain.
Poems are made by fools I fear,
But only wort can make a beer.
Here’s the original poem:
I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
And way too long, but quite wonderful is the Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala and it’s hard not to mention the Hymn To Ninkasi, which really deserves to be included.
Send me your favorite beer poems by posting it or a link to it in a comment.
Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.
Maureen Ogle says
How about list of “Worst Beer Poems”?
Of which this is THE worst.
OMG, I hope they’re aren’t nine more at this level.
The Beer Nut says
Has to be Betjeman’s The Village Inn for me.
I think the one you have attributed to Homer Simpson has been floating around the Internet for many years with no proper citation. I’m pretty sure it’s not from the TV series.
michael Reinhardt says
We posted a poem on our site that I’d have to put in the top ten…it’s a real oldie but a goodie. It’s worth considering. http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2008/09/25/beer-gods/
You did a very good job of picking. Most of the poems are worthy of a lot of discussion. Cheers!
Jim Kruidenier says
The Joyce Kilmer parody first appeared in Mad magazine in the early ’60’s, I believe – with some differences (if my memory serves me well): I think that I shall never hear/A poem as lovely as a beer/That drink that Joe’s bar has on tap/With golden base and snowy cap/I drink that golden stuff all day/Until my memory floats away/Poems are made by fools, I hear/But only Schlitz can make a beer.
And the Robert Burns ode…well, you could have included a citation of Traffic’s wonderful rendition (c. 1970).
The Professor says
From MAD magazine, sometime around 1960 (I can’t believe I still remember this…I was only 8 then…guess it gave me something to look forward to..
BEER (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer)
I think that I shall never hear
A poem lovlier than beer.
The stuff that Joe’s Bar has on tap,
With golden base and snowy cap;
The foamy stuff I drink all day
Until my memory melts away.
Poems are made by fools, I fear…
But only Schlitz can make a beer.
(hey…it was 1960…Schlitz was stil on top then!)
michael Reinhardt says
I think Jay did a good job, too. I really like the poem I suggested because it doubles a brewing instructions. Form and function.
To The Professor,
Good memory. I was a few years older than you then, and the only difference I remember is: “The brew that Joe’s bar …”
Don’t forget the classics! I read this poem in a local watering hole. I was moved to tears!
HERMIT HOAR, IN SOLEMN CELL
By Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
” Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
Wearing out life’s evening gray, Smite thy bosom, sage, and tell, What is bliss, and which the way ? ”
Thus I spoke and speaking sighed, Scarce repressed the starting tear ;
When the willing sage replied—
11 Come, my lad; and drink some beer ! “
I was havin a beer at the pub last night,
My beer on top of the counter,
All covered in froth
When someone went cough.
My can rolled onto the floor
And out of the door,
Onto the road and just dodged a toad
Survived a car now that’s a bit far,
Then under a truck!
Now my poor beer can
Is utterly fucked!