The Literary Views of Drink-Andrew O’ Gorman

And Noah he often said to his wife as he sat down to dine, I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

It was G.K. Chesterton who penned these lines, a great trench man, if ever there was one, and a writer and philosopher who appreciated the merits of wine. His contribution to the literature on drink is considerable, but naturally biased in favour of it.

However few aspects of our life encourage such a variety of opinions, for and against. Even the Bible has a great deal to say on the subject, as had Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Chesterton, or anyone you care to mention.

The Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare had this to say in Othello:

O God, that man should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains: that they should with joy,pleasance,revel and applause-transform themselves into beasts.

The Bard of Aungier Street (Dublin) Thomas Moore had a different approach for he wrote:

If with water you fill up your glasses, you’ll never write anything wise;

For wine is the horse of Parnassus, which hurries a bard to the skies.

But this was not the feeling of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, who wrote:

All excess is ill, but drunkenness is the worst sort. It spoils health, dismounts the mind and unmans the man. It reveals secrets, is quarrelsome, lascivious, imprudent and dangerous and bad.

Louis Pasteur, the great French scientist, however felt:

Wine is the most healthful and hygienic of dishes.

There are many references in the Bible to drink and drunkenness. In the 23rd Chapter of the Book of Proverbs, verse 31, we are admonished

Look not up the wine while it is red, when it giveth its colour to the cup—- at least it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.

In 1 Timothy Fifth Chapter 23rd verse we are advised on the other hand:

Drink no longer water, but a little wine for your stomach sake.

It is clear from most of the writing on the subject that what is stressed all the time is the danger, not of drinking but of the abuse of drinking.

Lord Byron in “Don Juan” has his own approach: Few things surpass old wine: and they may preach who pleases; the more because they preach in vain: Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, sermons and soda water the day after.

Benjamin Franklin thought that drink wasn’t a good thing for American politicians:

The practice of using ardent spirits in office has occasioned more injury to the public and more trouble to me than all the other causes. Were I to command my administration again, the first question I would ask respecting a candidate for office would be “ Do you use ardent spirits”.

Thoreau, the French writer and philosopher and John Neale the English writer, both were water men:

Thoreau: Water is the only drink for a wise man.

Neale: Drinking water neither makes a man sick, nor in debt, nor his wife a widow.

Garabaldi, the famous Italian statesman, believed that “Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune”, while Roger Bacon said: “All the crimes on earth do not destroy so many of the human race, nor alienate so much property as drunkenness”.

However it wasn’t all one sided. Samuel Johnson, the remarkable British wit and man about town of his time wrote:” Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy”.

I will finish with the following literary view on Irish Whiskey:

The light music of whiskey falling into glasses – an agreeable interlude”- James Joyce.

There is no such thing as a large whiskey” – Oliver St. John Gogarty.

As a substance for ships to sail on, water is unsurpassed” – James Stephens.

“If an Angel out of heaven

Gives you something else to drink

Thank him for his kind intention

And pour it down the sink — Chesterton.

You the reader should endeavour to add to this.                   Slainte.

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