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Four or Five (or More) Reasons to Drink

October 5, 2009

“Vandunk’s Four Humours,
in Quality and Quantity”comedy-of-humours

I am mighty melancholy,
And a quart of sack will cure me;
I am choleric as any,
Quart of claret will secure me;

I am phlegmatic as may be,
Peter-see-me† must inure me;
I am sanguine for a lady,
And cool Rhenish‡ shall conjúre me.

—Richard Braithwait (1588?-1673)

†A Spanish wine (called “Pedro Ximines”);  ‡wine from the Rhine region.

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If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink:
Good wine; a friend; or being dry;
Or lest we should be, by and by;
Or any other reason why.

—Henry Aldrich (1647-1710)

N.B.: The sketch in the upper right corner illustrates the four “humours”: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholy. I append below one more paean to drink, this time to English ale, which I found in Charles Lamb’s Specimens of the English Dramatists. Lamb reprints it from a text he identifies as “LONDON CHANTICLEERS: a rude sketch of a play, printed 1659, but evidently much older.” The annotation regarding hops is Lamb’s.

“Song in praise of Ale”

Submit, Bunch of Grapes,
To the strong barley ear;
The weak Wine no longer
The laurel shall wear.

Sack and all drinks else,
Desist from the strife;
Ale’s the only Aqua Vitae,
And liquor of life.

Then come, my boon fellows.
Let’s drink it around;
It keeps us from grave,
Though it lays us on ground.

Ale’s a Physician,
No Mountebank Bragger;
Can cure the chill Ague,
Though it be with the Stagger.

Ale’s a strong Wrestler,
Flings all it hath met;
And makes the ground slippery.
Though it be not wet.

Ale is both Ceres,
And good Neptune too :
Ale’s froth was the sea,
From which Venus grew.

Ale is immortal:
And be there no stops
In bonny lads’ quaffing,
Can live without hops.*

Then come, my boon fellows.
Let’s drink it around;
It keeps us from grave,
Though it lays us on ground.

* The original distinction of Beer from the old Drink of our Forefathers, which was made without that ingredient.

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