Monday, November 26, 2007

A Shropshire Lad

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

A.E. (Alfred Edward) Housman was born in England in 1859 and died in 1930. A Shropshire Lad is his most famous work. The selection is from number LX ("Terence, this is stupid stuff:/You eat your victuals fast enough;/There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,/To see the rate you drink your beer."). Housman was a classicist, specifically a professor of Latin, for most of his life. The poem is a long, melancholy rant on the vagaries of life, and the healing power of a good brew. Well, maybe the numbing power! There is a reference at the end to Mithridates, who--supposedly--inured himself to the effects of poison by ingesting small doses throughout his life, and thus could not be killed that way. I wonder if it works for alcohol.

Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.

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