A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO.





May the Babylonish curse

Straight confound my stammering verse

If I can a passage see

In this word-perplexity,

Or a fit expression find,

Or a language to my mind

(Still the phrase is wide or scant),

To take leave of thee, GREAT PLANT!

Or in any terms relate

Half my love, or half my hate:

For I hate, yet love, thee so,

That, whichever thing I show,

The plain truth will seem to be

A constrain'd hyperbole,

And the passion to proceed

More from a mistress than a weed.



Sooty retainer to the vine,

Bacchus' black servant, negro fine;

Sorcerer, that mak'st us dote upon

Thy begrimed complexion,

And, for thy pernicious sake,

More and greater oaths to break

Than reclaimed lovers take

'Gainst women: thou thy siege dost lay

Much too in the female way,

While thou suck'st the lab'ring breath

Faster than kisses or than death.



Thou in such a cloud dost bind us,

That our worst foes cannot find us,

And ill-fortune, that would thwart us,

Shoots at rovers, shooting at us;

While each man, through thy height'ning steam

Does like a smoking Etna seem,

And all about us does express

(Fancy and wit in richest dress)

A Sicilian fruitfulness.



Thou through such a mist dost show us,

That our best friends do not know us,

And, for those allowed features,

Due to reasonable creatures,

Liken'st us to fell Chimeras,

Monsters that, who see us, fear us;

Worse than Cerberus or Geryon,

Or, who first loved a cloud, Ixion.



Bacchus we know, and we allow

His tipsy rites. But what art thou,

That but by reflex canst show

What his deity can do,

As the false Egyptian spell

Aped the true Hebrew miracle,

Some few vapors thou mayst raise

The weak brain may serve to amaze,

But to the reins and nobler heart

Canst nor life nor heat impart.



Brother of Bacchus, later born,

The Old World was sure forlorn

Wanting thee, that aidest more

The god's victories than before

All his panthers, and the brawls

Of his piping Bacchanals.

These, as stale, we disallow,

Or judge of _thee_ meant; only thou

His true Indian conquest art;

And for ivy round his dart

The reformed god now weaves

A finer thyrsus of thy leaves.



Scent to match thy rich perfume

Chemic art did ne'er presume,

Through her quaint alembic strain,

None so sov'reign to the brain.

Nature, that did in thee excel,

Framed again no second smell.

Roses, violets, but toys

For the smaller sort of boys,

Or for greener damsels meant;

Thou art the only manly scent.



Stinking'st of the stinking kind,

Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind,

Africa, that brags her foison,

Breeds no such prodigious poison,

Henbane, nightshade, both together,

Hemlock, aconite--



Nay, rather,

Plant divine, of rarest virtue;

Blisters on the tongue would hurt you.

'Twas but in a sort I blamed thee;

None e'er prosper'd who defamed thee;

Irony all, and feign'd abuse,

Such as perplex'd lovers use

At a need when, in despair

To paint forth their fairest fair,

Or in part but to express

That exceeding comeliness

Which their fancies doth so strike,

They borrow language of dislike;

And, instead of Dearest Miss,

Jewel, Honey, Sweetheart, Bliss,

And those forms of old admiring,

Call her Cockatrice and Siren,

Basilisk, and all that's evil,

Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,

Ethiop, Wench, and Blackamore,

Monkey, Ape, and twenty more,

Friendly Trait'ress, loving Foe,--

Not that she is truly so,

But no other way they know

A contentment to express,

Borders so upon excess

That they do not rightly wot

Whether it be pain or not.



Or as men, constrain'd to part

With what's nearest to their heart.

While their sorrow's at the height

Lose discrimination quite,

And their hasty wrath let fall,

To appease their frantic gall,

On the darling thing whatever

Whence they feel it death to sever,

Though it be, as they, perforce,

Guiltless of the sad divorce.



For I must (nor let it grieve thee,

Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee.

For thy sake, TOBACCO, I

Would do anything but die,

And but seek to extend my days

Long enough to sing thy praise.

But as she who once hath been

A king's consort is a queen

Ever after, nor will bate

Any tittle of her state,

Though a widow or divorced,

So I, from thy converse forced,

The old name and style retain,

A right Katherine of Spain;

And a seat, too, 'mongst the joys

Of the blest Tobacco Boys,

Where, though I by sour physician

Am debarr'd the full fruition

Of thy favors, I may catch

Some collateral sweets, and snatch

Sidelong odors, that give life

Like glances from a neighbor's wife,

And still live in the by-places

And the suburbs of thy graces,

And in thy borders take delight,

An unconquer'd Canaanite.



CHARLES LAMB.





A BRIEF PUFF OF SMOKE. A GOOD CIGAR. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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