Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: Toasts & Crumbs to Fill a Glass

One of the fascinating aspects of writing about adult beverages is coming across bits of rhyme, free verse and just plain doggerel devoted to one’s favorite tipple.

One of my numerous blogs, “Toasts & Crumbs” (toastsandcrumbs.blogspot.com) — which I have subtitled, “When words fail you, try these” — is replete with bits of language fun from around the world. And, no matter how old some of them are, they keep striking responsive chords with readers.

Some are just plain fun. Like the humorists Dave Barry’s comment that “Without question the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Some are more of a philosophical bent, like this quote from the Bible’s Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart.”

Others take on a more personal tone. After reading this four liner — ” Don’t worry about the future / The present is all thou hast / The future will soon be present / And the present will soon be past” — a blog visitor wrote to me, “My mother died four years ago at the age of 97 and this was her favorite quote.”

Another reader got quite excited when he read my complete posting of a poem he had seen only as a snippet printed on a beer mug:

“The horse and mule live 30 years / And never knows of wines and beers / The goat and sheep at 20 die / Without a taste of scotch or rye. / The cow drinks water by the ton / And at 18 is mostly done. / The dog at 15 cashes in / Without the aid of rum or gin./ The modest, sober, bone-dry hen / Lays eggs for nogs and dies at 10. / But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men / Survive three-score years and 10. / And some of us, though mighty few / Stay pickled ’til we’re 92.”

As is the case with so many old quotes, poems and free verse, the origin of most is lost to history, or even hotly disputed when credit is given.

That’s the case with “The Horse and Mule,” although we know it has been around for generations. It is quoted, and credited to that prolific writer “Anonymous,” in the respected anthology “Verse and Worse” by the English writer Arnold Silcock.

You can read some interesting research and discussion on the origins of various bits of music and poetry from the BBC’s “Quote … Unquote” newsletter (one good example of that can be found online at www1c.btwebworld.com/quote-unquote/April2008.pdf).

But no matter whether the author is known or lost in the mists of a bar room or a failing memory, there’s something to be said for every occasion.
In parting, one of my favorites:

“On the chest of a barmaid in Sale / Were tattooed the prices of ale. / And on her behind, ‘For the sake of the blind, / Was the same information in Braille.”


(William M. Dowd covers the world of adult beverages at BillDowd.com)

c.2009 Hearst Newspapers

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