Commonplace
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www.common-place.org · vol. 1 · no. 2 · January 2001
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A Visit from St. Nick

The Wine Drinker
Clement Clarke Moore

I'll drink my glass of generous wine;
And what concern is it of thine
Thou self-erected censor pale,
Forever watching to assail
Each honest, open-hearted fellow
Who takes his liquor ripe and mellow,
And feels delight, in moderate measure,
With chosen friends to share his pleasure?

Without the aid of pledge or vow,
I hold me temperate quite as thou;
But that which virtue's course I deem
Keeps clear fro ev'ry rash extreme.
If ev'ry good must be refus'd
That may by mortals be abus'd,
E'en abstinence may be excess,
And prove a curse, when meant to bless.

If by the notions of the throng
I must be taught what's right and wrong,
In pity's name, my sober friend,
Say where would be my lesson's end?
Each gives me his peculiar view
Of what he holds as false or true.
Whate'er I drink, whate'er I eat,
Will some objector's censure meet.
Whate'er I wont, whate'er I will,
Meets with fierce opposition still.
Coffee and tea affect the nerves;
Who swallows wine, the devil serves;

And he that dares a stronger drink
Must soon to deep perdition sink.
Another sneeringly maintains
That water animalculae contains;
And, that to be from harm secure,
We ne'er should drink it fresh and pure,
But boil it till from life 'tis free,
Then swallow it in punch or tea.
One thinks it rational and right
To take as guide your appetite.
Another at all food's provok'd
Save flinty crusts in water soak'd.
And would I from opinion draw
My moral or religious law,
And, to suit all, a code complete,
All contradictions there must meet.

Woe to the man whose feeble mind
No rooted principle can find;
But, by the fashion of the day,
From sober sense is led away;

Afraid to follow Nature's laws,
Lest he oppose the temperance cause;
Quits common use and common sense,
Lest some weak brother take offence;
Yet pines in secret that he's bound
To pass the cup untasted round
Amid his friends who, conscience free,
Indulge in harmless social glee;
And oft will seek, nor seek in vain,
Some subterfuge to break his chain;
Find out disorders that require
What's prompted only by desire;
Will ask some doctor to prescribe;
And turn his vow to jest and gibe.
And 'tis, I fear, too true, alas!
That oft th' intoxicating glass,
In secret swallow'd, and by stealth,
Degrades the mind and mars the health.
Nor is it hid from any eye,
That they who alcohol decry,
Virginia's weed will chew or smoke,
Or opium's treach'rous aid invoke,
And raise for abstinence a clatter
'Mid clouds of smoke, and spit and spatter.

Nor urge th' example we should show
To those of an estate more low.
His life the best example gives
Who after Nature's dictates lives;
Which rightly view'd, are laws of God,
And point to paths with safety trod.

As well might you restrain the breeze
That sweeps the main and bends the trees,
Or bid the sun no mists excite,
That cloud the sky and dim his light,
As strive to make mankind agree
To lead their lives from turmoil free.
No lot so low, no mind so meek
That will not for excitement seek.
Nature in bounds unnatural pent
Will find some new and dangerous vent.
Awhile, the blood you may restrain;
But, held too tight, 'twill burst the vein.

If there be found no other sport,
To feuds and strife will men resort;
And, mid war's spirit-stirring notes,
Amuse themselves with cutting throats.
E'en they who blame the social cup
Seek means to stir the spirits up;
And various stimulants they find
Wherewith to intoxicate the mind.
Hence all the temperance bustle comes
Of marshal'd files, with trumps and drums;
Banners bright, processions long,
Bands of music, speeches, song.
Temperance meetings, temperance halls,
Temperance concerts, temperance balls;
All that keen politicians know
Can blind you with a specious show,
By which your temp'rance cause promoters
Hope for a sturdy band of voters.
These follies soon may pass away,
And prove but fashions of a day,
But there's one pageant meets my eyes,
At which indignant feelings rise:

Children I see paraded round,
In badges deck'd, with ribbons bound,
And banners floating o'er their head,
Like victims to the slaughter led.
Ye self-made legislators, how
Presume ye to exact a vow
Or ask a pledge, for aye to bind
Childhood's unthinking, embryo mind?
How can ye dare to fill a child,
Whose spirits should be free and wild,
And only love to run and romp,
With vanity and pride and pomp?
How can ye answer for the woe
Which many a man, by you, shall know,
Who dares the promise to renounce
You bade him, when a child, pronounce,
Yet still within his bosom keeps
A gnawing worm that never sleeps?

Come then, your glasses fill, my boys.
Few and inconstant are the joys
That come to cheer this world below;
But nowhere do they brighter flow
Than where kind friends convivial meet,
'Mid harmless glee and converse sweet.

There's truth in wine, 'tis truly said.
Ye then who feel a secret dread
Your thoughts and feelings to declare,
The influence of wine beware:
In strong relief and colors true
It brings both good and ill to view.
Takes salts, and seidlitz, and blue pills;
Purge out your bile, that source of ills;
And, till you have a purer soul,
Touch not the truth-betraying bowl.

But you who feel all right within;
No secret malice, lurking sin;
No passion dangerous to awake;
Refuse not sometimes to partake
The moderate glass, which doth impart
New warmth and feeling to the heart;

Commands more generous thoughts to rise,
And adds more strength to friendship's ties;
Gives witty thoughts an edge more keen,
And bids retiring worth be seen;
Gives to the soul of modest youth
A bolder voice in cause of truth;
By Prudence measur'd, serves t'assuage
The dreary cold of wintry age;
Impels the blood, with bolder rush,
To lighten up th' indignant blush
That throws its flashes o'er the ice
Of selfish, calculating vice;
And, in the mind that's pure and wise,
Bids glowing thoughts and visions rise,
That, beaming with unsullied light,
Shun neither Reason's nor Religion's sight.

If such thy virtues, generous wine!
Thy pleasures will I ne'er resign
While health remains, nor e'er refuse,
In praise of thee, t' invoke the Muse.

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