Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Bacchus and the Devil"

“I KNEW a man once that was given to drinking, and I made up this rule for him to distinguish between Bacchus and the Devil. To wit: that he should never drink what has been made and sold since the Reformation—I mean especially spirits and champagne. Let him (said I) drink red wine and white, good beer and mead—if he could get it—liqueurs made by monks, and, in a word, all those feeding, fortifying, and confirming beverages that our fathers drank in old time; but not whiskey, nor brandy, nor sparkling wines, nor absinthe, nor the kind of drink called gin. This he promised to do, and all went well. He became a merry companion, and began to write odes. His prose clarified and set, that had before been very mixed and cloudy. He slept well; he comprehended divine things; he was already half a republican, when one fatal day—it was the feast of the eleven thousand virgins, and they were too busy up in heaven to consider the needs of poor hobbling, polyktonous and betempted wretches of men—I went with him to the Society for the Prevention of Annoyances to the Rich, where a certain usurer’s son was to read a paper on the cruelty of Spaniards to their mules. As we were all seated there round a table with a staring green cloth on it, and a damnable gas pendant above, the host of that evening offered him whiskey and water, and, my back being turned, he took it. Then when I would have taken it from him he used these words—

‘After all, it is the intention of a pledge that matters;’ and I saw that all was over, for he had abandoned definition, and was plunged back into the horrible mazes of Conscience and Natural Religion.

“What do you think, then was the consequence? Why, he had to take some nasty pledge or other to drink nothing whatever, and became a spectacle and a judgment, whereas if he had kept his exact word he might by this time have been a happy man.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Path to Rome.

(Note: Whiskey actually pre-dates the Reformation)

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