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By Sir John Davies

Gentleman smoking, woodcut from the Roxburghe Ballads, c1628

OF TOBACCO.       

Homer of Moly and Nepenthe sings:
Moly, the gods' most sovereign herb divine,
Nepenthe, heaven's drink, most gladness brings,
Heart's grief expels, and doth the wits refine.
But this our age another world hath found,
From whence an herb of heavenly power is brought;
Moly is not so sovereign for a wound,
Nor hath Nepenthe so great wonders wrought:
It is Tobacco, whose sweet substantial fume
The hellish torment of the teeth doth ease
By drawing down, and drying up the rheum,
The mother and the nurse of each disease;
It is Tobacco, which doth cold expel,
And clears the obstructions of the arteries,
And surfeits, threatening death, digesteth well,
Decocting all the stomach's crudities;
It is Tobacco, which hath power to clarify
The cloudy mists before dim eyes appearing;
It is Tobacco, which hath power to rarify
The thick, gross humour which doth stop the hearing;
The wasting hectic, and the quartain fever,
Which doth of physic make a mockery;
The gout it cures, and helps ill breaths forever,
Whether the cause in teeth or stomach be;
And though ill breaths were by it but confounded,
Yet that vile medicine it doth far excel,
Which by Sir Thomas More hath been propounded,
For this is thought a gentleman-like smell.
O, that I were one of those mountebanks,
Which praise their oils and powders which they sell!
My customers would give me coin with thanks;
I, for this ware, forsooth a tale would tell,
Yet would I use none of these terms before;
I would but say, that it the pox will cure:
This were enough, without discoursing more,
All our brave gallants in the town t'allure.

Spelling and punctuation modernized.

Original text source:
      Davies, Sir John. Epigrammes.
      The Complete Poems of Sir John Davies. Vol II. Rev. Alexander B. Grosart, Ed.
      London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1876.  32-5.

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Created by Anniina Jokinen on July 24, 2006. Last updated May 14, 2023.


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