Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stanzas to an Intoxicated Fly

A buddy came across a coaster at the King Eddie Hotel in Toronto adorned with the following quotation:

"The rapturous, wild and ineffable pleasure of drinking at somebody else's expense."

Efforts to find the proper context for these fine words yielded little result, apart from identifying the source as a poem marvelously entitled "Stanzas to an Intoxicated Fly" contained in Henry Sambrooke Leigh's "Carols of Cockayne". Nowhere on the internet can you find the poem in its entirety, so had to send Zovi into the depths of the Bodleian library of Oxford to ultimately trace her down. Well worth it, and hereby repeated for all future Google surfers:
It's a singular fact that whenever I order
My goblet of Guinness or bumper of Bass,
Out of ten or a dozen that sport round the border
Some fly turns a somersault into my glass.
Oh! it's not that I grudge him the liquor he's tasted,
(supposing him partial to ale or stout),
But consider the time irretrievably wasted
In trying to fish the small wanderer out.

Ah! Believe me, fond fly, it's excessively sinful,
This habit which knocks even bluebottles up;
Just remember what Cassio, on getting a skinful,
Observ'd about "ev'ry inordinate cup!"
Reflect on that proverb, diminutive being,
Which tells us "Enough is as good as a feast;"
And, mark me, there's nothing more painful than seeing
An insect behaving so much like a beast.

Nay, in vain would you seek to escape while I'm talking,
And shake from your pinions the fast-clinging drops.
It is only too clear, from your efforts at walking,
That after your malt you intend to take hops.
Pray, where is your home? and oh! how shall you get there?
And what will your wife and family think?
Pray, how shall you venture to show the whole set there
That Paterfamilias is given to drink.

Oh, think of that moment when Conscience returning
Shall put the brief pleasures of Bacchus to flight;
When the tongue shall be parch'd and the brow shall be burning,
And most of to-morrow shall taste of to-night!
For the toast shall be dry and the tea shall be bitter,
And all through your breakfast this thought shall intrude;
That a little pale brandy and seltzer is fitter
For such an occasion than animal food.

I have known, silly fly, the delight beyond measure---
The blissful sensation, prolonged and intense---
The rapturous, wild, and ineffable pleasure,
Of drinking at somebody else's expense.
But I own--and it's not without pride that I own it---
Whenever some friend in his generous way
Bids me drink without paying, I simply postpone it,
And pay for my liquor the whole of next day.
Ah yes, sweet victory. Glasses will be raised tonight to the author's fine memory, and to our diligent library researcher for a job well done.


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