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REIGN OF CHARLES II. TO WILLIAM III.
TOBACCO IS AN INDIAN WEED.
" Musicke, tobacco, sacke, and sleepe, The tide of sorrow backward keepe."
Marston's What you will.
The verse that has been written in the praise and dispraise of tobacco would, of itself, fill a volume; but, among the quantity, no piece has been more enduringly popular than the song of Tobacco is an Indian weed. It has undergone a variety of changes (deteriorating rather than improving it), and through these it may be traced, from the reign of James I., down to the present day.
The earliest copy I have seen is in a manuscript volume of poetry transcribed during James's reign, and which was most kindly lent to me by Mr. Payne Collier. It there bears the initials of G[eorge] W[ither], now better known by his celebrated song of— " Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair ?" than by any other of his numerous productions. Wither is a very likely person to have written such a song. A courtier poet would not have sung the praises of smoking—so obnoxious to the King as to induce him to write a Oounterblaste to Tobacco—but Wither despised the servility which might have tended to his advancement at court. " He could not refrain," says Wood, " from shewing himself a Presbyterian satirist." It was the publication of his Abuses stript and whipt which caused his committal to the Marshalsea prison.
The following is Wither's song:— " Why should we so much despise Of worldly stuff—'tis gone with a puff;
So good and wholesome an exercise Thus think, and drink tobacco.
As, early and late, to meditate ? And wten the p!pe ig foul ^^
Thus think, and drink tobacco. Think how fte goul,g defird wkh £;n_
The earthen pipe, so lily white, To purge with fire it doth require :
Shews that thou art a mortal wight; Thus think, and drink tobacco.
Even such-and gone with a small touch: Lastly> the ashes ]eft behind
Thus think, and drink tobacco. May daily sheW; to move the mind>
And when the emoke ascends on high, That to ashes and dust return we must: Think on the worldly vanity Thus think, and drink tobacco."
In the times of Elizabeth and James I., it was customary in England to inhale and swallow the smoke, as Spaniards and Russians do at the present time,— hence the expression, " to drink tobacco." It was afterwards puffed out " through the nostrils, like funnels." Ben Jonson describes a young gallant endeavouring to acquire this accomplishment, as " sitting in a chair, holding up his snout like a sow under an apple-tree, while th'other open'd his nostrils with a poking-stick, to give the smoke a more free delivery."
About 1670, we find several copies of Wither's song, but the first stanza
changed in all, besides other minor variations. In Merry Drollery Complete, 1670,
it commences, " Tobacco, that is withered quite." On broadsides, bearing date
the same year, and having the tune at the top, the first line is, " The Indian
weed withered quite." The last agrees, so far, with a copy .quoted by Mr.
Bertrand Payne, from Two Broadsides against Tobacco, 1672.