'Beer' by Charles Stuart Calverley

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1In those old days which poets say were golden --
2(Perhaps they laid the gilding on themselves:
3And, if they did, I'm all the more beholden
4To those brown dwellers in my dusty shelves,
5Who talk to me "in language quaint and olden"
6Of gods and demigods and fauns and elves,
7Pan with his pipes, and Bacchus with his leopards,
8And staid young goddesses who flirt with shepherds:)

9In those old days, the Nymph called Etiquette
10(Appalling thought to dwell on) was not born.
11They had their May, but no Mayfair as yet,
12No fashions varying as the hues of morn.
13Just as they pleased they dressed and drank and ate,
14Sang hymns to Ceres (their John Barleycorn)
15And danced unchaperoned, and laughed unchecked,
16And were no doubt extremely incorrect.

17Yet do I think their theory was pleasant:
18And oft, I own, my "wayward fancy roams"
19Back to those times, so different from the present;
20When no one smoked cigars, nor gave At-homes,
21Nor smote a billiard-ball, nor winged a pheasant,
22Nor "did" her hair by means of long-tailed combs,
23Nor migrated to Brighton once a year,
24Nor -- most astonishing of all -- drank Beer.

25No, they did not drink Beer, "which brings me to"
26(As Gilpin said) "the middle of my song."
27Not that "the middle" is precisely true,
28Or else I should not tax your patience long:
29If I had said "beginning," it might do;
30But I have a dislike to quoting wrong:
31I was unlucky -- sinned against, not sinning --
32When Cowper wrote down "middle" for "beginning."

33So to proceed. That abstinence from Malt
34Has always struck me as extremely curious.
35The Greek mind must have had some vital fault,
36That they should stick to liquors so injurious --
37(Wine, water, tempered p'raps with Attic salt) --
38And not at once invent that mild, luxurious,
39And artful beverage, Beer. How the digestion
40Got on without it, is a startling question.

41Had they digestions? and an actual body
42Such as dyspepsia might make attacks on?
43Were they abstract ideas -- (like Tom Noddy
44And Mr. Briggs) -- or men, like Jones and Jackson?
45Then nectar -- was that beer, or whisky-toddy?
46Some say the Gaelic mixture, I the Saxon:
47I think a strict adherence to the latter
48Might make some Scots less pigheaded, and fatter.

49Besides, Bon Gaultier definitely shows
50That the real beverage for feasting gods on
51Is a soft compound, grateful to the nose
52And also to the palate, known as "Hidgson."
53I know a man -- a tailor's son -- who rose
54To be a peer: and this I would lay odds on,
55(Though in his Memoirs it may not appear,)
56That that man owed his rise to copious Beer.

57O Beer! O Hodgson, Guinness, Allsopp, Bass!
58Names that should be on every infant's tongue!
59Shall days and months and years and centuries pass,
60And still your merits be unrecked, unsung?
61Oh! I have gazed into my foaming glass,
62And wished that lyre could yet again be strung
63Which once rang prophet-like through Greece, and taught her
64Misguided sons that the best drink was water.

65How would he now recant that wild opinion,
66And sing -- as would that I could sing -- of you!
67I was not born (alas!) the "Muses' minion,"
68I'm not poetical, not even blue:
69And he, we know, but strives with waxen pinion,
70Whoe'er he is that entertains the view
71Of emulating Pindar, and will be
72Sponsor at last to some now nameless sea.

73Oh! when the green slopes of Arcadia burned
74With all the lustre of the dying day,
75And on Cithæron's brow the reaper turned,
76(Humming, of course, in his delightful way,
77How Lycidas was dead, and how concerned
78The Nymphs were when they saw his lifeless clay;
79And how rock told to rock the dreadful story
80That poor young Lycidas was gone to glory:)

81What would that lone and labouring soul have given,
82At that soft moment for a pewter pot!
83How had the mists that dimmed his eye been riven,
84And Lycidas and sorrow all forgot!
85If his own grandmother had died unshriven,
86In two short seconds he'd have recked it not;
87Such power hath Beer. The heart which Grief hath cankered
88Hath one unfailing remedy -- the Tankard.

89Coffee is good, and so no doubt is cocoa;
90Tea did for Johnson and the Chinamen:
91When "Dulce est desipere in loco"
92Was written, real Falernian winged the pen.
93When a rapt audience has encored "Fra Poco"
94Or "Casta Diva," I have heard that then
95The Prima Donna, smiling herself out,
96Recruits her flagging powers with bottled stout.

97But what is coffee, but a noxious berry,
98Born to keep used-up Londoners awake?
99What is Falernian, what is Port or Sherry,
100But vile concoctions to make dull heads ache?
101Nay stout itself -- (though good with oysters, very) --
102Is not a thing your reading man should take.
103He that would shine, and petrify his tutor,
104Should drink draught Allsopp in its "native pewter."

105But hark! a sound is stealing on my ear --
106A soft and silvery sound -- I know it well.
107Its tinkling tells me that a time is near
108Precious to me -- it is the Dinner Bell.
109O blessed Bell! Thou bringest beef and beer,
110Thou bringest good things more than tongue may tell:
111Seared is, of course, my heart -- but unsubdued
112Is, and shall be, my appetite for food.

113I go. Untaught and feeble is my pen:
114But on one statement I may safely venture:
115That few of our most highly gifted men
116Have more appreciation of their trencher.
117I go. One pound of British beef, and then
118What Mr. Swiveller called a "modest quencher";
119That home-returning, I may "soothly say,"
120"Fate cannot touch me: I have dined to-day."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Beer: An Ode to the Simple Pleasures of Life


Have you ever come across a poem that has made you feel like downing a pint of beer? Well, if you haven't, then you need to read "Poetry, Beer" by Charles Stuart Calverley. This poem is an ode to the simple pleasures of life, and the joy that can be found in the little things. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the nuances of this poem, exploring its themes, style, and historical context.


Before we dive into the poem, let's take a moment to understand who Charles Stuart Calverley was. He was a Victorian poet and satirist, born in 1831, who was known for his wit, humor, and parodies. He was a close friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson and was a member of the literary circle that included Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

"Poetry, Beer" was published in 1862, in a collection of poems titled "Fly Leaves." This collection was a satirical take on contemporary social issues, and "Poetry, Beer" was no exception.


One of the most prominent themes in "Poetry, Beer" is the celebration of the simple pleasures of life. The poem is essentially a comparison between poetry and beer, with the latter being portrayed as the superior pleasure. This theme is evident in the opening lines of the poem:

For the woes of the poet who sings Of the sorrow that clings to kings, I propose, as a means of relief, The drinking of bottled beer.

Here, Calverley is suggesting that beer is a remedy for the woes of poets, who often write about the sorrows of life. The poet is encouraged to enjoy the simple pleasure of drinking beer, rather than dwelling on the melancholy of the world.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the contrast between high and low culture. Poetry is often considered to be a high art form, while beer is seen as a lowbrow pleasure. Calverley challenges this notion by elevating beer to the same level as poetry. He writes:

Let the beer be brought in, and the bard Shall have nought but the muse for his guard; And the beer shall his Helicon be, And his Hippocrene bottled beer!

Here, Calverley is implying that beer can be just as inspiring as the muses of poetry. He is subverting the idea that high culture is superior to low culture, and suggesting that there is value in both.


The style of "Poetry, Beer" is light and humorous, with a touch of satire. Calverley employs a singsong rhyme scheme and playful language to convey his message. For example:

It is better by far that the poet should drink Of the ale that is brewed by the kindly mayde, Than that he should seek for a theme, and think Of the woes and the sorrows of life portrayed.

The use of archaic language and the humorous misspelling of "mayde" adds to the light-hearted tone of the poem. Calverley also uses repetition and alliteration to create a musical quality to the poem. For instance:

Bring the beer; and let it foam and sparkle, Like the spray on a rocky ledge, Let it trickle from the beaker darkle, Like a rivulet from the mountain's edge.

The repetition of the "let it" phrase and the use of alliteration in "foam and sparkle" and "beaker darkle" create a rhythmic and musical effect, adding to the joyous tone of the poem.


"Poetry, Beer" can be interpreted as a commentary on the Victorian society's obsession with high culture and the dismissal of lowbrow pleasures. Calverley is suggesting that there is value in simple pleasures like drinking beer, and that it can be just as inspiring as poetry. The poem can also be seen as a celebration of life's little joys, and a reminder that we don't always need grand pleasures to find happiness.

Furthermore, the poem can be seen as a subversion of the idea that poets must suffer for their art. Calverley is suggesting that poets should not dwell on the sorrows of life, but instead seek solace in the simple pleasures of life. This interpretation is particularly relevant today, where many artists and writers are encouraged to embrace their struggles as a means of creating great art.


In conclusion, "Poetry, Beer" is a delightful ode to the simple pleasures of life, and a subversion of the idea that high culture is superior to low culture. Calverley's use of humor and playful language add to the joyful tone of the poem, and his celebration of life's little joys is a reminder that happiness can be found in the most unexpected places. So, the next time you feel down, crack open a cold one and recite "Poetry, Beer" - you might just find that the simple pleasure of a good beer is all you need to find happiness. Cheers!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Beer: A Classic Masterpiece by Charles Stuart Calverley

If you are a lover of poetry and beer, then you are in for a treat with Charles Stuart Calverley's classic poem, "Poetry Beer." This witty and humorous piece is a perfect blend of two of life's greatest pleasures, and Calverley's clever use of language and imagery will leave you both entertained and enlightened.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the joys of drinking beer, with its frothy head and refreshing taste. However, the speaker then goes on to compare beer to poetry, stating that both are "a thing of beauty and a joy forever." This comparison sets the stage for the rest of the poem, as Calverley explores the similarities between these two seemingly disparate things.

One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry Beer" is Calverley's use of metaphor and personification. He describes beer as having a "sparkling eye," and as being "full of mirth and frolic." These descriptions not only make the beer seem more alive and vibrant, but they also create a sense of joy and celebration that is central to the poem's overall tone.

Calverley also uses metaphor to describe poetry, stating that it is like "a crystal stream that flows forever." This comparison not only highlights the beauty and purity of poetry, but it also suggests that poetry is something that is eternal and unchanging, much like a stream that flows continuously.

Another key aspect of "Poetry Beer" is Calverley's use of humor and irony. He pokes fun at the idea of poetry being a serious and lofty pursuit, stating that "the bard who sings of war and love / Must drink of ale, like common men." This line not only highlights the absurdity of the idea that poetry is only for the elite, but it also suggests that beer is something that can bring people together, regardless of their social status.

Calverley also uses irony to great effect in the poem's final stanza, where he states that "the poet's soul is like the beer / And both are brewed with care." This line not only suggests that poetry and beer are similar in their creation, but it also implies that the poet's soul is something that can be enjoyed and appreciated, much like a good beer.

Overall, "Poetry Beer" is a masterful piece of poetry that combines humor, metaphor, and irony to create a unique and memorable work. Calverley's use of language and imagery is both clever and insightful, and his comparison of beer and poetry is both entertaining and enlightening. Whether you are a lover of poetry, beer, or both, "Poetry Beer" is a must-read that is sure to leave you both amused and inspired.

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