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Bacchus, the god of wine-Anacreon, the Poet-Anacreontic Verse
English Bacchanalian Lyrics-American Drinking Songs African Bacchanalians—“To Anacreon in Heaven"— Ralph Tomlinson—“Star Spangled Banner"— Invasion and Capture of Washingon in 1814-Destruction of Public Buildings— Battle of Bladensburg— Invasion of Baltimore-Fort McHenry“Rockets' red glare - Francis S. Key—“The Star Spangled Banner" imperishable.
Bacchus, styled the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and Semele, daughter of Cadmus. On a voyage to the Island of Naxos, Bacchus fell into the hands of Tyrrhenian pirates, who bound him with cords, intending to sell him as a slave. But the cords fell from his limbs, vines with clustering grapes spread over the sail, and ivy, laden with berries, ran up the masts and sides of the vessel. The god, thereupon assuming the form of a lion, seized the captain of the ship, and the terrified crew, to escape him, leaped into the sea and became dolphins. The pilot alone, who had taken the part of Bacchus, remained on board; the god then declared to him who he was, and took him under his protection. He discovered the culture of the grape vine, and the mode of extracting the precious liquor from the fruit. Bacchus became a great warrior, and India, in particular, was the scene of his conquests. He marched at the head of an army composed of both men and women, and inspired all with divine fury, and armed with clashing cymbals and other musical instruments, and uttering the wildest cries. His conquests were easy and without bloodshed; the nations readily submitted, and the god taught them the use of the vine, the cultivation of the earth, and the art of making honey.
Anacreon, the great master of Bacchanalian song, was born at Teos, a city of Ionia, in the early part of the sixth century before the Christian era. He attained the age of eighty-five years, and the popular opinion is that he died from suffocation in consequence of swallowing a grape-stone while in the act of drinking wine.
“The first Bacchanalian songs were the hymns sung at the Greek mysteries and festivals of Bacchus. Those of the earliest age, still bearing the impress of an oriental origin, specimens of which occur in the orphic and similar hymns, are dignified and mystical. When, however, these solemn rites became more public, and gradually changed to maddening orgies, the character of the song changed also. Then, as Faber informs us, the worshipers strove to urge each other to excesses of daring licentiousness.”
“The drinking songs of Anacreon have all the gayety of their subject, without
any of its grossness. His assumed philosophy, however irrational in itself, gives a dignity to his manner; and there is a pathos in the thought, of fleeting life, which perhaps constitutes the secret charm of many of these effusions of voluptuousness. Greek poetry relating to wine and Bacchus appears to have expired with the collossal effort of Nonus of Egypt, who, in the fifth century wrote forty-eight books of Dionysiacs, in which, singularly enough, we have a return to the old faith which makes Bacchus the great central god. Of all the Romans, Horace was, however, emphatically the Bacchanalian poet, commending drinking in a downright manner previously unknown to the luxurious orientalized winesingers of antiquity. The middle ages were, however, prolific in wild drinking songs, the most celebrated being that by Walter Mapes, written in the twelfth century, and sung to this day in German universities.” A few verses from the American Encyclopædia:
“Brightest souls on earth below have by the goblet thriven,
"In my soul the sparkling fount of prophecy outwelling, Ne'er was felt until with wine my every vein was swelling, But when Bacchus in my brain holds his lordly dwelling, Phoebus rushes into me glorious marvels telling." "For the credit of Mapes it should be stated that he puts this song into the confession of a be:-u ideal of a reprobate.”
“It would be impossible to give with any accuracy, an idea of the Bacchanalian minstrelsy of France, so prolific and yet so fleeting is its character; modern Italy has never been a land eminent in drinking songs, and its Bacchanalian lyrics generally are modeled after the classics, or in more recent days, after the French; but it may be fairly claimed that, of all languages, the English possesses at least the greatest variety of these lyrics. In its earlier stages it abounds with jovial, hearty staves, dedicated it is true, rather to Cambrinus, the saint of ale, than to Bacchus. Need we speak of Shakespeare and the revelers of the Mermaid, all of whom gave forth their drinking songs or catches so merrily? or of Herrick, who lacked but little of being the English Anacreon. The Jacobite songs of a later era, though political, are all desperately steeped in wine and strong waters, but it is first in Burns that we find a revival of the hearty old English drinking lyric. In America, where men sing less at table than elsewhere, some popular Bacchanalian songs have been produced, but they can hardly be said to form a distinct or original department in the literature of the country.”
The early part of the present century can, however, boast of one spirited Bacchanalian song which "lived beloved and died regretted” by all who knew it, and loved a gin-soaked brain better than I. It departed this life during the presidency of Jackson, and now appears to be silently sleeping beyond “that bourne whence no traveler returns.” A verse“Let the farmer praise his grounds, and the huntsman praise his
So baptise me in a hogshead of rum, rum, rum, rum,
keeps in sight of his master, doing whatever is done, and singing whatever is sung. He gaily sings his sentimental, comic, and Bacchanalian song, and in these, apes the white man, as well as in all the other refined courtesies of life. We have an instance of a sable disciple of Bacchus, and a cotemporary of ex-President Jefferson, at Monticello, returning from a village ho-down in Virginia, with jug closely in his embraces, when suddenly he was taken with a miscellaneous mixture of the legs, and brought to a halt among
grape vines at a late hour of the night. Uptripped by the rebellious vines, yet hugging his jug as his only hope, and indulging in pleasing reflections concerning his smiling little decanter at home, he is made to break the solitudes of night, and sing
I axes what am dat, am dat what ails me,
l'se tangled in de wines;
Ob grog I has de signs.
So cheerin' and so gay;
But now we's lost de way.
I staggers as I walks;
I stutters as I talks.
O yes l’se sure I does;
My ears begin to buz.
O speak, I fears you's def:
I’se got so short o' breff.
I can't sleep here o' nights;
And sees mos shockin' sights.
I axes why sich things, sich things, I wonders,
Do 'flict dis human race;
In dat decanter's face.
Ise gwine, I says, I says, to read de planets,
Dis night if freezin' keen;
To know what all dis mean.
And 'countered scrapes before ;
But not like dis Ise sure.
So cheerin' and so gay;
Leaving the sable Bacchanalian of Monticello to extricate himself from the vines of Bacchus as best he can, and find his way home, we go back to England, and call up one of her drinking lyrics—a song destined to trouble the Siloam of patriotism for many ages to come, Ralph Tomlinson, an English poet of whom very little is known, has left on record a song whose air and measure of verse bave formed the ground-work of a mighty monument of American patriotism. The music cannot be traced to its author, but it has been nationalized on this side of the Atlantic to live while American freedom endures. We mean the English Bacchanalian song, “To Anacreon in Heaven."
William H. Fry, Esq., of New York, than whom no higher authority on such subjects can be found in this country. writes-“The history of waifs, musical and poetical, is extremely difficult to ferret out. I do not think the authorship of the air "To Anacreon in He ren' can be discovered. The oldest setting of words to this air that I recall is an admirable drinking song~
“When Bibo went down to the regions below,' which I think is by Gay.”