Inebriety "The Muddy Ecstasies Of Beer"
by George Crabbe

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"The Muddy Ecstasies Of Beer"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: While he was apprenticed to a surgeon at Woodbridge, Crabbe wrote a number of poems which he later wished to suppress. Inebriety, first published in pamphlet form, was one of them. As a surgeon's apprentice, the poet had had opportunity to observe many cases of intemperance, and he drew upon those observations to describe the vice of drunkenness. The poem is, deliberately, in imitation of Alexander Pope's satires earlier in the century, as Crabbe observed for the reader in the Preface to the poem. At the beginning of the work Crabbe announces his subject in mock-heroic fashion, echoing both Virgil and Pope: "The mighty spirit, and its power, which stains/ The bloodless cheek, and vivifies the brains,/ I sing." The poet goes on to describe the varieties of liquors popular among the different classes and the pseudo peace of mind alcohol brings to its devotees. He describes the clergyman addicted to alcohol and then the ordinary man, a drinker of ale, in words reminiscent of Pope's lines on the Indian:

Lo! the poor toper whose untutor'd sense,
Sees bliss in ale, and can with wine dispense;
Whose head proud fancy never taught to steer,
Beyond the muddy ecstacies of beer;
But simple nature can her longing quench,
Behind the settle's curve, or humbler bench:
Some kitchen fire diffusing warmth around,
The semi-globe of hieroglyphics crown'd;
Where canvass purse displays the brass enroll'd,
Nor waiters rave, nor landlord thirst for gold;
Ale and content his fancy's bounds confine,
He asks no limpid punch, no rosy wine;
But sees, admitted to an equal share,
Each faithful swain the heady potion bear:
Go wiser thou! and in thy scale of taste,
Weigh gout and gravel against ale and rest.