Apr. 23rd, 2010

morgainex: (witchcraft)
The Witches’ Brew

- E. J. Pratt

Perched on a dead volcanic pile,
Now charted as a submerged peak,
Near to a moon-washed coral isle,
A hundred leagues from Mozambique,
Three water-witches of the East,
Under the stimulus of rum,
Decided that the hour had come
To hold a Saturnalian feast,
In course of which they hoped to find
For their black art, once and for all,
The true effect of alcohol
Upon the cold, aquatic mind.
From two Phoenicians who were drowned,
The witches three (whose surnames ran
Lulu, Ardath, Maryan)
Had by an incantation found
A cavern near the coast of Crete,
And saw, when they had entered in,
A blacksmith with a dorsal fin,
Whose double pectorals and webbed feet
Proved—while his dusky shoulders swung—
His breed to be of land and water,
Last of great Neptune’s stock that sprung
From Vulcan’s union with his daughter.
The sisters’ terms accepted, he,
Together with his family,
Left his native Cretan shore
To dig the witches’ copper ore
Out of their sub-aquaceous mines
In the distant Carolines,
And forge a cauldron that might stand,
Stationary and watertight,
A thousand cubits in its height,
Its width a thousand breadths as spanned
By the smith’s gigantic hand,
So that each fish, however dry,
Might have, before the Feast was through,
His own demonstrable supply
Of this Pan-Oceanic brew.
A thousand leagues or so away
Down the Pacific to Cape Horn,
And Southwards from Magellan lay
A table-land to which was borne
This cauldron from the Carolines,
For here, as well the sisters knew,
The Spanish conquerors of Peru
Had stored their rich and ancient wines,
About the time the English burst
Upon their galleons under Drake,
Who sank or captured them to slake
A vast Elizabethan thirst.
With pick and bar the Cretan tore
His way to the interior
Of every sunken ship whose hold
Had wines almost four centuries old.
Upon the broad Magellan floors,
Great passage-way from West to East,
Were also found more recent stores,
The products of a stronger yeast.
For twenty years or thereabout,
The Bacchanals of Western nations,
Scenting universal drought,
Had searched the ocean to find out
The most secluded ports and stations,
Where unmolested they might go
‘To serve their god while here below,’
With all the strength of their libations.
So to the distant isles there sailed,
In honour of the ivy god,
Scores of log-loaded ships that hailed
From Christiania to Cape Cod
With manifests entitled ham,
Corn beef, molasses, chamois milk,
Cotton, Irish linen, silk,
Pickles, dynamite and jam,
And myriad substances whose form
Dissolved into quite other freights,
Beneath the magic of a storm
That scattered them around the Straits;
For this is what the blacksmith read,
While raking up the ocean bed:—
Budweiser, Guinness, Schlitz (in kegs),
Square Face Gin and Gordon’s Dry,
O’Brien’s, Burke’s and Johnny Begg’s,
Munich, Bock, and Seagram’s Rye,
Dewar’s, Hennessey’s 3 Star,
Glenlivet, White Horse and Old Parr,
With Haig and Haig, Canadian Club,
Jamaica Rum, and other brands
Known to imbibers in all lands
That stock from Brewery or Pub.
All these the Cretan, with the aid
Of his industrious progeny,
Drew to the cauldron, and there laid,
By order of the witches three,
The real foundation for the spree.

Online text © 1998-2010 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From The Witches’ Brew | London: Selwyn and Blount, 1925


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