Friday, March 6, 2009

Ralph Erskine: "Smoking Spiritualized" - Puritan Tobacco Poetry

While we're on the subject...

Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) was a Scottish churchman and pastor who apparently saw some serious spiritual analogies in smoking tobacco. So much so that he expressed it in poetry. Enjoy!

PART I

This Indian weed now wither'd quite,
'Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe so lily-like and weak,
Does thus thy mortal state bespeak.
Thou art ev'n such,
Gone with a touch.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Then thou behold'st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;
For then the fire,
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away;
Then to thyself thou mayest say
That to the dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

PART II.

Was this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what's the pow'r
Of Jesse's flow'r?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon's rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
In vain th' unlighted pipe you blow;

Your pains in inward means are so,
'Till heav'nly fire
Thy heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The smoke, like burning incense tow'rs

So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

3 comments:

Michael Rew said...

I kind of liked it. :o)

VirginiaHuguenot said...

Ralph Erskine wrote the second half of the poem but the authorship of the first half is unknown.

See here for more information:

http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/lit/poetry/AncientPoemsBallads/chap9.html

inthylight said...

Source (from Google Books)