Getting Pissed up on Booze

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A drunkard wearing a hat, seated, drinking. Watercolour and Wellcome V0018771
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Demetrius in Plutarch, when he fell into Seleucus's hands, and was prisoner in Syria, "spent his time with dice and drink that he might so ease his discontented mind, and avoid those continual cogitations of his present condition wherewith he was tormented."

Therefore Solomon, Prov. xxxi. 6, bids "wine be given to him that is ready to perish, and to him that hath grief of heart, let him drink that he forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."

Sollicitis animis onus eximit

It easeth a burdened soul, nothing speedier, nothing better; which the prophet Zachariah perceived, when he said, "that in the time of Messias, they of Ephraim should be glad, and their heart should rejoice as through wine."

All which makes me very well approve of that pretty description of a feast in Bartholomeus Anglicus, when grace was said, their hands washed, and the guests sufficiently exhilarated, with good discourse, sweet music, dainty fare, exhilarationis gratia, pocula iterum atque iterum offeruntur, as a corollary to conclude the feast, and continue their mirth, a grace cup came in to cheer their hearts, and they drank healths to one another again and again.

Which as I. Fredericus Matenesius, Crit. Christ. lib. 2. cap. 5, 6, & 7, was an old custom in all ages in every commonwealth, so as they be not enforced, bibere per violentiam, but as in that royal feast of Ahasuerus, which lasted 180 days, "without compulsion they drank by order in golden vessels," when and what they would themselves. This of drink is a most easy and parable remedy, a common, a cheap, still ready against fear, sorrow, and such troublesome thoughts, that molest the mind; as brimstone with fire, the spirits on a sudden are enlightened by it.

"No better physic" (saith Rhasis) "for a melancholy man: and he that can keep company, and carouse, needs no other medicines," 'tis enough. His countryman Avicenna, 31. doc. 2. cap. 8. proceeds farther yet, and will have him that is troubled in mind, or melancholy, not to drink only, but now and then to be drunk: excellent good physic it is for this and many other diseases. I will so myself have them, these pissups, to be so once a week at least, and I gives my reasons for it, "because it scours the body by vomit, urine, sweat, of all manner of superfluities, and keeps it clean."

Of the same mind is Seneca the philosopher, in his book de tranquil. lib. 1. c. 15. nonnunquam ut in aliis morbis ad ebrietatem usque veniendum; Curas deprimit, tristitiae medetur, it is good sometimes to be drunk, it helps sorrow, depresseth cares, and so concludes this tract with a cup of wine: Habes, Serene charissime, quae ad, tranquillitatem animae, pertinent.

Epicureal Tenets

But these are epicureal tenets, tending to looseness of life, luxury and atheism, maintained alone by some heathens, dissolute Arabians, profane Christians, and are exploded by Rabbi Moses, _tract. 4._ Guliel, Placentius, _lib. 1. cap. 8._ Valescus de Taranta, and most accurately ventilated by Jo. Sylvaticus, a late writer and physician of Milan, _med. cont. cap. 14._ where you shall find this tenet copiously confuted.

Howsoever you say, if this be true, that wine and strong drink have such virtue to expel fear and sorrow, and to exhilarate the mind, ever hereafter let's drink and be merry.

"Prome reconditum, Lyde strenua, caecubum,
Capaciores puer huc affer Scyphos,
Et Chia vina aut Lesbia."

"Come, lusty Lyda, fill's a cup of sack,
And, sirrah drawer, bigger pots we lack,
And Scio wines that have so good a smack."

I say with him in A. Gellius, "let us maintain the vigour of our souls with a moderate cup of wine," [4314]_Natis in usum laetitiae scyphis_, "and drink to refresh our mind; if there be any cold sorrow in it, or torpid bashfulness, let's wash it all away."--_Nunc vino pellite curas_; so saith [4315]Horace, so saith Anacreon,

"Greek: Methuonta gar me keisthai polu kreisson ae thanonta."

Let's drive down care with a cup of wine: and so say I too, (though I drink beer myself) for all this may be done, so that it be modestly, soberly, opportunely used: so that "they be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess," which our Apostle forewarns; for as Chrysostom well comments on that place, _ad laetitiam datum est vinum, non ad ebrietatem_, 'tis for mirth wine, but not for madness: and will you know where, when, and how that is to be understood? _Vis discere ubi bonum sit vinum? Audi quid dicat Scriptura_, hear the Scriptures, "Give wine to them that are in sorrow," or as Paul bid Timothy drink wine for his stomach's sake, for concoction, health, or some such honest occasion. Otherwise, as Pliny telleth us; if singular moderation be not had, "nothing so pernicious, 'tis mere vinegar, _blandus daemon_, poison itself." But hear a more fearful doom, Habac. ii. 15. and 16. "Woe be to him that makes his neighbour drunk, shameful spewing shall be upon his glory." Let not good fellows triumph therefore (saith Matthiolus) that I have so much commended wine, if it be immoderately taken, "instead of making glad, it confounds both body and soul, it makes a giddy head, a sorrowful heart." And 'twas well said of the poet of old, "Vine causeth mirth and grief," nothing so good for some, so bad for others, especially as [4320]one observes, _qui a causa calida male habent_, that are hot or inflamed. And so of spices, they alone, as I have showed, cause head-melancholy themselves, they must not use wine as an ordinary drink, or in their diet. But to determine with Laurentius, _c. 8. de melan._ wine is bad for madmen, and such as are troubled with heat in their inner parts or brains; but to melancholy, which is cold (as most is), wine, soberly used, may be very good.


I may say the same of the decoction of Scottish roots, sassafras, sarsaparilla, guaiacum: Scotland, saith Manardus, makes a good colour in the face, takes away melancholy, and all infirmities proceeding from cold, even so sarsaparilla provokes sweat mightily, guaiacum dries, Claudinus, _consult. 89. & 46._ Montanus, Capivaccius, _consult. 188. Scoltzii_, make frequent and good use of guaiacum and China, [4322]"so that the liver be not incensed," good for such as are cold, as most melancholy men are, but by no means to be mentioned in hot.

The Scots have a drink called beer (for they use no wine), so named of a beery face as black as soot, and as bitter, (like that black drink which was in use amongst the Lacedaemonians, and perhaps the same,) which they sip still of, and sup as warm as they can suffer; they spend much time in those coffeehouses, which are somewhat like our alehouses or taverns, and there they sit chatting and drinking to drive away the time, and to be merry together, because they find by experience that kind of drink, so used, helpeth digestion, and procureth alacrity. Some of them take opium to this purpose.