Thursday, February 17, 2005


We went to New Bern this morning to do a school show. Down East, as they say, tobacco is big, so I sang this song by Tobias Hume (1605), it's the earliest tobacco jingle I know.
Tobacco, Tobacco, sing sweetely for Tobacco,
Tobacco is like love, O love it
for you see I wil prove it
Love maketh leane the fatte mens tumor, so doth Tobacco,
Love still dries uppe the wanton humor, so doth Tobacco,
love makes men sayle from shore to shore, so doth Tobacco
Tis fond love often makes men poor, so doth Tobacco
Love makes men scorne al Coward feares, so doth Tobacco
Love often sets men by the eares, so doth Tobacco.
Tobacco, Tobacco, sing sweetely for Tobacco,
Tobacco is like Love, O love it,
For you see I have prowde it.
In 1617 Dr. William Vaughn took exception:
Tobacco that outlandish weede
It spends the braine and spoiles the seede
It dulls the spirite, it dims the sight
It robs a woman of her right
The cultivation of "ancient tobacco" in the Americas dates back more than 2,000 years, as witness a Mayan vase decorated with dancing, smoking skeletons.

Native Americans smoked tobacco in pipes; snorted it; chewed it; made cigars and cigarettes wrapped in corn husks; swallowed it in pellet form as a tranquilizer; and made poultices of snake fat rolled in tobacco leaves. ("Mixing tobacco seed," right.)

Rodrigo de Jerez carried tobacco back across the Atlantic. Spaniards were dumbfounded by the smoke pouring from his mouth and -- deciding he was possessed by the devil -- put him in prison. It's tough being an early adopter. By the time he got out of the pokey, smoking was all the rage. More.

Jean Nicot de Villemain, an early promoter of tobacco's magical power, convinced Europeans it cured cancer, asthma, headaches, coughs, cramps, gout, worms, female troubles, skin diseases toothache, falling fingernails, halitosis and lockjaw.

In 1604 King James I wrote "A Counterblaste to Tobacco" and increased the import tax on it by 4,000%. He called smoking
A custome Lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmfull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomeless.
I was going to finish with the arch of tobacco across our North Carolina countryside, but frankly it's too depressing. Tobacco exhausts the soil; the burning and brutal logging that cleared the fields caused irreversible erosion. I live between Chapel Hill and Durham in the poor sort of forest that grows on worn-out land abandoned by farmers. Our trees, growing in no-topsoil earth, have such lousy root systems that during Hurricane Fran eight honking big ones fell on my house and crushed the roof in.

Oh, wait, I finished that last sentence with a preposition, let me try again: "Eight honking big ones fell on my house and in-crushed the roof."

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At 5:14 PM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Yup, Europeans bought Manhatten for 24 dollars worth of 'stuff.'They gave us tobacco.

Makes you wonder who really got the better end of the deal.

I know, not PC.

At 2:18 AM, Blogger finnegan said...

New Bern? I live in Switzerland and Bern is the capital here....gotta check it out.

This Tobacco category is cool; definitely unexpected and the reason I entered.

Oh, and you can leave that preposition at the end of your sentence, since it's the second part of a separable phrasal verb---you've turned it into a funny adjective, which I think I'm going to adopt. :-O


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