Are there more poems devoted to the joys of tea than to its cousin in the hot beverage field, coffee? I haven’t done the research and thus concede that I might be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that there are. There’s just something about tea that inspires devotion and praise in a way that few other beverages can match.
Take Panacea: A Poem Upon Tea in Two Canto’s. It’s a work that was published all the way back in 1700 by one Nehum Tate (1652-1715). Tate had just been appointed the poet laureate of England in 1692 and ended up holding that spot for more than two decades. One of the earliest of arguably one of the most substantial paeans to Camellia sinensis, Tate’s poem is readily available these days in various electronic editions, thanks to the miracle of the Internet age.
One slight downside to reading this hymn to tea is that most of the editions that are available (or at least the ones I found) tend to be laid out in an odd manner. Add to this the fact that the English language was quite a different creature 300 years ago and the challenges are compounded a bit.
But if you’re brave enough to forge on ahead you’ll find the praises of tea put forth in a lofty manner eminently suited to the poet laureates of this age. As the poet notes, early on, of a group of tea drinkers who have recently imbibed:
With silertt Wonder mutually they Trace
Bright Joys reflected on each other’s Face.
Then thus the Bard—Fear no Circæan Bowls,
This is the Drink of Health, the Drink of Souls!
Later in the work, which runs to nearly forty pages in the electronic edition, Tate concludes:
Tip Tea sustains, Tea only can inspire
The Poet’s Flame, that feeds the Hero’s Fire.
Well said, sir. If you’re ready to try out one of the electronic editions of Tate’s poem you might want to start with the Google Books version.
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