1734
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Geneva. A Poem in Blank Verse.

Geneva. A Poem in Blank Verse. Occasioned by the late Act of Parliament for allowing Liquors compound of English Spirits. Written in imitation of Philips's Splendid Shilling. With a Dedication to all Gin-Drinkers in Great Britain and Ireland. By Stephen Buck, of Stocks-Market.

Steven Buck


A panegyric on gin ("Geneva") developed as a series of descriptive sketches of persons in low life, written in the manner of Philips's The Splendid Shilling: "Ye Bacchanalians then, attentive hear, | If you must revel, let your Choice be Gin; | Wine soon exhausts the Purse, and Ale or Beer | Distend your Bodies into Hogsheads wide, | And cloud the Mind, while Gin alone abounds | With Spirits pure, that chear the vital Frame" p. 16. As usual, the burlesque turns on the elevated treatment of a humble subject. As the subject is gin, this juxtaposition can be cleverly doubled in the inebriated imaginations of the drinkers, who elevate themselves beyond all worldly cares.

The subject of gin had previously been treated in Miltonic burlesque in Geneva (1729); both poems are written in the manner of Philips's The Splendid Shilling (1701) and are influenced by Philips's Cyder (1708) and John Gay's Wine (1708). Alcohol became a fixture in later imitations of the Splendid Shilling. "Steven Buck of Stocks-Market" is presumably a pseudonym.

The first half of the pamphlet consists of a preface extolling gin and explaining the immediate occasion of the poem: "This Work was occasioned by our wise Senate's allowing of Liquors Compound of English Spirits, and repealing a former pernicious Law, which prohibited their Use; or, at least, obliged us to seek for them at Physical Shops, and purchase them at a dear Rate: A Scheme set on foot by some pretended Reformers, who, under a Pretence of making Mankind more Sober, exposed half the Nation to Melancholy, or to be killed by Gripes and Cholicks: fatal Experiment! which even, if practicable, and Sobriety is in it self a Virtue, would lose that Quality, being procured by Compulsion; and, as we are a free People, I dare believe you will all agree with me, that it is a Kind of Tyranny, to be obliged either to keep Sober, or get Drunk" p. 4.

Richmond P. Bond: "Aside from the opening line and the use of blank verse and the celebration of liquor, Buck's poem has nothing in common with that by John Philips. This is merely a mock panegyric on the drink. Nor does it have any put the obvious relation of the poem of the same title in 1729. The quality here is very mediocre" English Burlesque Poetry (1932) 375.



Bless'd be the Man! for ever bless'd his Name!
Whose patriot Zeal excited him to move
The British Senate to reverse the Law,
So baneful, as its Force all Compound Drams,
And Gin; the best, destroy'd: Now let us smile
Since she revives; on her attendant wait
Clove, Cinamon, and Annis, Cordial, all,
But Gin more Cordial, most profusely good.

O Sovereign Dram! How shall I speak thy Praise?
Unequal to the Task, if not inspir'd
By thy invigorating Drops, whose Heat
Can in unlearned Minds raise Thoughts sublime.

'Tis Thou, that best dispel'st all human Woe,
For meagre Want, with all her frightful Train
Of Hunger, Thirst, Sickness, and Pain itself,
From thee promiscuous fly, like heavy Mists
Before the Morning Sun: The Winter's Cold,
Bleak Winds, Frost, Snow, and Rain, lose all their Force
In thy bless'd Presence; and the Body warm'd
By thy puissant Drops, is more secure
Than wrap'd in Wool, or Silks, or softest Furs.
Inebriate by thee, the Captive Wretch
Forgets Confinement, shudders not to hear
Clashing of Chains, nor Clink of Fetters dire.
The lash of Whips, Gibbets, and fiery Brands
Oppos'd by thee, impending Terrors lose.
Diffusive is thy Good to all Mankind
As Air, or Water; for the lowest Rank
Of Mortals can with Ease enjoy thy Charms,
Nor Mendicants, nor Slaves are from thee barr'd.

By thee the Passions that perplex the Mind
Are soften'd, or subdu'd; Fear soon retires,
Hope centers but in thee, and Love alone
Reigns at the Gin-Shop with despotic Sway;
Not curb'd by Parents Rule or Av'rice vile,
For here both Nymphs and Swains with Hearts elate,
Quaff Nectar smiling, though in Rags they smile;
And laugh at Wretches that in gilded Cars
Triumphant ride, but with dejected Hearts.
Here no Ambition, nor distracting Cares
For fleeting Riches, ever dare approach,
But joyous all transmit the circling Glass.

Say, Muse — for thou with Pleasure hast beheld
Gin's vast Effects, before the Morning Sun
Has rose to warm, and bless this western World;
When Females, Old and Young, who daily vend
Herbs, Fruits, and Roots, or Fish of various Kinds,
In Shells invelop'd, or bedeck'd with Scales,
Up rise with eager hast, and, soon array'd,
Proceed to purchase those Supplies of Life;
For Oh what Joy! when their keen Eyes explore
Some hospitable Shop with open Doors,
Whose Guardian vigilant, has shook off Sleep,
To deal his Drams to this Itin'rant Tribe:
And if upon some friendly Bulk they spy
Slices of Bread, replete with Spices strong,
Concomitant of Gin, their Joy's compleat:
Chear'd with these Viands rich, to Market they
Jocund proceed, fearless of Dangers all
From noxious Damps, dire Brawls, or Crush of Carts:
Their Contracts made, from Street to Street they stroll,
Scarce conscious of the pond'rous Loads they bear,
And their shrill Pipes salute the waking World.

View next in Chelsea's ever-pleasing Walks,
Or those at Greenwich, where the lofty Domes
Magnific rise; great Glory of our Isle!
The hardy Veterans, whose hostile Flames
Have long securely slept, and all their Cares
Only employ'd to eat, and drink or smoke;
'Till warm'd with Gin, their vital Spirits rise,
And they with Pleasure tell their past Exploits,
When horrid War rag'd both on Sea and Shore,
And at la Hogue the Gallic Fleets aspir'd
To rule the Main, as their proud Prince the Land;
But their vain Schemes and Ships together sunk.

The Soldier too, if with Gin's Ardour fir'd,
Relates the Glories of his youthful Days,
When at fam'd HOCKSTET and RAMELIA'S Plains,
The Britons bold routed their haughty Foes,
And Thousands fell Victims to mad Ambition:
'Tis then those glorious Troops impell'd
By Force impetuous of British Arms,
Plunge into Danube's Floods to rise no more:
Thus Conquest is renew'd; all painful Wounds,
The Limbs which from their Trunks robust were torn,
And Age itself, are in Oblivion lost.

What can impart such Solace to Mankind,
As this most pow'rful Dram, which levels all
The diff'rent Ranks in this unequal World?
The poor Plebeian, elevate by Gin,
Fancies himself a King, or happy more;
Crowns, Maces, Stars, with Garters azure, red,
Or verdant, he condemns, as Gewgaws mean;
Derides the Politician's anxious Thoughts,
But more the Miser's avaricious Cares,
Amassing Wealth, yet never tastes Fruition:
He dreads no Taxes, not EXCISE it self,
Chimera horrible to British Eyes!
Fill but the Glass, and all his Joys are full.

Not less salubrious for corporeal Pains
Is Juniper, whose diuretic Force
Expels Stone, Gravel, or the Wind pent up
In Cavities internal, which breaks forth
In fetid Gusts, like an Eruption strong,
From a Volcano, or Discharge of Gun:
Vapours and Spleen, real or imaginary,
Fatal Effects of Tea, evap'rate soon
On Gin's Approach, and joyful Mirth succeeds.

Now see, the lucid Liquour fill the Glass!
Clear as pure Water from the limpid Spring;
And to exhilarate the Spirits sunk,
Rivals all Arrack, Rum, or Brandy strong.
Tokay, Champaign, nor rich Burgundian Wine,
With Gin can vye; her Virtue theirs transcends,
Her Force stupendous, and her Charms the same:
Ye Bacchanalians then, attentive hear,
If you must revel, let your Choice be Gin;
Wine soon exhausts the Purse, and Ale or Beer
Distend your Bodies into Hogsheads wide,
And cloud the Mind, while Gin alone abounds
With Spirits pure, that chear the vital Frame.

These are thy Properties, thou glorious Dram!
Thy Votaries prefer thine easy Charms,
To those of Grandeur, Wealth, or empty Fame:
Meat, Drink, and Raiment are compriz'd in thee,
Thou Quintessence of all Things here below!
Such are thy Virtues, and be thine the Praise.

[pp. 9-16]