spacer1. Soon after tobacco’s introduction to Europe, the plant’s virtues were hailed in prose and verse. It was also reviled as a noxious weed. As in the case of marijuana in the twentieth century, few were indifferent. We present here the best Latin encomium of tobacco, the Hymnus Tabaci of Raphael Thorius, which enjoyed several editions in Latin and three English translations. The poem’s combination of mythology, medicine, and tips for cultivating the leaf may strike a modern as bizarre, but such a combination was not rare at the time. This introduction will briefly treat the literature of tobacco in the first decades of the seventeenth century, Thorius’ life and works, and the various English translations of the Hymnus.
spacer2. First introduced to Spain about 1520, tobacco rapidly became an article of commerce. It had several names in Latin: paetum (from a South American language and widely used in France, and also, in the form petun, by John Dunbar, epigram VI.6), tabacum (from a Caribbean language; the first vowel alternates between a and o), and herba panacea. A common later name was herba nicotiana, because the French traveler and man of letters, Jean Nicot, sent samples back to France in 1559. There it was sponsored by Catherine de Medici, the consort of King Henri II, and was occasionally called herba Catherina, or herbe médicée, prompting a blast from George Buchanan, which is perhaps the first mention of tobacco in Latin verse (Buchanan 1725 420f. meter from Horace, Epodes 14 and 15).

Doctus ab Hesperiis rediens Nicotius oris,
spacerspacer Nicotianam rettulit,
Nempe salutiferam cunctis languoribus herbam,
spacerspacer Prodesse cupidus patriae.
At Medice Catherina,
κάθαρμα luesque suorum,
spacerspacer Medea saeculi sui
Ambitione ardens, Medicaeae nomine plantam
spacerspacer Nicotianam adulterat;
Utque bonis cives prius exuit, exuere herbae
spacerspacer Honore vult Nicotium.
At vos auxilium membris qui quaeritis aegris,
spacerspacer Abominandi nominis
A planta cohibete manus, os claudite, et aures
spacerspacer A peste tetra occludite.
Nectar enim virus fiet, Panacea venenum,
spacerspacer Medicaea si vocabitur.

[“That learned man Nicot, returning from the lands of Hesperus,
Wanting to aid his country,
Brought back the Nicotian herb,
Helpful indeed for all ailments.
But Catherine de Medici, the plague and bane of her people,
The Medea of her age,
Lusting for stardom, adulterated the Nicotian herb
With the name ‘Medicean.’
Just as before she had robbed Frenchmen of their goods, now
She wishes to rob Nicot of the honor of the name.
But you who seek help for sick bodies
Keep your hand away from a plant of such abominable name,
Close your mouths, and block your ears
To this vicious plague.
For nectar will become poison, a panacea will be toxic,
If it is called ‘Medicean.’”]

Note that Buchanan has a favorable view of tobacco, which is salutifera cunctis languoribus. He simply hates the name herba Medicaea; this is the vicious plague, not the herb itself. Buchanan’s pupil, the later King James I, had a very different view, as we shall see.
spacer3. Supposedly introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, smoking became popular in England in the 1580’s or thereabouts (earliest mention in 1577; James VI/I 81-2). Raleigh’s friend Sir Edmund Spenser apparently had a favorable view of the leaf. At Faerie Queene III.5.32 the nymph Belphoebe, “as faire as Phoebus sunne,” finds a wounded squire:

Into the woods thenceforth in hast she went,
To seeke for hearbes, that mote him remedy;
For she of hearbes had great intendiment,
Taught of the Nymphe, which from her infancy
Her nourced had in trew Nobility:
There, whether it diuine
Tobacco were,
Panachaea, or Polygony, She found, and brought it to her patient deare
Who al this while lay bleeding out his hart-bloud neare.

spacer4. Shortly thereafter there appeared a long English poem, The Metamorphosis of Tabacco, anonymous, but attributed to John Beaumont, elder brother of the dramatist Francis Beaumont. Beaumont’s poem continued the established poetic conceit of giving a Greco-Roman mythological origin for newly discovered substances. (The model is Fracastoro’s Syphilis, in which a shepherd, the Syphilis of the title, offends the sun god and is afflicted with that horrible disease. But men discover a marvelous cure, Guaiacum, the secretion of a mystic tree, and are saved.) In Beaumont’s poem, Earth calls a parliament in America in which she laments the fall of Prometheus. In order to restore him to the skies, she produces a plant from her forehead and orders that every lady shall that herbe endow / With the best gemmes that deck her glorious brow. This plant will restore life to Prometheus’ creature, man. The Americans have enjoyed this herb, but Europeans have only lately learned of it. Beaumont then recounts another myth about tobacco’s origin. Apollo is so enamored of a fair nymph dwelling in Wingandekoe (Which now a farre more glorious name doth beare / Since a more beautious Nymph was worshipt there, i. e. Virginia) that he stops the sun’s course for a day. Arraigned before Jupiter, he defends himself so eloquently that Jupiter himself in a sillie shepheards weeds debas’t, comes down to see this nymph and sings of his love. Juno hears of Jupiter’s amour and turns the nymph into a tobacco plant. But,

Yet could not Jove forget his former love,
But joyning earthly powers and powers above,
Therewith he did adorne this glorious bud,
And fram’d it as a Micro-cosme of good,
Making the ground where this sweet plant did spring
To be a cordiall gainst each noysome thing,
Endu’d with force all evils to asswage,
And now began the famous golden age.
(p. 27)

spacer5. But Proserpina spitefully abuses the herb, and all pains and plagues are let loose on the world, the start of the iron age. Eventually Jupiter and Apollo restore order and make a new golden age. The contributions of tobacco to this golden age are sung at some length — and not just in matters of health. Tobacco has inspired the modern Muse. Formerly the olive and the bay were signs of peace and praise. Now tobacco has taken their place:

Blest age! wherein the Indian Sunne had shin’d,
Whereby all Arts, all tongues have beene refin’d;
Learning, long buried in the darke abysme
Of dunsticall and monkish barbarisme,
When once this herbe by carefull paines was found,
Spring up like Cadmus followers from the ground,
Which Muses visitation bindeth us
More to great Cortez and Vespucius,
Then to our wittie Mores immortall name,
To Valla, or the learned Rott’redame...
(p. 44)

That is to say, England is now more indebted to the Spanish and Italian explorers (because of the money spent on tobacco and the leaf’s hold on men’s minds) than to the national or northern European intellectual explorers, who visited Utopia and the realms of the Muses. In any case, tobacco has brought progress to every art and science. Beaumont’s poem anticipates several themes in Thorius’ Hymnus: both place tobacco firmly in Greco-Roman mythology and both retail tobacco as a panacea for all ills. Thorius, as a physician, adds medical details, in addition to tips for growing the plant.
spacer6. Not everyone was convinced of tobacco’s virtues. The next noteworthy contribution to the literature was “A Counter-blaste to Tobacco,” by King James I (1604). This short essay by a king who can be called the first smoke Nazi inspired other literary anti-tobacco efforts by contemporary novelists and poets. King James does not attack smoking for health reasons, as today; indeed he admits that the weed can promote health, that hot, dry tobacco is good for cold, moist brains, and that smoke expels plagues and rheums (a general term for the common cold, influenza, various allergic reactions). Thorius makes the same points. The king, however, maintains that these virtues are exaggerated. He attacks from another direction:

1. Tobacco’s origin: what good can come of imitating the beastly practices of the barbarous Indies? Moreover this custom has been introduced “by a father [thinking of the Latin pater, i .e., nobleman] so generally hated.“ He is referring to Sir Walter Raleigh, who was then in the Tower of London charged with plotting against the king.

2. Tobacco is addictive: “Many are not able to forbeare the same, no more then an olde drunkard can abide to be long sober.” Addicts weaken the state because of their need to constantly spend money on this imported drug.

3. Tobacco, like wine, excites lust and drunkenness.

4. Tobacco is expensive.

5. Tobacco’s stench and filth are unbearable. It corrupts the sweetness of man’s breath. How can a husband “not bee ashamed, to reduce thereby his delicate, wholesome, and cleane complexioned wife, to that extremitie, that either shee must also corrupt her sweete breath therewith, or else resolve to live in a perpetuall stinking torment.” The Counter-blaste was translated into Latin by a Bishop Montague as Misocapnus, seu de abusu Tobacci. Lusus regius (James VI 120). The king did not confine himself to verbal attacks. He raised the import duty on tobacco from 2d per pound to 6 shillings 10 d., a substantial sum at the time (James VI 113).

spacer7. In 1605 Joseph Hall, later Bishop of Exeter and the author of the first set of Theophrastan characters in English, wrote his satirical utopia Mundus Alter et Idem, in which a traveler, Mercurius Britannicus, visits a southern continent whose inhabitants display the contrary to the four virtues, temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude, i. e., gluttony, stupidity, criminality, and cowardice. In the land of stupidity, Moronia, the traveler marvels:

Incolarum plerosque non pane, non cibo, sed fumo herbae non bene olentis, nec hercle salutaris, victitare; quem ore quidem excipiunt, naribus egerunt, ut ex istis tot interim caminos facere plurima hinc generosiorum patrimonia in fumos exhalasse et e domini sui naso turpiter evolasse.

[“The majority of the inhabitants live, not on bread and meat, but on the smoke of a stinking plant (by heavens, not a wholesome one), which they take in by the mouth and expel through the nostrils, so that, thanks to these, they seem to be so many ovens...and most of their patrimonies seem to have gone up in smoke, shamefully squandered out of their owners’ noses.”]

Men report that a clever, but worthless, nobleman named Topia Warallador had brought this habit from some Indian demon (Hall III.7.2). Hall’s own note to this passage identifies Topia Wari as a king of Guiana. Sir Walter Raleigh had brought Topia Wari’s son to England; thus it is clear that “Warallador” refers to Raleigh, who was hated by King James for reasons mentioned above.
spacer8. As a result, courtiers who hoped for advancement at the court were well advised to lay aside their pipes. One of these, the novelist John Barclay, included a satirical portrait of a Puritan, Catharinus, in his Euphormio’s Satyricon (Paris 1607; Barclay 1973 344 - 6). After supper, Catharinus and his family bring out strange instruments, levia quidem illa, politaque, sed Samia tantum (i. e., clay pipes). From these he produces a subhorridus vapor which spreads a pestilential stench throughout the room. The narrator, Euphormio, is invited to partake, but not ready for death, he declines. Barclay then adds a poem on tobacco. These are the first lines:

Planta nocens, o lethifero planta horrida fumo,
Quam bona diversis natura removerat oris;
Quis te, planta nocens, tristi vectare charina
Instituit demens, nostrisque ostendere terris?

[“O harmful plant, O plant that spews out deadly smoke,
Once nature kind did keep you far from all our climes;
O harmful plant, what madman now begins to bear
You in his dreary ship and bring you to our lands
?” (trans. Fleming)]

Other contemporary testimonies for or against tobacco can be found in James VI of Scotland, I of England, “The Essayes of a Prentise...” Most admit that tobacco is fundamentally beneficial; only abuse makes it harmful.
spacer9. So Thorius was contributing to an on-going debate when he wrote his Hymnus Tabaci, the Georgics of tobacco cultivation. During his expedition to India, Bacchus’ Maenads are perishing of thirst. They find a valley full of tobacco plants, greedily eat the leaves, then fall ill (I.41 - 76). When they wake, Silenus tells them that smoking is the proper way to use tobacco. Thus strengthened and sending out clouds of smoke from their pipes, they terrify the Indian foe, who promptly yields (I.199ff.). The Indians soon repent their hasty surrender; it was only thick smoke, not a monstrous apparition! But rather than establish a tyrannical rule, Bacchus incorporates the Indians as full partners into his kingdom. Thorius then summarizes:

Atque haec prima fuit mortales stirpis in usus
Notitia; haec late noti cunabula fumi.
Iam quae vis lateat plantae, quibus apta bibendo
Corporibus, quibus et pugnet contraria morbis,
Musa refer, geniumque novo concede labori.

[“Tobacco thus to mortals Gods reveal’d,
Long by coy nature’s frugal care conceal’d.
Now all its latent uses, Muse, explore,
And equal to its tow’ring virtues soar
.” (trans. Player)]

Thorius then discusses the natural causes for tobacco’s virtues: tobacco is a compound of various salts and sulphur that penetrates the brain and scatters the mists of confusion (I.248 - 290). He then lists examples of tobacco’s strengthening power: the laboring peasant, the lawyer afflicted with stage fright, philosophers at debate. As an example of a debate, he cites a dispute between the Homeric doctors Podalyrius and Machaon, a dispute which Thorius’ imagination has just added to the storehouse of mythology. Thus far Book I.
spacer10. Book II begins with Bacchus civilizing the Indies. He turns the minds of the natives from war to the more fruitful pursuit of wild beasts. As an example Thorius tells how Bacchus and his followers overcome a repulsive cannibal king, Haematoes, who has cages full of men being fattened for slaughter (II.54ff.). After freeing these wretches, Bacchus makes a conciliatory speech and introduces Haematoes to wine, which the cannibal favorably compares to the blood of a beardless youth (II.136). This entire passage concerning Haematoes is rather disgusting. Silenus teaches the poor wretches how to smoke (II.213ff,), then recites several hundred lines on the virtues of tobacco, comparing it with wine (II.233 - 635). This section presents the pro-tobacco arguments at length, often citing newly invented mythological stories as examples. Tobacco is helpful for gout, colic, tinnitus (II.217 - 239). On the other hand wives hate it because it gives their husbands bad breath and dirties their floors with ashes (II.239f.). The plant is good for bellyache, toothache, and various rheums; it helps the pains of constipation or the stone (II.259 - 290). Tobacco may be good or bad depending on one’s constitution; the user must be self-aware. Large-bodied men can indulge, while lean men, especially consumptives, should smoke something else, not tobacco (II.291 - 341). Silenus cites the parallel with wine — indulge, don’t overindulge — and cites the example of Adonis, who passed out from wine, was considered dead by his companions, and was buried alive (II.370 - 387). Tobacco reduces the effect of drunkenness (II.388 - 403). Even the byproducts are useful: tobacco ashes serve as toothpaste; smoke can be made into an ointment (II.404 - 419). Thus far the positives.
spacer11. Next come the alleged negatives, with refutation. Tobacco is said to harm the brain, causing dullness and forgetfulness — but even non-smokers forget (II.423 - 454). Tobacco is an anaphrodisiac; even the gods know this. Venus has forbidden the importation of tobacco into her dominions of Cyprus and Paphos. Indeed, at a banquet of the gods, Jupiter is introduced to tobacco and is enjoying his smoke when Venus enters, seizes the pipes, cigars, and all other materials and hurls them out of heaven. But Artemis, Athena, and the virgin nymphs collect the remains and beg Jupiter to get more, as it assists their vows of virginity (II.467 - 487). Silenus seems to admit this accusation, but he says that the plant’s tendency to reduce love’s passion is an advantage: it reduces crimes of passion and overpopulation. Fewer but better: respublica gaudet fortibus et iustis potius quam plebe frequenti (II.497).
spacer12. Silenus then reverts to listing the benefits of tobacco. In women it helps displaced uterus and similar maladies. It helps the elderly cope with various problems, particularly with difficulty sleeping, unlike some other substances such as beans, lentils, onions, garlic, henbane, or nightshade (!), all of which may cause troubled sleep and bad dreams. Silenus cites the example of the Ovidian couple Baucis and Philemon, who made the mistake of eating hemlock leaves and fell into a frenzy. In contrast tobacco gives calm sleep and pleasant dreams (II.505 - 579).
spacerspacer13. Next Silenus discusses the types of tobacco. Smoke the large-leaved variety, not the small-leaved which comes from Virginia or Bermuda. [The large-leaved variety is Nicotiana tabacum, the tobacco of commerce today; the small-leaved is N. rustica, harsh and with a much higher concentration of nicotine in the leaf. This latter type was grown in Virginia until John Rolfe introduced n. tabacum seeds in 1611 (Brooks I.86-7)] Some merchants adulterate tobacco (II.581 - 612). Silenus then gives directions for use: do not smoke right after meals; stop smoking when vertigo hits (II.613 - 634). He then falls sleep himself.
spacer14. The poet then continues in his own voice with directions still valid today about growing the plant: soil, sun, crop rotation. The farmer must prune the lower leaves, then cure them by stacking the dried leaves and breaking down the stack as it heats. He can then ship the crop for great profits (II.635 - 730). This instruction responds to a real contemporary interest in growing tobacco in England, rather than bringing it from Spanish possessions, the source of most imports. A contemporary treatise, An Advice how to Plant Tobacco in England... by C. T., published by Walter Burre (1615), gives a good idea of the interest in the topic. The combination, however, of customs officials and Virginia planters eventually succeeded in making domestic cultivation of tobacco illegal (Brooks II.64 - 6).
spacer15. Thorius’s Hymnus was the most popular Latin poem in England during the seventeenth century (Bradner, 73). It enjoyed several editions in Latin (London 1627, 1651, ; Leiden 1628; Utrecht 1644) and no fewer than three English translations. Thorius’ choice of Bacchus as his chief figure succeeds in several ways: it places the newly discovered plant in a Greco-Roman context suitable for Latin poetry; it links tobacco and wine, which were commonly joined by contemporaries (in Joshuah Sylvester’s 1602 poem Tobacco battered and pipes shattered both wine and tobacco stab and wound the Brain with Drunkenness: / For even the Derivation of the Name / Seems to allude and to include the same: / TOBACCO, as τω Βακχω, one would say; / To (Cup-god) Bacchus dedicated ay); and the author can make a safe political comment by making Bacchus the just and benevolent ruler who overthrows the tyranny exemplified by Haematoes (McFarlane 430f.). Thorius was also a skillful writer of Latin verse, well able to expound contemporary chemistry (I.248ff.), physiognomy (II.309ff.), and agriculture (II.644ff.), not to mention several interesting mythological passages.


spacer16. Raphael Thorius was born in the Low Countries in the 1570’s (exact date unknown). His father was Franciscus Thorius, also a doctor and poet (according to the Dutch humanist Bonaventura Vulcanius, quoted in Thorius 1716 vi. He studied medicine at Oxford and was eventually admitted to practice in London in 1596. In addition to medicine, he was a devotee of Latin verse. He wrote a Latin ode in 1603, urging his family to leave London to escape the plague. In 1609 - 10 he wrote a first draft of the Hymnus Tabaci. He revised the poem in 1625, the year of his death, and it was published posthumously in the following year at London, dedicated to Sir William Paddy, president of the College of Physicians from 1609 - 11. (The dedication was written in 1625. Paddy’s position as inspector of tobacco, mentioned in the dedication, dates to the 1620’s. Perhaps the deprecation of Virginia tobacco survives from the first draft. By 1625 Virginia was exporting N. tabacum, rather than the earlier N. rustica, the variety criticized at II.588 - 590). Other poems reached print: Hyems (“Winter Song”) and an elegy on the death of John Barclay (1621), available in Barclay 2004 pp. 63 - 68. Some poems survive in manuscript: on the execution of Raleigh, on Meric Casaubon, on William Camden, and others. He died of the plague in London in the summer of 1625 (D. N. B. 56.284f.).
spacer17. One anecdote reveals the circle in which he moved. (Peireskius is Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, the great Provençal humanist, whom Bayle called the Procureur Général of the Republic of Letters.) A scientist and litterateur, he sheparded Barclay’s Argenis through the press after the author’s death in 1621. He was personally acquainted with King James. Thousand of his letters survive.

Contigit ut, in quodam doctorum convivio, Doctor Thorius ipsi Peireskio ingenti scypho praebiberit. Ac ille quidem se excusare, ob vastitatem paterae, ob merum insolitum, ob imbecillum stomachum, ob compotandi infrequentiam. Verum, cum nihil admitteretur, petiit ut saltem sibi liceret, postquam Thorio fecisset satis, suo arbitrio praebibere. Annuerunt omnes, ac tum, assumptis quasi adigente necessitate, animis, foecundum hausit calicem, eodem mox aqua oppleto, Thorio intentans praebibit, totumque rursus (tamquam injectum temperaturus merum) absorpsit. Ille, quasi fulmine ictus delapsusve e nubibus, vix tandem ad se rediit, et (quia ex condicto agebatur neque resilire fas erat) tam longa suspiria e pectore duxit; toties admovit removitque ora; tot interea carmina ex omnibus Graecis Latinisque poetis profudit, ut diem pene contriverit instillandae aquae in insuetum guttur. Atque id ipsum est quod Rex, cum audiisset ex aliis, ex Peireskii ore accipere voluit. (Gassendi in Vita Peireskii, quoted at Thorius 1716 vf.. My punctuation.)

[“In a learned banquet it happened that Doctor Thorius toasted Peiresc with a huge goblet. But he excused himself [i.e. from returning the toast] because of the size of the beaker, the unusual strength of the wine, his uneasy stomach, and his infrequent indulgence in wine. But when nothing availed, he asked that at least he be allowed to toast in his own manner, after Thorius had done the same. Everyone agreed, and so gathering his spirits as necessity required, he drained a generous cup, and then filling the same cup with water, he looked at Thorius directly and toasted him, soaking the whole thing up as if tasting additional wine. Thorius, as if thunderstruck or stunned, could barely get hold of himself. However since they had agreed and it would not be right to renege, he drew a deep sigh and put his mouth to the cup, only to draw away. He did this several times. Meanwhile he was pouring out verses from all the Greek and Latin poets, so as to wear away the time for pouring the water down his throat, which was so unused to such treatment. This is the very episode which King James heard about from others and wanted to get from Peiresc’s own lips.”]

One is reminded of the old joke about the drunk in a bar, who bets that he can identify any beverage given to him. After a shot of water, he says: “I don’t know what it is, but it will never sell.”
spacer18. Thorius did not cut his ties with the land of his birth. The Dutch humanist Louis van Kinschot [1595 - 1647] edited the 1628 Leiden Hymnus with an introduction in which he states that he had read a defective earlier copy of the poem and had been so charmed that he wrote the author directly. Thorius was kind enough to send Kinschot a corrected and enlarged copy. In this letter Thorius neatly says, Nunquam equidem speraveram tam dextrum in illo poematio Apollinem, ut talibus palatis (i .e., Kinschot’s) placeret, nec ut sedecim annorum aetatem ferret foetus in auras temere proiectus, non consilio conceptus, non cura formatus.” [“I never thought Apollo had bequeath’d so good an omen to this little Poem, as to make it acceptable to such palats, or that indeed it would have become the age of sixteen yeers being rashly put forth, unwarily undertak’n, and without care composed” trans. Hausted)] The letter’s date is 18 February 1625, not long before Thorius’ death. Thus Thorius had written the first draft in 1609 - 10. (Kinschot’s preface and Thorius’ letter are translated in Hausted’s 1651 English version.) Kinschot added the following commendatory epigram:


Morbifugae vires plantae, miracula stirpis
Caelitus ostensae, partes diducit in omnes
Thorius, et primo fumos orditur ab ovo.
Vos, quibus ad Paetum vigilanti stertere naso
Fumigerisque placet replere vaporibus auras,
Ore favete omnes. Coelo delabitur alto
Planta beata, udo non aspernanda cerebro.
Scilicet in mediis habitat vis enthea fumis,
Et parvo ingentes clauduntur cortice vires.
Ludicra narrantur, sed et haec quoque seria ducunt,
Veraque sub ficto latitat sapientia Paeto.


The power of this disease-chasing plant, the wonders
Of this growth given by Heaven have been revealed by Thorius
In every detail, and he has organized its smoke from first to last.
All you who love to snore over your pipe with wakeful nose,
You who love to fill the air with smoky vapors,
Favor with your breath. This blessed plant has
Descended from Heaven. It must not be rejected by damp brains.
Indeed, a divine force lives in the midst of its smoke,
And immense power is enclosed in a narrow membrane.
He tells playful things, but also introduces serious things,
And under its fictitious leaf lurks true wisdom.”]

spacer19. Thorius’ dedicatee was Sir William Paddy [d. 1634], a fellow and sometime president of the Royal College of Physicians, personal physician to King James I, and a member of Parliament. In 1605 he had participated in a debate at Oxford before King James “resolved whether the frequent smoking of exotic tobacco is salutary for those in health.” Not surprising in view of his audience, Paddy argued against its use. In the 1620’s he was a commissioner for grading tobacco before its sale (Pady 72). Thorius refers to this role in the dedication (I.6 - 8). Paddy was a prominent person who had been or could have been a factor in Thorius’ professional success or failure. All the English translators change the dedicatee: Hausted to Phoebus, Player to the poets Sir Samuel Garth and Sir Richard Blackmore, and Bewick to Apollo.


spacer20. The English translations (I have found no translations into other languages) Thorius was first translated, in 1651, by the “dramatist and divine” Peter Hausted (D. N. B. 25.171; best study of Hausted in Mills 1944). In 1632 Hausted, an acolyte of Ben Jonson, gained some notoriety when he presented his play, The Rival Friends, at Cambridge during a royal visit. This play, full of anti-Puritan and anti-simony satire, caused a near-riot in the king’s presence. The university’s vice-chancellor promptly hanged himself in disgrace. Hausted also composed a Latin play, Senile Odium (which has been edited by Laurens Joseph Mills, Bloomington, Ind., 1949) As one might expect, his translation of Thorius is vigorous and eloquent, a fine example of seventeenth century verse. Here are the first few lines of his version:

Of harmlesse Bowles I mean to sing the praise,
And th’ Herb which doth the Poets fancy raise;
Aid me, O *Phoebus; Thee I do invoke.
Fill me a Pipe (boy) of that lusty smoke,
That I may drink the God into my brain,
And so inabled, write a buskin’d strain;
For nothing great or high can come from thence,
Where that blest Plant denies his influence.
spacerNo Mortal had the honour to descry
This noble Herb first, but a Deity;
’Twas found by Bacchus, when the God wound up
To his true height, by his own charming Cup,
Led th’ Indians forth under the warlike Spear,
Whose glittering head an Ivy Twine did wear;
And the all-Soveraign Weed being found out thus,
Too late (alas) hath been made known to us.

(*I make bold to change the Poets Patron, & instead of Sir W. Paddie, to entitle Phoebus to it. [Hausted’s note])

spacer21. It is because he was so bold, so free to rearrange and add to Thorius’ text, that his translation is not printed here. He marks his additions by putting them in parentheses leading with a quotation mark. Some examples:
spacer When Bacchus’ followers first see tobacco, greedily eat the leaves, and collapse with vertigo, Hausted adds a reference to Copernicus’ hypothesis that the world rotates:

Like drunken men, they vomited and fell.
The Earth doth seem to glide in Circlewise,
(“Copernicus from hence learnt his device,)
And their sick brains beleeve the Heavens in love
To meet the rising Earth, do downwards move.
(p. 17)

After the defeat of the Indians, the two sides are reconciled and join in a banquet. Haused adds a reference to the drama:

The Wine grows busie, and betwixt each Cup
(“As in a Play ‘twixt th’ Acts) their Pipes strike up.
(p. 23)

Towards the end of Book I, when Thorius recounts how tobacco can help two disputants, Hausted adds a colorful image:

His runnagate words too which were lately fled,
And hid in some dark corner of his head,
He apprehendeth now, (“as if a Torch Were lighted up in favour of his search)
And to the wondring people does dispence
The ample Treasures of his Eloquence.
(p. 28)

As a poem, Hausted’s translation is excellent, but not close enough to the Latin for our purposes here.
spacer22. The next translator, Henry Player (whose 1716 version is used for the present edition), had something in common with Peter Hausted: both translated the Latin poems of the Scottish poet Sir Robert Ayton. I cannot find anything else about him. His translation, while somewhat prolix, is close to the Latin. His verse flows smoothly and is a good example of the tendencies of workaday eighteenth century couplet-rhyme. An example from the very beginning of the poem:

It chanc’d in summer, Bacchus, well aware,
Foresaw the enemy’s deceit from far;
Whence in close ambush they design’d the war.
Incenst, he bids his men his arms prepare,
And join th’ impetuous Lynxes to his car.
Next close behind, the stout Bassarian band
In ranks obsequious, waits the God’s command.
The suttlers then, with all the heavy load
And implements of war in wagons stow’d,
Bring up the rear. Silenus’ trusty ass,
Now lame with age, can scarce keep even pace.

Contrast Hausted’s version of the same lines:

The twice-born Liber seeing that his Foes
(Whom the parch’d desart Cliffs as yet inclose)
Had furious war begun, with hot alarms,
Doth call his Ivy-crowned troops to arms,
And the swift Lynxes to be yoak’d, commands;
The great Bassarides in order’d bands,
March with their valiant Leader to the Field;
And all his furious Priest obedience yeild
To his behests, and follow; nor yet will
Silenus (though grown old) at home sit still.
The Drudges and the Carriages go next,
And amongst them is led (“an ample Text,
For Antiquaries to glosse on) the sage
Silenus saddle-Asse, grown lame with age.

spacer23. Player’s verse is smooth running, with a distinct caesura in almost every line (often marked with a comma). Player likes the balancing gradus epithets, such as “incenst...impetuous” or “stout...obsequious” so deprecated in histories of eighteenth century verse (e. g. Saintsbury 449). Of course neither incenst, stout, or obsequious are in the Latin. Both English translations are lengthier than the Latin; Player’s 1492 lines contrast with the Latin’s 1114. (I estimate about 1500 in Hausted.) Player dedicated his translation to Mrs. Mary Owen, who appears to have been somewhat of a bluestocking and a snuff-taker. Along with his translation, Player also put out a new, carefully edited Latin text, which he dedicated to Solomon Lowe, Mrs. Owen’s tutor and the author of textbooks on arithmetic, spelling, grammar both Latin and English, and philosophy.
spacer24. Our final translator, the Reverend William Bewick, about whom I can find nothing, rendered Book I only, in 1725. Perhaps he was not aware of Player’s work until he was finished with Book I? In any event, his translation is even more prolix and diffuse than Hausted’s or Player’s. Here is his version of the passages just quoted:

Sol now high-mounted on his golden Chair,
Shot sultry Beams thro’ Windows of the Air;
The thistry [sic] Atoms drunk the humid Soil;
And men did sweat and without labour Broil;
When Bacchus understood his dreadful Foes
From rugged Cotts in steely Armour rose:
Down in a gloomy Bottom they were laid,
Prepar’d for fighting in an Ambuscade:
To Arms, to Arms, he calls with haughty look,
The Legions Muster, and the Leopard’s Yoke:
All full of Battle was the furious God;
His Feet did stumble, and his head-piece nod:
Silenus order’d to his high Commands,
With lustful Satyrs march’d in dreadful Bands;
His mounting-Ass went after richly Drest,
An old, decrepit, and a limping Beast:
The heavy Baggage follow’d with a Guard,
Which like some moving Wilderness appear’d;
This carry’d Ammunition for the Host;
And such Provision as they needed most.

It is a mystery to me where Bewick found the stumbling feet and nodding head-piece or the richly dressed ass. Here is the Latin for all these passages:

Forte per aestatem tesquis arentibus hostes
Norat in insidiis meditari proelia Bacchus.
Arma iubet celeresque iugo subiungere lynces
Bassaridasque sequi; Silenum accedere curru
Mandat, et in pugnam totis exardet habenis.
Pone sequebantur lixae iumentaque multo
Tarda onere et lentis congesta viatica plaustris,
Et claudus senio, Sileni vector, asellus.

spacer25. Tobacco continued to be a subject for literature. The German Jesuit poet Jacob Balde wrote a Fabula de herba tabacco in Thorius’ style. Jupiter is jealous of Bacchus’ success against the Indians. When Bacchus’ warriors are celebrating, Jupiter sends the Titans against them. The tobacco plant is discovered and helps the warriors gain victory. The same poet also wrote a Satyra contra abusum Tabaci in 1657. In this he dwells on tobacco’s stench, its addiction, the bad dreams which tobacco causes, and the generally foolish conduct of smokers (McFarlane 438 - 440; Brooks II.320f.). In 1614 William Barclay of Edinburgh (not John Barclay’s father) wrote Nepenthes, a short essay on the virtues of tobacco, which was well received (Brooks I.512 - 516).
spacer26. Of course fiction about tobacco continues today, but sadly, thanks to the intemperate, persecuting spirit of the anti-smoking societies, our literature deals almost entirely with the damage caused by tobacco. No effort is made to understand the ancient fraternal etiquette which has so characterized social smoking and which is so visible in (for example) twentieth century movies. Garrison Keillor’s “The End of the Trail” (originally in The New Yorker, Sept. 17, 1984) presents a satirical view of current American attitudes towards smoking:

The last cigarette smokers in America were located in a box canyon south of Donner Pass in the High Sierra by two federal tobacco agents in a helicopter who spotted the little smoke puffs just before noon.

Among the personal effects of the five prisoners were letters home, closely written on empty cigarette packs.

Dear Kids —

This may be last letter, theyre closing in. Planes o’head every day now. Dogs in dist. Men w. ldspkers. Flares. Oakland chapt got busted last pm. Was w. them on radio when feds came. Reminded me of when yr dad turned me in. After supper. Knew he was a nut but didnt know he was a creep. Cops surr. hse. I snk away thru bushes. No time to say g-b to y. Sorry...

After being captured,

The five smokers were handcuffed and transported to a federal detention camp in Oregon, where they were held in pup tents for months. They were charged with conspiracy to obtain, and willful possession of, tobacco, and were convicted in minutes, and were sentenced to write twenty thousand words apiece on the topic “Personal Integrity” by a judge who had quit cigarettes when the price went to thirty-five cents and he could not justify the expense...

spacer27. A more dystopian picture, perhaps better suiting the modern character, is Yasutaka Tsutui’s short story, “The Last Smoker,” (English translation by Andrew Driver in the collection of Tsutsui’s stories Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, 2008). Smokers are persecuted to the point of extinction. The last smoker speaks:

I’m sitting on top of the parliament building, resisting tear-gas attacks from air force helicopters that circle above me like flies. I will soon enjoy my very last cigarette, my last show of resistance. My comrade, the painter Kusakabe, fell to his death just moments ago, leaving me alone as the last smoker remaining on earth... I’ve got three packs left, and I refuse to die before I’ve finished them. So I’ve been chain-smoking two or three at a time. My head feels numb, my eyes are starting to spin. It’s only a matter of time before I, too, fall lifeless to the ground below.

But help comes:

Suddenly, everything went quiet down below, and the helicopters disappeared. Someone was talking over a loudspeaker. I strained my ears to catch what he was saying. “...won’t we. But it’ll be too late then. And what a terrible loss that will be. For he is now a precious artefact from the Tobacco Age. He should be turned into a natural monument, a living treasure. We must protect him...” A shudder went through me. Please, no! Don’t let them protect me!

But they do protect him: this last smoker is stuffed and mounted in a museum. A most unworthy ending to the history of this noble herb.
spacer28. Spelling has been lightly modernized in the translation; lyon becomes lion, tyger becomes tiger. All the apostrophes (allur’d, ne’er) have been retained. Thorius’ Latin spellings (foecundus and the like) have been retained. The punctuation and capitalization in both texts has been modernized.


a. Editions of the Latin

Raphael Thorius, Hymnus tabaci, autore Raphaele Thorio (ed. Louis van Kinschot, London, Impensis Ioannis Waterson, 1626).

spacerHymnus Tabaci et Hiems (Leiden, Elsevier, 1628)

spacerDe herba Panacea, quam alii tabacum...vocant, brevis commentariolus (Utrecht, Pro Davide ab Hoogenhvysen, 1644).

Also includes treatises by Aegidius Everaerts and Johann Neander.

spacerHymnus tabaci, (ed. Louis van Kinschot, London, T. N. pro Hum. Moseley, 1651)

spacerTabacum poema libris duobus auctore Raphaele Thorio (ed. Henry Player, London: J. Noon & T. Sharpey & S. Popping, 1716)

b. Translations

spacerHymnus tabaci a poem in honour of tabaco. Heriocally composed by Raphael Thorius: made English by Peter Hausted (London: Humphrey Moseley, 1651)

spacerTobacco: a poem in two books. trans. Henry Player (London, printed by W. H. sold by J. Noon and T. Sharpey and S. Popping, 1716).

Player also edited the Latin text.

spacerA Poem on Tobacco, trans. the Reverend William Bewick (London: printed by J. Read and sold by J. Harris, A. Dodd, 1725)

Book I only.

c. Other

D. N. B. = Dictionary of National Biography, available on line here

John Barclay, Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon (Euphormio’s Satyricon) 1605 - 1607, ed. David A. Fleming, S. M. (Nieuwkoop, 1973)

spacerArgenis, edd. M. Riley and D. Huber (Assen, 2004)

John Beaumont, The Metamorphosis of Tabacco (London 1602). Available online in J. Payne Collier, Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature, (London 1863, accessed on Google Books)

Leicester Bradner, Musae Anglicanae (London, 1940, repr. New York, 1966)

Jerome E. Brooks (ed.) Tobacco: Its History Illustrated by the Books, Manuscripts and Engravings in the Library of George Arents, Jr. (New York, 1937 - 1952.

This magnificent series (5 vols. plus 10 supplements) is a catalogue raisonné of the Arents library and contains a listing with excerpts and translations of practically every work from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries which mentions tobacco.

George Buchanan, Opera Omnia, vol. II (Leiden, 1725)

Joseph Hall, Mundus Alter et Idem (Frankfurt, n.d. , London, 1605)

James VI of Scotland, I of England, “The Essayes of a Prentise, in the Divine Art of Poesie” and “A Counter-blaste to Tobacco,”, ed. Edward Arber, English Reprints (London 1869, accessed on Google Books).

The text includes much supplementary material on tobacco in England.

Jeffrey Knapp, An Empire Nowhere: England, America, and Literature from Utopia to The Tempest (Berkeley, 1992).

See especially the chapter “Divine Tobacco,” pp. 134 - 174

Ian McFarlane, “Tobacco — A Subject for Poetry,” in Leonard Forster et al., From Wolfram and Petrarch to Goethe and Grass: studies in literature in honour of Leonard Forster (Baden-Baden, 1982.

Includes descriptions of the tobacco literature from Germany.

Laurens Joseph Mills, Peter Hausted, Playwright, Poet, Preacher (Bloomington, 1944)

Donald S. Pady, “Sir William Paddy, M. D. (1554 - 1634),” Medical History 18 (1974) 68 - 82.

George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody, vol. II (New York, 1961)

Joshuah Sylvester, Tobacco Battered and Pipes Shattered (1602), available in A. B. Grosart, The Complete Works of Joshuah Sylvester, II.265 - 274, in Chertsy Worthies Library (repr. New York, 1967)