Sir John Davies (1569-1626)

Of Tobacco


Homer of Moly, and Nepenthe sings,
Moly the God's most sovereign herb divine.
Nepenthe Heken's drink with gladness brings,
Heart's grief expels, and doth the wits refine.
But this our age another world hath found,
From whence an herb of heavenly power is brought,
Moly is not so sovereign for a wound,
Nor hath Nepenthe so great wonders wrought.


It is Tobacco, whose sweet substantial fume,
The hellish torment of the teeth doth ease
By drawing down, and drying up the rheum,
The mother and the nurse of each disease.
It is Tobacco which doth cold expel,
And clears the obstructions of the arteries,
And surfeits threatening death digesteth well,
Decocting all the stomach's crudities.


It is Tobacco which hath power to clarify,
The cloudy mists before dim eyes appearing,
It is Tobacco which hath power to rarefy,
The thick gross humour which doth stop the hearing,
The wasting Hectic and the quartain fever,
Which doth of physic make a mockery:
The gout it cures, and helps ill breaths for ever,
Whether the cause in Teeth or stomach be.
 

And though ill breaths, were by it but confounded
Yet that Medicine it doth far excel,
Which by Sir Thomas More hath bin propounded.
For this is thought a gentleman-like smell,
O that I were one of these mountebanks,
Which praise their oils, and powders which they sell
My customers would give me coin with thanks.
I for this ware, forsooth a tale would tell,
Yet would I use none of these terms before,
I would but say, that it the pox will cure:
This were enough, without discoursing more,
All our brave gallants in the town t'allure

 

[Spelling modernized.
Moly was the herb that Homer said Hermes gave to Odysseus to protect him from Circe's enchantments.
Nepenthe was a mythical drug supposed to make its taker forget all sadness.
The Hectic was a consumptive fever causing flushed cheeks and hot skin.
The pox is venereal disease]

(Epigrammes and elegies, 1599)