On this day in 1807 The American Quaker poet and anti-slavery campaigner John Greenleaf Whittier was born. His poetry was well received during his lifetime and he was a friend of Longfellow and Emerson. Here is Whittier’s poem about the ancient oriental drug, Soma. This is also the name of a fictional drug in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World. It is described as “All of the benefits of Christianity and alcohol without their defects.” Not, I think, how Whittier would have seen it:
The fagots blazed, the caldron’s smoke
Up through the green wood curled;
“Bring honey from the hollow oak,
Bring milky sap,” the brewers spoke,
In the childhood of the world.
And brewed they well or brewed they ill,
The priests thrust in their rods,
First tasted, and then drank their fill,
And shouted, with one voice and will,
“Behold the drink of gods!”
They drank, and lo! in heart and brain
A new, glad life began;
The gray of hair grew young again,
The sick man laughed away his pain,
The cripple leaped and ran
And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfil;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
The heathen Soma still!
Today I ask to live free of addiction from mood altering substances of any kind.