A Poem upon Tea (1712)

Motteux, Peter
A satire of women's social discourse in the Queen Anne period showing six women taking tea in a parlor. Circa 1710. British Museum number: 1868,0808.3445.


" 'Tis vain in Wine to seek a solid Joy;
All fierce Enjoyments soon themselves destroy,
Wine fires the Fancy to a dangerous height,
With smoaky Flam, and with a cloudy Light."

Last Night my Hours on Friendship I bestow'd,
And Wine and Mirth a while profusely flow’d.
Soon as some Beauty's Health had walk’d the Round,
Another's Health succeeding Glasses crown'd.
But while these Arts to raise our Joys we use,
Our Mirth, our Friends, and ev'n ourselves we lofe.
'Tis vain in Wine to seek a solid Joy;
All fierce Enjoyments soon themselves destroy,
Wine fires the Fancy to a dangerous height,
With smoaky Flam, and with a cloudy Light.
From its Excess ev'n Wisdom's self grows mad;
For an Excess of Good it self is bad.
All Reason's in a Storm, no Light, nor Skies,
But the Red Ocean rowls before our Eyes.
Unhappy State! the Chaos of the Brain,
The Soul's Eclispe, and Exile of the Man.

From boist'rous Wine I fled to gentle Tea;
For, Calms compose us after Storms at Sea.
In vain wou'd Coffee boast an equal Good;
The Chrystal Stream transcends the flowing Mud.
Tea ev’n the Ills from Coffee sprung repairs,
Disclaims its Vices, and its Virtue shares.

To bless me with the Juice two Foes conspire,
The clearest Water with the purest Fire.
Wine's Essence in a Lamp to Fewel turns,
Exhales its Soul, and for a Rival burns.
The Leaf is mov'd, and the diffusive Good,
Thus urg'd, religns its Spirits in the Flood.

In curious Cups the liquid Blessing flows,
Cups fit alone the Nectar to enclose.
Dissembled Groves and Nymphs by Tables plac'd
Adorn the Sides, and tempt the Sight and Taste.
Yet more the gay, the lovely Colour courts,
The Flavour charms us, but the Taste transports.

I drink, and lo the kindly Steams arise,
Wine's Vapour flags, and soon subsides and dies.
The friendly Spirits brighten mine again,
Repel the Brute, and re-inthrone the Man.
The rising Charmer with a pleasing Ray
Dawns on the Mind, and introduces Day:
So its bright Parent with prevailing Light,
Recalls Distinction, and displaces Night.
At other times the wakeful Leaf disdains
To leave the Mind entranc'd in drowsie Chains.
But now with all the Night's Fatigue oppreft,
'Tis reconcild to Sleep, and yields me up to Rest.

Hail, Drink of Life ! how justly shou'd our Lyres
Resound the Praises which thy Pow'r inspires !
Blest Juice, assist, while I the Vision draw
Which then in Sleep with inward Eyes I saw!
Thy Charms alone can equal Thoughts infuse:
Be thou my Theme, my Nectar, and my Muse.

I saw the Gods and Goddesses above,
Profusely feasting with Imperial Jove.
 The Banquet done, swift round the Nectar flew,
All Heav'n was warm'd, and Bacchus boistrous grew.
Fair Hebe then the grateful Tea prepares,
Which to the feasting Goddesses she bears.
The Heav'nly Guests advance with eager haste;
They gaze, they smell, they drink, and bless the Taste.
Refresh'd and Charm'd, while thus employ'd, they sit,
More bright their Looks, and more Divine their Wit
At large each Goddess pleasing Censures flung.
For, ev'n above, the Sex will, right or wrong,
Enjoy their dear Prerogative of Tongue.
The drunken God, long courted, tastes at length:
Then swears the Liquor's damn'd for want of Strength.
How low, cry'd he, in quaffing are we sunk!
Will Stuff like this make Gods or Mortals drunk?
'Twixt this and Wine how mighty are the odds!
Wine makes us drunk, and something more than Gods.
Rais'd with that Nectar o'er the Skies I rove,
And only to be drunk is to be Jove.
Now raving Bacchus, reeling to his Place,
Crowns his Assertion with an ample Glass;
And Hebe then replies with modeft Grace.

Immortal Pow'rs of Heav'n, and Earth, and Sea,
Permit Youth's Goddess to defend her Tea.
What Food, what Drink a Taste deprav'd can please,
Averse to Cure, and fond of its Disease!

The purest Air gross Mortals ne'er befriends,
And Heav'n itself cannot be Heav'n to Fiends.
Thus kindly Tea perhaps insipid seems
To Sense debauch'd by Wine's seducing Steams;
But sure, where-e'er these lov'd Abuses fail,
Tea, Temperance and Reason will prevail.

Wine proves moft fatal when it most invites,
Tea most is healthful when it most delights.
Wine conquers Man with its pernicious Fumes,
Tea conquers Wine, tho' Wine the Man o'er comes.
Wine but inflames the Brain it wou'd inspire,
Tea gives the Light, and yet excludes the Fire.
Relieve me, God of Physic, and of Lays,
And reach a Theme superior to my Praise.
Here Hebe ceas'd: The Thund'rer with a Nod,
Bespeaks Assent of the Melodious God.

Tell, Muse, for sure no Mortal can rehearse
The hallow'd Utt’rance of the God of Verse;
Tell how of Tea the great Physician sung!
Words like his Theme flow'd sweetly from his Tongue.
At once the God two Attributes reveald,
His Sense enlighten'd, and his Numbers heal'd.

He sung of Rage, by Harmony contrould,
And manly Clay with living Fire insoul'd.
Of Arts devis'd, of Plants for Wonders prais'd,
And Tea, whose Fame shou'd o’er all Plants be rais'd.

None, says the God, shall with that Tree compare;
Health, Vigour, Pleasure bloom forever there
Sense for the Learn'd, and Beauty for the Fair.
Tea both imparts: For, while it cheers the Mind,
Her Seat’s refresh'd, and ev'ry Charm refin'd,
The Eyes, the Judgment with authentic Light
Receive their Objects, and distinguish right.
Bright are the Sallies of the rising Thought,
Sublime the Flights, yet regularly wrought.
Hence then, ye Plants, that challeng’d once our Praise,
The Oak, the Vine, the Olive, and the Bays.
No more let Roses Flora's Brows adorn,
Nor Ceres boast her golden Ears of Corn.
The Queen of Love her Myrtles shall despise;
Tea claims at once the Beauteous and the Wise.

Think of the Rose, that inoffensive Sweet,
Of fragrant Gums, the Brain's luxurious Treat;
Or kinder Odours which in verdant Fields,
When newly cropt, the grassy Harvest yields.
Think ev'ry grateful Smell diffus'd in one,
And in Imperial Tea find all their Charms out-done.
Tea, Heav'ns Delight, and Nature's truest Wealth,
That pleasing Physic, and sure Pledge of Health:
The Statesman's Councellor, the Virgin's Love,
The Muse's Nectar, and the Drink of Jove.
The lab'ring God drank Tea that happy Morn,
When wise Minerva of his Brain was born.
Nor gain my Looks new Glories in the Sea;
They set in Waves, but rise more bright from Tea.
Thus rais'd I guide my Steeds and check their Force,
 Thus thro' the vast Expanse maintain a steady Course.
Oh had the Youth who once assum'd the Reins,
Compos’d with Tea, drove o'er th’etherial Plains,
Still safe the fiery Coursers he had driv'n,
Spight of the Monsters in the Road of Heav'n.
Sedate and dauntless Jove had seen him ride,
And Tea had sav'd him whom his Fires destroy'd.
Fate then to Man deny'd a Gift so rare,
Tho' fav’rite Mortals now the Nectar share,
Soon as the Day in Orient Climes is born,
The wise Chinese with Tea salute the Morn.
And as my Beams, their Vigour to renew,
Sport in the Waves, and drink their Morning Dew,
So there each rising Nymph with Tea fupplies
The intermitted Lustre of her Eyes.
Serene and lovely as the new-born Ray,
Afresh they dazzle, and augment the Day.

Tea first in China did all Arts improve,
And, like my Light, still Westward thence they move.
Well might all Nations be by those out-done
Who first enjoy'd that Nectar and the Sun.
But see (to know how Man in Tea is blest)
What inbred Foes the little World infest.
See how the Blood fermenting in the Veins,
In various Shapes inflicts a thousand Pains.
Dire Symptoms, Nature's Frowns, by flow Degrees,
Here indicate an obstinate Disease :
There languid Motion, with a livid Face,
The sickly Crasis of the Blood betrays.
'Tis Tea must swell the Stream, repell its Foes,
Till eas'd and free the Vital Purple flows.
The gen'rous Fluid gives in balmy Steams
Strength to the Nerves, and Firmness to the Limbs.
No more the Brain is whirld with noxious Fumes,
No more, a ling’ring Fire the Man-consumes.
Again the Blood its sprightly Course maintains,
And florid Youth distends the turgid Veins.
Thus from Scorbutic Venom Nature's freed,
Distaste must cease, and Appetite succeed.

With Ease the gentle Diuretic saves,
And clears, and fills the Channels which it laves.
So when some Stream, enfeebled, clogg'd with Mud,
And stagnating, wou'd cease to be a Flood,
All droops around ; Plants, Shepherds, Earth, and Skies,
In sickly Looks consent, and sympathize;
Till Jove the Land, like Danas, befriends,
Warm Wifhes rise,and Heav'nin Show'rs descends.
Mud, Gravel, Stones the swelling Current drives,
The Spring renews, and ev'ry Swain revives.

Nor less the Drink with weak Digestion suits,
The Steams concoct what first the Flood dilutes;
For Tea the strongest Aliments controuls,
Digesting Thought, the nobler Food of Souls.

But see Disease in full Dominion reign,
And lingring Nature drag her tort'ring Chain!
Convuls'd with Pain, hark how the Wretches groan,
Rack' by the stubborn Gout and rending Stone!
See how the Twin-Tormentors, soon as felt,
Extort Confession from reluctant Guilt.
So old Offenders, struggling on the Rack,
Review their Crimes, yet dread to call’em back,
With loathing Tongue their secret Deeds arraign,
Urg'd by the Virtue of persuasive Pain.

What ends these Ills, and chears the drooping Old,
Like Healing Tea, the only Liquid Gold!
Improv'd by Age, see how it Age improves,
And adds new Pleasure, and old Pain removes!
So Man, refining at his Youth's Expence,
Grows ripe for Thought, and mellows into Sense.
There, Chymists, there your Grand Elixir see,
The Panacea you should boast is Tea.
There, Sons of Art, your Wishes doubled find,
Tea cures at once the Body and the Mind :
Chatte, yet not cold; and sprightly, yet not wild;
Tho' gentle, strong, and tho' compulsive, mild:
Fond Nature's Paradox, that cools and warms,
Cheers without Sleep, and, tho’ a Med’cine, charms.

Ye Sages, who, with weighty Notions fraught,
Tho' doz'd with Study, wou'd persist in Thought,
When the Lamp sickens, and the Moon-beams faint,
And trembling Sight obeys but with Constraint,
You know 'tis Tea whose Pow'r new Strength allows,
And drives the Slumbers from your yielding Brows;
Night's conquer'd, and the weary Stars retire,
Yet still the Mind preserves her active Fire.

What greater Good from Tea can Mortals reap?
It lengthens Life, while thus it shorțens Sleep.
In Sleep and Death black Shades the Soul o'erspread;
To be asleep, awhile is to be dead.
But the blest Leaf Extent of Life can give,
And bids Mankind emphatically live.

Appear, my lov’d Oriental Sons, and show
What Health and Ease the Plant imparts below.
Your Ev’ning, equal to the Noon of Life,
Bears Love and War, nor dreads the vig’rous Strife.
Death seems a Stranger where Tea reigns and grows,
His chief Abode is where the Vintage flows.

Then hear me, Gods; nor must I be withstood,
Since to be Gods is wholly to be good;
To Eastern Climes no more the Leaf confine,
But save by Tea what wou'd be lost by Wine.
One Blessing more, and Europe's Ills must cease;
Add Tea and Health to Liberty and Peace.
Tea in the Man makes all the Blessings live,
And giving Health the greatest Good can give.
To spread its Pow'r, and Wine's Excess supply,
Let ev'ry British Fair its Virtues try.
Like them, the Drink is charming, clear and chaste;
To make 'em love, perswade 'em but to taste.
Then all Mankind its wholesome Sweets will share;
For all are proud to imitate the Fair.

Now British Fleets, revolving with the Year,
Journey like Phebus o'er each Hemisphere.
O'er all the Watry World their Monarch reigns,
And China's Shores scarce bound her Liquid Plains.
Tho' frugal Senates, by a timely Doom,
From cloathing Britain bar the Indian Loom,
Yet shall its Product bear abroad her Charge,
And, chang’d for Foreign Treasures, hers inlarge;
And Asia give, while Europe's Sons agree,
Her Spice, her Pearls, her Diamonds, and her Tea.

Such Thoughts did the Prophetic God express,
Such Thoughts, but cloath'd in a diviner Dress.
He ceas'd, and all but Bacchus strait applaud,
Who, not convinc'd, was yet to Silence aw'd.
Against the Grape immediate Sentence past,
And He, tho’ forc'd, drank sober Tea at last.

Immortals, hear, said Jove, and cease to jar!
Tea muft succeed to Wine, as Peace to War:
Nor by the Grape let Men be set at odds,
But share in Tea, the Nectar of the Gods.


Peter Motteux, A Poem upon Tea. London: Printed for J. Tonson, at Shakespear's Head, over-against Catherine-street in the Strand. 1712. Text edited by Alain Kerhervé from the ECCO edition.