Chesterton on Drinking

I’m searching Chesterton for a particular quote (“Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost his principles”; if you know where it is found, please, please tell me) and I found this in Heretics under “Omar and the Sacred Vine” (Chesterton quoters should be required to give attribution!):

The sound rule in the matter would appear to be like many other sound rules–a paradox. Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell.  But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.

This is the Scriptural rule as well: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15, ESV)

No one can be really hilarious but the serious man.  “Wine,” says the Scripture, “maketh glad the heart of man,” but only of the man who has a heart. The thing called high spirits is possible only to the spiritual. Ultimately a man cannot rejoice in anything except the nature of things.
Ultimately a man can enjoy nothing except religion. Once in the world’s history men did believe that the stars were dancing to the tune of their temples, and they danced as men have never danced since.  With this old pagan eudaemonism the sage of the Rubaiyat has quite as little to do as he has with any Christian variety.  He is no more a Bacchanal than he is a saint. Dionysus and his church was grounded on a serious joie-de-vivre like that of Walt Whitman. Dionysus made wine, not a medicine, but a sacrament.  Jesus Christ also made wine, not a medicine, but a sacrament.  But Omar makes it, not a sacrament, but a medicine. He feasts because life is not joyful; he revels because he is not glad.  “Drink,” he says, “for you know not whence you come nor why.  Drink, for you know not when you go nor where. Drink, because the stars are cruel and the world as idle as a humming-top. Drink, because there is nothing worth trusting, nothing worth fighting for.  Drink, because all things are lapsed in a base equality and an
evil peace.” So he stands offering us the cup in his hand.  And at the high altar of Christianity stands another figure, in whose hand also is the cup of the vine. “Drink” he says “for the whole world is as red as this wine, with the crimson of the love and wrath of God. Drink, for the  trumpets are blowing for battle and this is the stirrup-cup. Drink, for this my blood of the new testament that is shed for you.  Drink, for I know of whence you come and why. Drink, for I
know of when you go and where.”

Timotheos

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5 thoughts on “Chesterton on Drinking

  1. Hmmm. Finding a Chesterton quote that can’t be dug out of google books or google itself may be hard. The problem is he’s so quotable (like Churchill), that his stuff is all over, and he probably attracts quotes that aren’t even his too.

  2. Pingback: Who Said It? « Balaam’s Ass

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