I have been in a great mood all week, even though my tennis game has been crappy and I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. Why? Well, because I finished a draft of the introduction of my book, that’s why!

If you aren’t a blessed academic, a scholar, as we like to call ourselves, this may not mean much. Here’s a bit of explanation: when you are writing a research-based book about literature (or really, almost anything intended for the consumption of fellow academics), the introduction is where you basically show that you have read everything, thought about everything, and are now presenting an idea or an argument in the next 3-6 chapters of your book that is original, groundbreaking, fascinating, etc., etc. Yep. That’s all.

I hate introductions. This is what I’ve been struggling to write for the past two months, and I’ve decided it’s finished–for now. I’m sure much of it will change once I finish drafting the remaining three (3) chapters of How the Other Half Laughs. But who cares about the remaining chapters? Let’s break out the champagne now! Or just a beer will do fine, thank you very much!

Not an hour after I decided the draft of my intro was finished, I got this FB message from my friend Ron, an old neighbor from Austin, TX:

I saw this guy play I haven’t seen in some time. at one point he sang a song that he wrote in the style of an old english drinking song. and I immediately thought, “I should challenge jean to write an old english drinking song.” so yeah!

So yeah! Hell, yeah! Ron, you must have been reading my mind!

Incidentally, Ron has left the sunny climes of Austin and now lives in Montreal. And my most visceral experiences of drinking songs of any kind have to be from that very city. Matt and I visited Quebec for our honeymoon lo these 20+ years ago … in January. To make a long story short, we missed winter, having moved to Austin, TX from Northfield, MN … or so we thought! So when we got married, we decided to go somewhere wintry for our honeymoon. Call us crazy.

Anyway, when we were in Montreal, we spent several warm, cozy evenings in the Peel Pub in downtown Montreal, drinking beer and eating poutine while it was 10 below zero outside. For those of you who’ve never been to the Peel Pub, it is huge. Not what you’d think of when I say “cozy.” But somehow it does manage to evoke the feeling, perhaps because in the cold winter months, it seems to attract hordes of hockey fans who just want to throw down some pitchers of beer and … sing!

Being from the buttoned-down, laced-up midwestern part of the U.S., we’d never seen such throaty displays of raw emotion.

My favorite ‘old english drinking song” has to be, well, basically anything by the Pogues. But my favorite of these has to be “Sally Maclennane,” from Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.  

I thought about modeling my drinking song on that melody, but it ended up being more complicated than I really wanted to deal with. I mean, let’s get to the good stuff, right?

Now just to allay any confusion, by “drinking song” I think what Ron is asking for is not a song about drinking, per se, or a song to listen to while drinking (e.g., “Crazy” by Patsy Cline or “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash … two songs I have had many drinks to over the years). Funny how many songs in either of those categories are country songs. What he means is a song to be sung while drinking. Ideally, it should elicit more drinking. It’s often profane, and very often incredibly misogynistic (my feminist ears are still burning from some of the songs I ran across while doing research on drinking songs on the web). Because this blog is intended to be G-rated, or PG at the worst, I am going to spare you from anything the grossly sexual or simply gross. (Ron, I realize this is probably what you were hoping for. Sorry … it’s just not in me today.)

Doing a drinking song seems apropos since here in Baltimore we just witnessed a full display of guns-n-religion patriotism in celebrating the bicentennial of our national-anthem-cum-drinking song, “The Star Spangled Banner.” As you probably know, the lyrics were penned by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. What you may not know is that the tune comes from a song popularized by the Anacreontic Society, an old English men’s club where I gather they did lots of drinking.

So here is the beginning of my drinking song, which I now realize has an echo– not intended– of “Sally Maclennane.” Is it plagiarism if you didn’t intend it? Well, sue me if you like. You can sing it to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which I think must have been a drinking song before the Victorians cleaned it up and turned it into a Christmas carol.

Wet your whistle, quench your thirst, it’s time now for some fun.
If you won’t drink, then I’ll go first.
Down the hatch goes one.

Cheers to you and all and for tomorrow, have no fear
Now bring me more whiskey and beer, whiskey and beer,
O bring me more whiskey and beer.

No use feeling sorry, for what’s done is done, it’s true
Leave your worries at the door,
Drink now—that makes two;

Cheers to you and all and for tomorrow, have no fear
Now bring me more whiskey and beer, whiskey and beer,
O bring me more whiskey and beer.

Break the bounds, unleash the hounds, we all yearn to be free,
That burning in my throat must mean
It’s time for number three.

(Refrain)

Warm now by the fire, we feel no chill wind from the north
Everything is looking rosy
As we quaff our fourth;

(Refrain)

I think you’d better take my keys, I think I shouldn’t drive
This song’s too fast; I can’t believe
We’re up to number five;

Cheers to you and all and for tomorrow, have no fear
Now bring me more whiskey and beer, whiskey and beer,
O bring me more whiskey and beer.

Well, I think five is plenty, don’t you? Because of the pacing, I think you’d have to drink shots to keep up. So it’s really more a whiskey song than a beer song. In which case, five is certainly enough for me!

But if you want more verses, feel free to make up your own and post them in the comments.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be raising a glass, for sure!

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