Guest poem sent in by William Grey
(Poem #1926) Tobacco's But an Indian Weed
Tobacco's but an Indian weed, Grows green at morn, cut down at eve, It shews our decay, we are but clay: Think of this when you smoke tobacco. The pipe that is so lily white, Wherein so many take delight, Is broke with a touch -- man's life is such: Think of this when you smoke tobacco. The pipe that is so foul within, Shows man's soul is stained with sin; It doth require the purging fire; Think of this when you smoke tobacco! The ashes that are left behind, Do serve to put us all in mind That unto dust return we must: Think of this when you smoke tobacco. The smoke, that does so high ascend, Shews us man's life must have an end, The vapour's gone -- man's life is done: Think of this when you smoke tobacco.
(17th Century England) The song "Tobacco's But an Indian Weed" goes back at least to the mid-17th century. It can be sung to an appropriately mournful, dirge-like melody. This version is based on Thomas D'Urfey's "Pills to Purge Melancholy" (1699), sourced from: http://kitchenmusician.net/smoke/smokepage.html William Grey [Martin adds] What fascinates me about this song is how likely it is (at least in retrospect) that it would be caught up in the folk process. The combination of a simple, strong pattern (one rhyming couplet, one internally-rhyming line and a refrain), a subversive topic that has room for infinite variation, and the lack of any real ordering to the verses makes the temptation to tweak or add a verse or two almost irresistible. [Links] http://kitchenmusician.net/smoke/tobacco.html has a nice writeup on the history of the song