G.K.Chesterton: ‘Wine And Water’


 (Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic.  He was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing over 20 stone (130 kg).  His girth, perhaps in part due to his great fondness for wine,  occasioned a famous incident when he remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw  “Look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.”  Shaw retorted, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it”.

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Wine And Water

Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
He ate his egg with a ladle in a egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and fish he took was Whale,
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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To reinforce Chesterton’s delight in the drinking of wine, I quote a verse from another of his poems on the same subject . . . 

“Feast on wine or fast on water,
And your honour shall stand sure …
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.”

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4 thoughts on “G.K.Chesterton: ‘Wine And Water’

  1. Thank you Roland for these very amusing poems. Reading them at breakfast really started the morning with a big laugh. Dear Gilbert Chesterton surely did like his wine and food. He wouldn’t have thought much about my breakfast. Cried he would.😊 .
    Miriam

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  2. Brilliant Roland. I must confess, I haven’t read much of Chesterton’s work but shall be having a look now. The conversation with George Bernard Shaw was priceless.

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