From the Book of Myths

by Bliss Carman


 

PREFACE


 

IT is a hearty old saying that "Good wine needs no bush." Why, then, should the master of a roadhouse hang out a sign, letting folk know there is good drink within?
     Consider the feelings of the landlord, poor man. At once nettled and abashed, he exclaims:
     "Pray why should I stick a bough over my door? My tavern is well bespoke for miles about, and all the folk know I serve nothing but good, honest liquor,—and mighty comforting it is of a cold night, when the fire is bright on the hearth, or refreshing on a hot day either."
     "Nay, but," says the stranger, "how should a traveller know of this? You must advertise, man. Hang out your sign to attract the passer-by, and increase trade. Trade's the thing. You should be doing a driving business, with a cellar like yours."
     "Huh," replies the taverner, "I perceive that in the city where you come from it may not be a mark of character in a man to rely wholly upon merit, but that if one would ensure success, he must sound a trumpet before him, as the hypocrites do, that they may have glory of men, as the Word says."
     "Tut, man," says the stranger, "look at your friend John Doe under the hill yonder. Does a wonderful business. Famous all over the country for his home-brewed ale, and his pockets lined with gold."
     "Yes," says the host, "John Doe is a good thrifty man and as fine a comrade as you'd wish to find, selling his hundred thousand bottles a year. But the gist of the matter between us isn't all in quantity, I'll be bound. Quality is something. And as for myself I would as soon have a bottle of wine as a keg of beer any day. Wine is the poetry of life, in a manner of speaking, and ale you see is the prose,—very good to get along on, but no sorcery in it. Three things, I always say, a man needs have,—meat for his belly, a fire for his shins, and generous wine to keep him in countenance with himself. And that's no such easy matter in a difficult world, I can tell you. 'Tis wine that gives a man courage and romance, and puts heart in him for deeds and adventures and all manner of plain wholesome love. And that, after all, is the mainspring with most men, hide it how they may. For what ever was done, that was worth doing, and was not done for a woman or for the sake of a friend, I should like to know?"
     "Maybe I hadn't thought of that," says the stranger. "You must have tasted some rare wine in your time."
     "Not so much," says the other, "but I was born with a shrewd taste for it, you may say. Moreover I came of a people who were far farers in their day, and have been abroad myself more than once. So it comes you find the foreign vintages in my bins. There's some Greek wine I have, sir, that's more than a century old, I'll wager; and a rare Moon-wine, as they call it, picked up in an out-of-the-way port, that will make you forget your sorrow like a strain of music; light wines from France, too; and some Heather Brose, very old and magical, such as the little dark people used to make hereabout in the times of the Celts long ago,—and very good times they were too. It is not these days that have all the wisdom ever was, you may be sure."
     "You are not such a bad advocate, after all," remarks the stranger. "You speak very invitingly."
     "Step inside," says the landlord.   

BLISS CARMAN.

     October 10, 1902.