Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Naked Beauty of Cigars

Ah, perhaps the title "naked beauty of cigars" misled you? We are not talking about "naked beauties" and cigars, but the naked beauty of cigars. The topic of this post is not some titillating topic, but rather Lord Byron's poem, "The Island," where he describes the naked benefit, the nudum beneficium, of cigars: so close are they to nature itself, without any mechanical or technical intermediaries or accoutrements, "clothing" as it were, such as we find in pipe or hooka, which interfere, or at least intermediate, with the natural enjoyment of the tobacco. In a cigar, the tobacco stains the hand, the lip: there is no "middle-man" between the tobacco and the smoke. We come into contact with the tobacco's flesh, even its very veins. Smoking cigars is, for Byron and for the aficionado, the enjoyment of tobacco in the most intimate way.

"The Island"
by Lord Byron
Canto II.xix.*

Sublime tobacco! which from east to west
Cheers the tar's labour or the Turkman's rest;
Which on the Moslem's ottoman divides
His hours, and rivals opium and his brides;
Magnificent in Stamboul, but less grand,
Though not less loved in Wapping or the Strand;
Divine in hookas, glorious in a pipe,
When tipp'd with amber, mellow, rich, and ripe;
Like other charmers, wooing the caress
More dazzlingly when daring in full dress.
Yet thy true lovers more admire, by far,
Thy naked beauties--give me a cigar!

Cigar manufacturers, of course, seized on such language, and, before long, Lord Byron--in addition to all the other things he symbolized, many of which do not become a Christian man--became a symbol of the art and the beauty of smoking a cigar. So Lord Byron appeared on books about tobacco, obtained his own cigar brand, and appeared on cigar bands or vitolas.

Lord Byron on Cigar Vitola

Lord Byron-Brand Cigars

Lord Byron puffing on a "naked beauty"
"Give me a Cigar!"

*"tar" is slang for sailor; "Stamboul" is a variant of Istanbul, capital of Turkey; "Wapping" is a place in London close to the docks by the River Thames, at the time a lower class area; "Strand" refers to a location in London which, during Victorian England, was a fashionable address.

1 comment:

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