Friday, May 25, 2012

Smoking is Healther than Fascism

Recently, during writing an article on Memorial Day, I Googled the phrase "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," so that I could confirm its authorship (Horace).  (The phrase, which comes from one of Horace's Odes II.2.13 means "it is sweet and noble to die for one's country.")  In the Wikipedia article, I noticed that the noble words had been humorously co-opted into a drinking song:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,
Sed dulcius pro patria vivere,
Et dulcissimum pro patria bibere.
Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae.

It is sweet and right to died for the homeland,
But it is sweeter to live for the homeland,
And it is sweetest to drink for it.
Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.
This was obviously written by a man who did not smoke cigars.  Accordingly, it needs to be adapted.  And here goes:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,
Sed dulcius pro patria vivere,
Et dulcissimum pro patria bibere et fumare.
Ergo, bibamus et fumamus pro salute patriae.

It is sweet and right to died for the homeland,
But it is sweeter to live for the homeland,
And it is sweetest to drink and smoke for it.
Therefore, let us drink and smoke to the health of the homeland.
By writing these lines, I do not mean to deprecate the memory of the fallen.  We should honor the fallen who have sacrificed their lives in our defense.  Without the sacrifice of those who defend this country, we would not have the ability to have our Monday herfs.  So let us drink and smoke to the health of our homeland, but drink and smoke first to those who gave their lives so that our homeland may be healthy.

And remember, smoking is healthier than fascism!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Life's Like a Cigar: "And like tobacco--you--to ashes turn."

I offer our readers a poem about cigars which compares the fleeting smoke to our fleeting lives. It is written by a largely unknown German philosopher, theologian, and writer, Christoph Weißenborn (1699-1731). There is not much biographical material on the internet regarding him; however, I am quite sure that he was a Lutheran by confession.  This goes to show that cigar smoking is valuable ecumenical device, as it encourages of dialogue, builds camaraderie, and, if our friend Weißenborn is followed, helps promote reflection and contemplation.

I stumbled upon a poem attributed to him sort of accidentally:

Betrachtet man den flüchtgen Rauch,
so muß man als ein Christ gestehen.
Wir müssen endlich eben auch,
wenn Zeit und Stunde kommt, vergehen.
Und steigt der Mensch gleich noch so hoch
und wär der größte auf der Erden,
so muß der Leib doch endlich noch
wie du, Tabak, zu Asche werden.

 The poem is quoted in Georg Böse, Im blaue Dunst: eine Klutrgeschichte des Rauchens. I have provided a (very) rough translation.

Consider one might the fleeting smoke,
Indeed, as Christians we ought consider
Just like we also should invoke
That time and hours are here and hither
And though you as man may rise so high
To be the greatest on our earthly sojourn,
So must your body's end draw nigh
And like tobacco--you--to ashes turn.

Christoph Weißenborn (1699-1731)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Errrr, a tongue tied cigar

I found this Spanish tongue twister on the internet.

Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril,
Rápido corren los carros cargados de azúcar del ferrocarril.

 Translated one might render it thus:

"R" with an "r" cigar, "r" with an "r" barrel,
Rapid run the rail cars carrying the railroad's sugar.

Holy Smokes!

We have struggled to find a photograph of St. Pius X, our heavenly patron, smoking a cigar. It is reputed or rumored that he smoked sigari toscani, tuscan cigars, and had a humidor. I have not been able to prove this by contemporary evidence or by photographic evidence. 

 I do have another additional piece of evidence we may cite to in our constant effort at rationalization or justification of our little habit. In this instance, I would point to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Although I have not been able to find a photograph of Blessed Pier smoking a cigar, I have found one where he is clearly enjoying a pipe. However, in his biography by Luciana Frassati, we have quite convincing proof that our Blessed Pier smoked and enjoyed cigars, a habit he acquired--hard to believe--from his cigar-smoking mom!
[Pier] had also learned to appreciate the strong smell of tobacco.  Neither my father nor I [says his sister and biographer] was permitted to express annoyance at that cloud of smoke, and, if I complained, Mama retorted by calling me "delicate," a sure sign of contempt.  Proud of his smoking mother, a custom unusual among women, my brother [Pier] tried a cigar in the garden at Pollone with his inseparable friend Camillo Banzatti.  Banzatti felt ill after a few puffs, whereas Pier Giorgio stood the test brilliantly.  Much later he became a placid smoker of Tuscan cigars (the cheapest and smelliest Italian cigars).  If anyone asked him the reason for his bad taste, he replied: "Even my mother smokes Tuscans."  Or he proudly explained the origin of his innocent vice by saying: "My mother smoked over me when I was being fed at the breast."
(Luciana Frassati, A Man of the Beatitudes ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 68 (Dinah Livingstone, trans.).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Religious Smoking and Drinking

In our constant effort to justify our cigar-smoking pecadillos, which invariably is tied to a little bit of imbibing, we have invoked Pope St. Pius X (reputedly a smoker, though I have no photographic evidence of same), Pope Pius IX (and his cigar-making factory), etc.  In prior posts, we have also mentioned some tobacco-using saints, for example, the English martyr-priest St. John Kemble, the Mexican martyr-priest, San Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez.  There is, of course, ample examples of cigar smoking Catholics, including some of our top intellects and literary giants such as G. K. Chesteron and Hilaire Belloc.

Continuing in that self-justifcatory vein, I thought I would invoke the witness of the German artist Eduard von Grützner (1846–1925).  This artist was famed for his genre paints of monks and other religious, often depicted in more jovial moods, holding up a claret to the light, sniffing a wine's the bouquet, taking a big swig of a liter of German Pilsner, or, even smoking a cigar.  We find Grützner depicting secular priests, Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, even . . . on occasion, a Prince of the Church.

 A Capuchin Friar Enjoying a Fine Cigar and a Beer

 A Cardinal Enjoying a Wine's Bouquet

 A Dominican Friar Admiring the Clarity of the Wine

 Dominican Friar Admiring the Vintage

 Dominican Friar Toasting

 Secular Priest Admiring a Claret

"The Catastrophe"

Grützner was born to a Catholic family in Groß-Karlowitz near the town of Neiße, in Upper Silesia, an area that is now Poland. Grützner displayed his artistic ability when very young.  The village parson encouraged the development of the talent, and enabled him to attend the grammar school of Gymnasium in Neiße.  The parson then sent Grützner to Hermann Dyck's private school in Munich in 1864, and this enabled Grützner to study drawing in the city of Munich. Other teachers that influenced Grützner included Hiltensperger and Strähuber.

In 1865 Grützner finally joined Hermann Anschütz's painting class at the Munich Akademie. There he also sought advice and ideas with Carl Theodor von Piloty before being accepted in his class in 1867. Three years later he left the Akademie and moved into his own studio.

Already in his student years--one might turn to his youthful work "Im Klosterkeller" (In the Cloister Cellars)-- focused on depicting monastic life. Most of his scenes depict the merry atmosphere in monastic cellars, kitchens and alehouses in a humorous and anecdotal manner.

Grützner's technique was traditional, in both style and palette. 

Grützner was appointed professor at the Munich Akademie in 1886.  In 1880 he was awarded the Order of Merit of St. Michael (Knight's Cross) first class, and he was knighted in 1916.

In addition to his monastic paintings, Grützner also produced a Falstaff-cycle, theatre and hunting scenes, and studies of interiors. 

Grützner married Barbara Link in 1874, who bore him a daughter, whom they named Barbara. After ten years of marriage, Barbara died.  In 1888, married the much-younger Anna Grützner Wirthmann, from whom he had a son, Karl Eduard.  This second marriage was unhappy, and the younger wife eventually left the artist for a Viennese singer.

Grützner died in 1925 in Munich.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Papal Cigar Factory

There is a sort of neo-Jansenism in Christian circles as to smoking. In our secular society, we are bombarded every day with the evils of smoking, and so we seem to be more concerned about regulating smoking than, say, regulating our sexual mores, our marriages, and so forth. This sort of rigorism has crept into the Church.

Remember, it is not what goes into a man which makes him foul, but what comes out from within. (Matt. 15:11)

In a perhaps more innocent time, tobacco was not seen as the devil's leaf. Indeed, the Pope had his own tobacco plant wherein he manufactured all sorts of tobacco--for snuff, for cigarettes, for pipes, and cigars. 

The building in which the tobacco business was housed still stands. It was known as the New Tobacco Factory because it was where the various tobacco operations were ultimately consolidated. The building, which is found in the Piazza Mastai, was built in 1863. Its architect was Antonio Sarti, and it has a similarity to the Colonnade du Louvre in Paris, though it is actually a narrow building in its seeming grandeur. 

 The Latin inscription, a detail of which I show below (double click on it to make it larger), makes it clear what its purpose was: 


Loosely translated, the the inscription is "Pius IX, Pope. Office of Tobacco Works, Built 1863." Nicotianis foliis means "nicotine leaves," which is clearly a reference to tobacco whose commercial possibilities were introduced to Europe by the French diplomat Jean Nicot. 

 The fountain at the center of the square was designed by Andrea Busiri Vici. As a result of this building, the various various tobacco operations of the Papal States could be consolidated into one place. This was the result of the plans initiated in 1859, by the Pontifical Director of Salt and Tobacco. Eventually, the building was acquired by the Italian government.