A few years back Google made headlines for deciding it was going to index the world’s books. Authors and publishers roared over their content being searchable and posted online. Some of their fears were probably well founded, and Google has proven itself to be anything but void of evil. Nonetheless, Google Books is something I’ve grown to love over the years.
I’ve always had a fascination for old books. In college I would roam the archives of our massive school library and pick out the volumes that were two hundred or four hundred years old. Sometimes the thoughts of people back then caused me to laugh because their worldview felt so foreign. And other times I would shudder at the familiarity of their thinking—how little had changed in so long of a time.
Now many, perhaps even most, of these old books are available and archived on Google Books for free. Simply visit the site, then select Search Tools, and from the drop-down menu choose Free Google E-books. All of your search results from that moment forward will be available for free download, usually as a PDF for reading on your tablet or an EPUB for your e-book reader.
It’s there that I found this poem:
When love grows cool, thy fire still warms me;
When friends are fled, thy presence charms me.
If thou art full, though purse be bare,
I smoke, and cast away all care!
-German Smoking Song (page 7)
This is just one poem of hundreds in a book called Pipe and Pouch: The smoker’s own book of poetry.
I’m tempted to quote the whole book at length, but I’ll keep the poems to just that and one more.
Choosing a Wife by a Pipe of Tobacco
Tube, I love thee as my life;
By thee I meant to choose a wife.
Tube, they color let me find,
In her skin, and in her mind.
Let her have a shape as fine;
Let her breath be sweet as thine;
Let her, when her lips I kiss,
Burn like thee, to give me bliss;
Let her, in some smoke or other,
All my failings kindly smother.
Often when my thoughts are low,
Send them where they ought to go;
When to study I incline,
Let her aid be such as thine;
Such as thine the charming power
In the vacant social hour.
Let her live to give delight,
Ever warm and ever bright;
Let her deeds, whene’er she dies,
Mount as incense to the skies.
-Gentleman’s Magazine (page 49)
For those of you interested in more smoking poetry, hit Google Books and download your copy now.
In the realm of unusual on Google Books was Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Aborigines, Based on Material in the U.S. National Museum. This book is interesting because of it’s incredible number of illustrations of ancient pipes and it’s descriptions of how the Native American’s used tobacco and pipes differently than we do today. The table of contents include chapters titled, "Early references to the use of tobacco," "Heavy animal and bird pipes," "Disc pipes," "Idol pipes," and then, if those didn’t sound strange enough, there is a whole chapter dedicated to "Some unique types."
While this book does discuss the use of tobacco by the white man, and even challenges some thinking about it’s adoption by them, it’s focus is on Native American use and shaping. The book has many pictures of different shapes and styles of pipes which would be interesting to pipe smoker and pipe maker alike. Take this one section on the Iroquoian pipes for example,
"Another peculiar characteristic of Iroquoian pipes is the form of the bowl, copied apparently from the hats of the soldiers of colonial days, with their high curved front, often affording space for the representation of standing or seated figures, which look as though copied from the sacred pictures or figured of the French churches. Another characteristic of the pipe of almost the whole of the Iroquoian area is observed in a series of ellipsoidal depressions upon the bowl, the significance of which it is difficult to explain, though it is common on both stone and pottery examples. There is still another type of pipe that belongs to this region which has no stem, the form being that of a bird or animal always facing the smoker" (page 489).
If you’re a pipe maker in need of new ideas for pipe shapes, look no further.
If you read only one of the several books I’m suggesting, let it be Saint Nicotine of the Peace Pipe.
"Ah, tobacco! It is one of the greatest benefits that ever came to the human race. Nobody ever came near me whose talk was half so good as silence with my pipe."
I need to break here and just mention how much this comment alone makes me appreciate the writer. It’s not the writing that’s brilliant (though that too is wonderful), it’s the bluntness of his voice which makes this book so damn good. He continues…
"I would fly out of the way of everybody, and would much rather smoke a pipe of wholesome tobacco than talk to anybody just now. I saw in the weed the one element in which by European manners men could sit silently together without embarrassment, and no man was bound to speak one word more than had actually and veritably got to say. . . . The results of which salutary practice, if introduced into constitutional parliaments, might evidently be incalculable."
I know every generation for all time has said that the "good old days" were better and that the world is clearly falling apart because of the mistakes of "youths" these days. Nonetheless, I would like to agree with the writer and go on record as saying, if our government was filled with people enjoying their pipes, all of our debt issues would be solved overnight, and partisan divides would be solved by way of leaders smoking the peace pipe.
Solutions to our world’s problems already exist just by taking what we find in little metal tins, and burning them for pleasure in our pipes. Why is it only a select few of us can see it?
I could continue all day, but will allow these few to set the stage for you. Maybe soon, one of the big online retailers will re-print some of these classics for us to enjoy in paper form while holding our churchwardens and either giggling hysterically, or solving the world’s problems.
But just so I don’t leave you out to dry, here are a few more wonderfully entertaining books free from Google.
Death in the Pipe: or The Great Smoking Question, wherein a doctor responds to the findings of another doctor that smoking may have ill affects on our health. He claims smoking must be great for us, after all it solves impotence (page 28). Fair warning, Google seems to have cut off before scanning this whole book.
If you enjoy a good book while while smoking, I hope these books will entertain you for a while. And any particularly good nuggets you find, please pass on to the rest of us
via the forums.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one last poem from, this one from, The Fragrant Weed: Some of the Good Things which Have Been Said Or Sung about Tobacco.
The Philosophy of Smoke
"Ex fumo dare lucem."
The Meerschaum white, or the brown briar root—
How many phases of life they suit!
Good luck or bad luck, glory or gloom,
All tone to one color—take one perfume.
If you’ve just "struck oil," and with pride run mad,
If you haven’t a sou, and are bound to the bad—
Good luck may vanish, or bad luck mend:
Put each in your pipe and smoke it, friend!
If you love a Lady fair to view,
And she turns with a cold contempt from you,
While at your rival a smile she darts—
Walking with pride on a pathway of hearts
Wrapt in her softness, dainty and nice,
Fire in her eyes, at her bosom ice—
In search of returns previous time why spend?
Put your love in your pipe and smoke it, friend!
If you climb the ladder of politics, where
Whoso ascends breathes difficult air;
And, being highest of men of the time,
Are slightly elate with your seat sublime,
A little apt at yourself to wonder,
And mistake your own bray for real thunder;
Think how rockets rise and how sticks descend—
Put success in your pipe and smoke it, friend.
If Fame be your football, any day
A stronger player may kick it away.
Round you to-day lion-hunters smother;
Next week the Lion’s skin goes to another.
From Popularity’s box-seat hurled,
Lie still and see your successor purled.
A nine-days’ wonder nine days will spend:
So put "vogue" in your pipe and smoke it, friend!
-"Punch." London. (page 89)
Photo by Downtown Lori Brown © 2015 Lori Brown & PipesMagazine.com
A. Miller recently returned to the United States after a decade living in China. Now he’s working to connect businesses (and the pipe world) to the Chinese market. He enjoys the availability of quality pipes and pipe tobaccos in Texas and Colorado. He can be reached via email.”