April 27, 2004

Buckets of beer

A couple of weeks ago, the learned Dr. Weevil answered a query about the difference between "Asymmetric information" and "Asymmetrical information" by explaining that the first is merely a trochaic tetrameter, while the second is a hipponactean. He indicates in a footnote that "[t]he hipponactean is named after the Greek poet Hipponax, the only one I know other than Hank Williams (Senior, of course) who writes of buckets of beer." In a later post, he quotes some (translated) verses, though not the one about beer.

According to the LION database, at least one other (English) poet has written a poem about buckets of beer. Well, he's Australian, and there's only one bucket of beer in the poem, which is mostly about bugs, homelessness and nostalgia, but I think that Hank would've liked the content if not the style.

    Baking at night

    Geoffrey Lehmann

You don't get bread these days
with blue and green beetle wings baked into it
and pink stains from some crimson bug.
On hot nights
the lights of the bakehouse drew
all the insects of Waugoola Shire,
and strolling past you could smell the dough.
But they've given up baking at night.

You don't see the fires of the bagmen
under the bridge by the river.
They're extinct too.
Mr Long sometimes humped his swag
for far-off places,
drinking methylated spirits, shadow boxing
and trying to kiss people.
I've tasted his johnny cakes,
flour mixed with salt and water on a fence post
and cooked on a sheet of galvanized iron,
zinc curling off around the dough.
Burned specks turned out to be mouse dung.

After his long tramp across One-Tree-Plain
with a 'cigarette swag'
Jim Long (Old Quizzer) dossed for some weeks
with a dozen other bagmen sprawled drunk
under the bridge at Darlington Point.

He got some meat scraps
and cooked soup for them all in a kerosene tin.
A bagman's three-day-old corpse
when it was noticed
was christened 'Hot and Juicy'.
The bagmen dug a hole by the side of the river,
a bucket of beer
was sent down from the Punt Hotel,
and Constable Brindle read the burial service.

You don't see many drunkards, wanderers
or blind people
(like Mrs Stinson---as children we loved
to see her holding her missal upside down
in church, poor woman).
There's no Cancer Joe for children to taunt.

If I wanted to join the bagmen by the river
under the weeping willows
I'd find no one there,
only the rumble of semi-trailers crossing the bridge,
the big headlights hurtling over.

We live in very moral times.

[from Spring Forest (1994)]

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 27, 2004 05:40 AM