22 June 2016

STAG'S BREATH and Evelyn Waugh's THE LOVED ONE: UPDATE

O magnam concordiam mentium magnarum! In Encaeniis (quibus hodie interfuimus)  Oxoniensibus Orator Publicus, ducens ad Cancellarium Musicum quendam Estoniensem ARVO PART 'tininnabulorum magistrum', haec locutus est: "Callimachus [videte inferius] integros fontes e quibus olige libas fluit lutoso flumini Assyriae anteponit; ita multi sonis chromaticis exsatiati, limpidos huius viri numeros gratis auribus hauriunt."

I found recently at the bottom of a drawer a piece of advertising, infra, which must have struck me a few decades ago as worth cutting out and keeping ... and certainly still so strikes me now ... as being a superb example of a particular literary genre. This genre I met as a youth when, for the first but not the last time, I read Evelyn Waugh's diverting send-up, not simply of the American Funeral Industry, but of what Europeans naughtily imagine to be the entire North American way of life and death ... and way of speech. (Some readers may also be reminded of Max Beerbohm's Rhodes Scholar Oover.)

Waugh is especially cruel about American advertising. I suppose among the characteristics of what he satirises is an aspiration to literary diction which succeeds in achieving pretentious pomposity. I wonder, too, if it is influenced by a hankering among post-moderns for an imagined Arcadia. This would bracket efforts like the following with the idylls and eclogues of Theocritus and Vergil, peering out from the crowded, violent and dirty megalopoleis of the Greco-Roman world and seeing melodious shepherds wooing uncomplicated shepherdesses with a penchant for speaking Doric in a never-never countryside devoid of thistles.

This is what I found at the bottom of the drawer:

                                   THE BEE ON THE BARLEY

In the ancient Lordship of Badenoch, at the wild heart of the Scottish Highlands, Stag's Breath Liqueur is created with dedicated care, inspired in its baptism by the epic Whisky Galore.

Here is the outcome of the mystical alchemy of distillation that transforms the grain of the bearded barley and cloud-pure burn water into the golden liquid of life of the Gaels.

Husbanded to mellow maturity in the cool aisles of glenside bonds it has been married to another fermentation - no less magical - the crop of the honey bees working their quiet purpose across the slopes of the heather-clad Highland hills.

It is the lightness of summer sun entwined with the limpid depths of Northern lochs. Sip and savour it. It is an essence of Scotland.

Other such 'essences' 'of the Gaels' might, I suppose, include the effluvia in Sauchiehall Street after a  Saturday evening.

Come to think of it, "cloud-pure burn water" suggests a topos favoured by Callimachus and his imitators. I wonder if this piece was composed by an American Classicist with his/her tongue in his/her cheek? I honestly don't think that Dorothy Sayers and her colleagues at Pym's Publicity would have run to anything as extravagant as Stag's Breath or mystical alchemy. I assume that "inspired in its baptism by" is High American for "we got the name from"? 

4 comments:

vetusta ecclesia said...



On the shortlist for the prize for meaningless pretentious verbiage must be the different gallery introductions to this year's annual exhibition at the Royal Academy.

GOR said...

It would appear, Father, that the art of flowery descriptions of Scotch provenance is not dead. Over here – especially during the Open Championship and the Scottish Open - we are treated to more of the same.

Among other things a certain brand of Uisge beatha piously proclaims that the makers “traveled three thousand miles to the slopes of the Ozarks…” to obtain the perfect wood for their barrels (cue image of misty slopes…which, in Ireland would be termed “the foggy dew”).

Agus araile…

Surrey Highlander said...

You will be pleased to know that exactly the same text is still being used by the manufacturer to advertise the product online.

Robert Thornton said...

Of course, Surrey Highlander, why would they not still use it? Perfection ought to be left alone.