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Coffee: A Poem

by Guillaume Massieu

Bilingual English / Latin edition

Translated and introduced by John T Gilmore.

Part of our Arc Classics: New Translations of Great Poets of the Past series edited by Jean Boase-Beier

It is hard to imagine a time when coffee drinking was not part of every-day life and yet it was not until the end of the seventeenth century that it became widespread in Europe. The visit of the Turkish Ambassador to Louis XIV's court in 1669 helped to make coffee-drinking fashionable in France, so it is not surprising that it was a Frenchman who chose to extol its delights, not to mention its health-giving properties, in a long poem written in Latin, the popular language for verse throughout Europe until well into the eighteenth century. L'Abbé Guillaume Massieu, priest turned teacher, gives a witty yet instructive account of the origins of coffee, its real or alleged properties, and how to make the perfect cup, an account which loses none of its sparkle and humour in John T. Gilmore's masterly translation.

Strange... but definitely delightful, is the translation of a seventeenth century Latin poem, Coffee, by the French poet Guillaume Massieu, rendered, rather wonderfully into archaic rhyming couplets by John T Gilmore. As the title indicates, the poem is about coffee as much as the eighteenth century English poet, John Phillips's Cyder is about cider. The discursive-descriptive poem-essay was a staple of the eighteenth century. If there were a prize for such things I wouldn't hesitate to give it to the translation of Coffee.

George Szirtes

Pbk: 9781910345795
Hbk: 9781910345801
Published August 2019

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