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Quotations, Sayings, Proverbs etc...


A fairly casual list: much of it derives from the Bible and the Classics, as well as folklore. I've also included anything that strikes me as interesting or unusual. For full references go to the Bibliography.

Bible: OT Bible: NT Literary
Greek Miscellaneous  
Proverbial Roman Shakespeare



[The Bible used is the Revised Standard Version. ‘Not found' relates to this version]


Hebrew for strong drink is sometimes claimed to be 'sicera'. ‘It seems highly probable that the word sicera signified any intoxicating liquor other than wine, whether made from corn, honey or fruit.' (Bickerdyke, p.26)

‘The passage in Numbers is translated in Tyndale's version, "They shall drink neither wyn ne sydyr," and it is this rendering that has earned for Tyndale's translation the name of the cider Bible.' (Bickerdyke, p.26)

‘In support of the theory that beer was known amongst the Jews, may be mentioned the Rabbinical tradition that the Jews were free from leprosy during the captivity in Babylon by reason of their drinking "siceram veprium, id est, ex lupulis confectam," or sicera made with hops, which one would think could be no other than bitter beer.' (Bickerdyke, p.26)




Those wishing to declaim against drunkenness and related sins (cursing, blasphemy, fornication, gluttony, murder, etc) didn't have to look too far (G. R. Owst's Literature and the Pulpit in Medieval England, [1933] contains an entertaining section on 'The Drunkard and the Tavern' as preached in sermons). The Drunkenness of Noah was a popular citation, but most common amongst moralists has perhaps been the story of Lot. Childless, his daughters got him drunk and then slept with him so that they could reproduce. You have been warned...

Proverbs Ecclesiastes Isaiah Jeremiah
Daniel Joel Habakkuk Leviticus

[A complete catalogue of alcohol in the old testament can be found in ‘Attributes of Alcohol in the Old Testament', J. M. O'Brien, Drinking and Drug Practices Surveyor 18 (1982): 18-24. Those given here are those frequently quoted in literature]



9.4-6. ‘"Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" / To him who is without sense she says, / "Come, eat of my bread / and drink of the wine I have mixed. / Leave simpleness, and live, / and walk in the way of insight."'

23.19-21.‘Hear, my son, and be wise, / and direct your mind in the way. / Be not among winebibbers, / or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will / come to poverty, / and drowsiness will clothe a man / with rags.' [‘The Drunkard shall come to Poverty, and drowsiness shall cloath a Man with rags.' - Proverbs, 23:21, is used for Hogarth's picture]


OT Menu



8.11. Prestat non nasci, quam male vinere. [Young, England's Bane. Not found]



28.1-4. ‘Woe to the proud crown of the / drunkards of E/phraim, / and to the fading flower of its / glorious beauty, / which is on the head of the rich / valley of those overcome with / wine!. / Behold, the Lord has one who is / mighty and strong; / like a storm of hail, a destroying / tempest, / like a storm of mighty, overflowing / waters, / he will cast down to the earth / with violence. / the proud crown of the drunkards / of E/phraim / will be trodden under foot; / and the fading flower of its glorious / beauty, / which is on the head of the rich / valley, / will be like a first-ripe fig before the / summer: / when a man sees it, he eats it up / as soon as it is in his hand.'

28.7-8. ‘These also reel with wine / and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel / with strong drink, / they are confused with wine, / they stagger with strong drink; / they err in vision, / they stumble in giving judgement. / For all tables are full of vomit, / no place is without filthiness.'

56.11-12. ‘The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. The shepherds also have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all. "Come," they say, "let ut get wine, let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure."


OT Menu



51.39. [Judgement on Babylon] ‘While they are inflamed I will / prepare them a feast / and make them drunk, till they / swoon away / and sleep a perpetual sleep / and now wake, says the LORD.'



10.2-3. ‘In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.'



1.5. ‘Awake, you drunkards, and weep; / and wail, all you drinkers of wine, / because of the sweet wine, / for it is cut off from your mouth.'



2.15-16. ‘Woe to him who makes his / neighbours drink / of the cup of his wrath, and / makes them drunk, / to gaze on their shame! / You will be sated with contempt / instead of glory. / Drink, yourself, and stagger! / The cup in the LORD'S right hand / will come around to you, / and shame will come upon your / glory!'


OT Menu



‘...priests are forbidden to drink wine or "strong drink" before they go into the tabernacle' (Bickerdyke, p.26, no ref)



‘...[priests] are required not only to abstain from wine and "strong drink," (Bickerdyke, p.26, no ref).


OT Menu




Luke Corinthians Galatians Ephesians
1 Thess Titus 1 Peter  



12.19-21. ‘And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

21.34-36. ‘"But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man."'



The story of the prodigal son was obviously a favourite amongst moralists, 15.11ff 1 Corinthians 6.9-20, including ‘Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.' [6.9-10]


NT Menu



5.19-21. ‘Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' [ref to 1 Cor 6.9-10]



6.15-20. ‘Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.'


NT Menu


1 Thessalonians

5.5-8. ‘For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.' [‘But your common Drunkards are no Christians: for a true Christian is the childe of light, and walketh in the light, and is sober, but the Drunkard is the child of darkness, and the workes which he dothe are the workes of darknesse...' As in Young, England's Bane]



1.11-12. ‘For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world...'


1 Peter

4.3. ‘Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.' Not traced ‘Wine prepares the minde to lusts' [Young, England's Bane] ‘David did rightly terme Cursing the girdle of the Drunkard', i.e., it is all about, cursing his wife, family. [Young, England's Bane]


NT Menu





Alexander has had something of a reputation as a drinker. He is believed to have got the habit of drinking from the Persians. [Young, England's Bane]

The most famous story about Alexander and drinking is where Alexander killed his friend Clytus whilst drunk.

Another story is that Calisthenes refused to drink to Alexander, saying ‘that he who dranke with Alexander had need of Asculapius,' so Alexander ‘caused him immediately to be put in a cage with dogges (where hee poisoned himself)...' [Young, England's Bane. I have not seen this story used elsewhere]



‘Drunkennesse is a monster with many heads: As first, filthy talke: Secondly, Fornication; Thirdly, Wrath; Fourthly, Murther; Fiftly [sic] swearing; Sixtly, [sic] cursing.' [Young, England's Bane]




Heliogabalus (204-22).

Cicero notes that he forbade people to go into the streets unless they showed evidence of their trade. [Young, England's Bane; Assheton?]


‘Mea nec Falernæ / Temperant vites, neque Formiani / Pocula colles'. [Used as Preface to Thomas Wharton's A Panegyric on Oxford Ale, (1748)]

Italicus, Silius

‘Drunkenness is thy faithful companion, and Lechery, and, with her dark wings ever flitting around thee, Disgrace.' Punica, xv. 97-7. [Crabbe, ‘The Borough: Letter XVI Inhabitants of the Alms-House. Benbow.' 2nd Epigraph.]


Set Rome ablaze whilst drunk.


‘...Romulus perceiving the allurements of lusts that proceedes from this vice made a law: That if a woman were overcome with drinke, she should die for her offence: Saying, that this vice was the beginning of dishonestie and whoredome'. [Young, England's Bane]


‘Drunkennesse requireth one houres merry madnes [sic], with a long tedious time of sorrow and repentance.' [Young, England's Bane]




Washington Irving 'To a homeless man, there is a momentary feeling of independence as he stretches himself before an inn fire; the arm-chair is his throne, the poker is his sceptre, and the little parlour his undisputed empire.' Irving's poker and arm-chair are to be visited at the Red Horse Hotel at Stratford-on-Avon (according to Maskell [1927]).

Samuel Jonson 'We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel-house, where he expatiated on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. 'There is no private house, (said he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that every body should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him: and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely comman what is in another man's house, as if it were his own. Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.' He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines:-

'Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.'

(Entry for Thursday, 21 March, 1776)

Sir John Hawkins also records the following comment by Johnson on inns:

'In contradiction to those, who, having a wife and children, prefer domestick enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, I have heard him assert, that a tavern chair was the throne of human felicity.- "As soon," said he, "as I enter the door of a tavern I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude: when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants: wine there exhilarates [sic] my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love: I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight."'


John Keats 'He who hath not been at a Tavern knows not what a Paradise it is. O holy Tavern! O miraculous Tavern! - holy because no carking cares are there, nor weariness, nor pain; and miraculous, because of the Spits, which of themselves turn round and round! Of a truth, all courtesy and good manners come from Taverns.' Hyperion, iii. 2.




As You Like It

A Midsummer's Night Dream

Henry V


Twelfth Night

Two Gentlemen...

The Winter's Tale

Henry VI


As You Like It

Adam: Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty; For in my youth I never did apply Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood, Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo The means of weakness and debility; Therefore my age is as a lusty winter, Frosty, but kindly?

[often used by temperance advocates]


Henry V

Constable of France: Dieu de batailes! Where have they this mettle? ... can sodden water, A drench for sur-rein'd jades, their barley broth, Decoct their cold blood to such valiant heat?" Act iii, scene 5.


Henry VI

Part 2, 4.2, Jack Cade declares he would ‘make it felony to drink small beer'.

‘Be brave, for your Leader is brave, and vows Reformation; there shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; and the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops. I will make it felony to drink small-beer: all shall eat and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers; and they shall all worship me as their Lord.'


A Midsummer's Night's Dream

The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals, Tearing the Thracia singer in their rage. V.1.48-9



‘It hath been sung at festivals, On ember eves and holy ales'

[ref to ale festivals]


Twelfth Night

Malvolio: ‘Do you make an alehouse of my lady's house, that ye squeak out your cozier's catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice?'

Sir Toby: Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?


Two Gentlemen of Verona

‘Come on, you mad-cap. I'll to the Alehouse with you presently, where, for one shot of fivepence, thou shalt have five thousand welcomes.' Act ii, Scene 5.

‘Blessing of your heart, you brew good Ale.' Act iii, Scene 1.

Launce to Speed: ‘Thou has not so much charity in thee as to go to the Ale with a Christian'. [The Ale was a festival]


The Winter's Tale

‘For a quart of Ale is a dish for a King'. Act iv, Scene 2.




Saint Augustine

‘ "... Drunkennesse is the mother of outrages, the matter of faults, the roote of crimes, the fountaine of vice, the intoxicateor [sic] of the head, the quelling of sences, the tempest of the tongue, the storme of the body, the shipwracke of chastitie, losse of time, boluntarie madnesse, an ignominious languor, the filthinesse of manners, the disgrace of life, the corruption of the soule...' [Young, England's Bane]



‘Fliolmus King of the Gothes was so addicted to drinking, that he would sit a great part of the night quaffing and carowsing with his servants, and as on a time hee sate after his accustomed and beastly manner carowsing with them: his servants being as drunke as their Master, threw their master King in sport into a great vessel full of drinke that was set in the middest [sic] of the Hall, where he most ridiculously and miserably ended his dayes.' [Young, England's Bane].



‘a most charming but little read poet, succeeded in teaching a favourite pig to drink ale out of a jug' (Bickerdyke, p.15).


Saint Hierome

‘I can never be persuaded to thinke a Drunkard can bee chaste.' [Young, England's Bane]


Son of Cyril

Slew his holy father and pregnant mother, injured two sisters, deflowering one of them.








‘Wine is but single broth, ale is meat, drink and cloth' C16 and C17 (Bickerdyke, p.9).

In Taylor's ‘Answer of Ale to the Challenge of Sack': 'He that buys land buys many stones, He that buys flesh buys many bones, He that buys eggs buys many shells, But he that buys good ale buys nothing else. (Bickerdyke, p.24. - ‘these old lines')

‘Beef has bones ... but ale nothing else', Whiting B 178. Kinsman gloss to: ‘Ales [Alice] founde therin no thornes, / But supped it up at ones: / She founde therin no bones.' (‘The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng', ll. 379-81).

‘Fair chieve good ale, it makes folk speak what they think.' (Bickerdyke, p.404).

‘The Good Noppy Ale of Southwerk Keeps many a goodwife from the Kirk.' (Bickerdyke, p.404).

The Saddler of Bawtry about to be hanged refused the customary bowl of ale. A minute after his execution a reprieve arrived, thus leading to the idea of ‘leave (refuse) a drink and be hanged'.




‘Bow-wow, dandy-fly, Brew no beer in July' (Bickerdyke, p.58 - ‘The summer months were especially eschewed by those who wished to keep their liquor)

‘The bigger the brewing the better the browst' (Old Yorkshire Proverb, Bickerdyke, p.331)




‘had reckoned without his host' = ‘Had added up his bill without reference to the innkeeper,' a proverbial expression meaning to calculate or make plans without reference to the dispositions or character of other people vitally concerned'. Nicholas Nickleby, chapter 19, note 2. Also used in chapter 55, p.830, ‘without reference to our host'.