I was rummaging at my sister’s today, looking for something at her request in her spare bedroom. Being easily distracted — I should have a bumper sticker that reads: “I stop to read books” — I saw a number of old books in a box. The first to catch my eye was this one:
Toasts for the Times in Pictures and Rhymes, by John William Sargent with illustrations by Nella Fontaine Binckley, was published by Consolidated Retail Booksellers in 1904. As its title suggests, it is a compilation of toasts. Many of the toasts are humorous odes to drinking, but some of them are sweet, sentimental thoughts on life. Like this one, To Friendship:
Here’s to the tongue of friendship;
May it ever hold its sway.
This tongue,while always generous,
Never gives a thing away.
Or this one: Here’s Hopin’
Here’s to your future, your present, and your past;
May each new day be happier than the last.
Or this one: To the Boys
Here to the bunch
That can take a hunch,
Nor have to wait for a kick.
Here’s to the bloke
That can take a joke,
And get back at the joker quick.
Each toast is accompanied by a black & white line drawing.
A health to Tomorrow — a good friend, I say,
For, while crowding our happiness into today,
We shift all our burdens of duty and sorrow
On the broad, willing shoulders of good old tomorrow.
Then wait for its coming with hearts full of fear;
But just at the moment we think it is here
We find that it’s only another today.
With tomorrow still twenty-four hours away.
I can’t remember giving a toast that wasn’t much more complicated than “Cheers!” or “Bon Appetite“, or “A Votre Santé“. It isn’t likely that I’d use one from this book. Nor would this ever be considered great literature or a source of insight into American culture in the early 1900’s. It likely is only by some odd twist of fate that this wasn’t pitched from someone’s attic into the trash years ago, instead ending up in a dusty antiques shop where my sister found it. But reading a book of toasts, mostly given to the joys of libation, from over a 100 years ago, was fun way to pass a few minutes on a cold, snowy evening when the wind is howling.
Although it’s a rarity when I’m able to keep my head up and eyes open past 11 pm, I’ll close with the last toast in this slim volume. It’s only in theory when reminiscing of my youth that I wish I could greet the dawn when calling it quits for the evening.
Here’s goodnight — when we meet again
May mirth exalt the feast;
May we only reach that parting when
The pink is in the east.
It’s much better for me if I see the rosy-fingered dawn after a good night’s sleep!