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31 March, 2005
Christopher Columbus landed on the beaches of Cuba and the Bahamas, and so could be said to have “discovered” the Caribbean. On a subsequent voyage the shores of South America. Whatever he might have seen, his sailors returned to Spain with wild stories of fighting Indian, and, Heaven be praised, the smoking of “Pipes”.
What we may describe as the “modern” pipe (ancient ones having been used for many centuries in various parts of the words) is a hallow tube with a bowl at one end, made from wood (briar root) or clay (Meershaum being the finest specimen of this mineral), which brings Dickens to mind, who used to pay one penny for his clay pipe, which was discarded after a couple of “smokes.”
The bowl is usually filled with tobacco, obtained from the famous leaves, the quality and taste of which differ from country to country, clime, and, under the expert and loving care of growers, be come the pleasure of smokers the world over.
Queen catherine de Medici of France sent and explorer by the name of Jean Nicot, in the same direction as Columbus. He returned from North America, bringing back the tobacco plant, and to Her Majesty’s delight, horticulturists. The fine powder ground from tobacco leaves was used by medical men as a cure for sinusitis and other ailments of the nose. The sensation of sniffing this powder up the nostrils was so tingling and pleasant that the habit 9of “taking snuff” soon grew, and became the height of fashion for the dandies of 18th century London. Sir Walter Raleigh had also landed on the shores of North America, and found tobacco growing in a region he name Virginia, in honour of Queen Elizabeth I, the virgin Queen! This then, in brief, is the Western “History of tobacco.
Smoking one’s pipe is not merely a satisfying habit. It is a source of solace, a companion in one’s solitude it can soothe, it can stimulate thoughts and theories, it can bring inspiration along with the Muses. Once fill the bowl with a really good tobacco, and you can get lost in whirls of fragrant smoke!
The pipe, which has a long slim mouthpiece that fits into the short stem of a small bowl, is sometimes called a Churchwarden. One does not often get a chance to see a churchwarden smoke his pipe, but gentlemen in comfortable clothing are occasionally depicted sitting in a chair with a high back, reading a book, and holding such a pipe. The is also the standard vision of a scholar in his library. There are other long pipes, with bowls made from either wood or, in certain cases, ivory. these elongated and sometimes decorated pipes, with tassels hanging from the mouthpiece, are ceremoniously used for smoking opium.
Opium comes from a reddish brown flower, the poppy, which yields a number of little capsules, which after drying, can be made into a substance excellent for filling the small bowl of a pipe. To smoke this, instead of tobacco, is to enter another dimension of time in the mind, giving access to a world of such amazing fantasy as to transport one to an entirely different planet in a new universe. Coleridge wrote a poem on Kubla khan after waking from a pipe dream - but it turned out to be only a fragment of what had come to him to in his opium world. De Quincy may have confessed, but not even he could have described satisfactorily what the effects of opium are at the time of the ‘experience’ Nor can! Accomplish such a task, but an attempt may be pardoned.
Many persons imagine an opium smoker to be Chinese. So let us dress in loose garments, arrange a hard cushion on a hard bed, keep a light Shaw! Handy, and lie down relaxed and expectant. When a prepared pipe is handed to you, close your eyes and begin to inhale slowly, pausing long between draws. But you don’t actually inhale, you swallow the smoke and breathe it out thought your nostrils. As you drag on and on, you will begin to float your way into the opium world. Of course there is no telling what you will find, but the excitement and perhaps terror in store for you cannot be predicted. Let the adventurous mind wader into this world without making the journeys a habit!
Opium smoking is not practiced the way it used to be. Opium has gratuitously earned itself a “bad” name. It is listed with heroin and cocaine as a dangerous drug. Whereas it is not only a narcotic of pleasure, it has innumerable medical uses a well, if you become an addict, a doctor will certify you to become a possessor and user of the happy poppy seeds. Killer drugs are cruel and unsparing, and offer only escape. Without “intellectual” enjoyment. Opium smoking is for a refined taste, for the mind which seeks ecstasy in oblivion, after the universe explodes into millions of magical moments. It is for the connoisseur of life!
But wait, before you begin even to dream of enjoying pipe dreams. Behold the Authorities of Law, of Health, of Morals, brandishing their prejudices and warnings against the very id3ea of Poppy Happiness. Beware before you try! Hypocrites and champions of boredom will try to snatch your pipe away. strike them back without fear,. And watching from the wings will be the meddlesome Do-Gooders, legally sipping their tiresome wine made from sour grapes.