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Advert for The Sign Is In The Cellar, public house

Advert for The Sign Is In The Cellar, public house

Printer: Herbert, E & S

Medium: Print on paper

Date: 1889

Shelfmark: Evan.6691

Item number: 6691

Genre: Leaflet

This advert for a public house features a poem called 'The Staff of Life', a ringing paean to whiskey. The drink is referred to as "John Barleycorn" throughout - an expression popularised by the 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns. The poem written by Burns is a sly and winning reinterpretation of an old fertility ballad, which told of a Corn King who was sacrificed to ensure the success of barley crops. Burns changes the emphasis somewhat, describing John Barleycorn as "a hero bold/ of noble enterprise;/ For if you do but taste his blood,/ 'Twill make your courage rise."

This advert further corrupts Burns' take on the ballad. Where Burns would have the drinking of whiskey be the epitome of Scottish pluck, the advert's author has it stand for English steadfastness.

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