To Anacreon in Heaven
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John Renfro Davis

This melody was first published in England circa 1780, probably written by British composer John Stafford Smith. The words were written by Ralph Tomlinson. Both were members of the Anacreontic Club of London. To Anacreon in Heaven was their theme song. The Anacreontic Club was a group of wealthy men who met to celebrate music, food and drink.

The Anacreontic Club took its name from Anacreon, a Greek poet (c. 582 -485 BC). The fragments of his poetry that survived are devoted to the goddess of love and the god of wine. In 1554 Henry Estienne published a collection of short poems by various Greek postclassical Greek writers as the work of Anacreon. Anacreon's poetry, with emphasis on the elements of drinking, love and revelry was widely imitated.

The melody was particularly popular in America during the War of 1812, and several Americans wrote patriotic songs to it. The most famous of these was Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, who wrote the words to The Star Spangled Banner.

To Anacreon in heaven where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron would be,
When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian:
Voice, fiddle aud flute, no longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot!
And besides I'll instruct you like me to entwine
The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine.

The news through Olympus immediately flew,
When old Thunder pretended to give himself airs,
If these mortals are suffered their scheme to pursue,
The devil a goddess will stay above stairs,
Hark! already they cry, in transports of joy,
A fig for Parnassus, to Rowley's we'll fly,
And there my good fellows, we'll learn to entwine
The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine.

The yellow-haired god, and his nine fusty maids,
To the hill of old Lud will incontinent flee,
Idalia will boast but of tenantless shades,
And the biforked hill a mere desert will be,
My thunder, no fear on't, will soon do its errand,
And, damn me I'll swinge the ringleaders, I warrant
I'll trim the young dogs, for thus daring to twine
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine.

Apollo rose up and said, "Prythee ne'er quarrel,
Good king of the gods, with my votaries below
Your thunder is useless - then showing his laurel,
Cried, Sic evitabile fulmen, you know!
Then over each head my laurels I'll spread,
So my sons from your crackers no mischief shall dread
Whilst snug in their club-room, they jovially twine
The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine.

Related Links
From Colonial and Revolution Songbook
See Bibliography for full information.