Absinthe gained quite an unsavory reputation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its high alcohol content (90 proof or higher) combined with its popularity among adherents of bohemianism, especially artists and writers in Paris, led to its condemnation by social conservatives and prohibitionists.
When a doctor reported that concentrations of thujone, a chemical compound present in absinthe only in trace amounts, caused seizures in lab rats, many countries in Europe banned absinthe. The United States banned it in 1912, and didn’t lift the ban until 2007. More recent studies have proved that absinthe is not more hazardous than any other high-alcohol-content spirit, and the trace amounts of thujone it contains will not cause hallucinations or seizures in humans.
Marie Corelli (1855 – 1924), was an English novelist, poet and Christian mystic. Some of her books outsold Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling. Her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds, was a fantasy with elements of science fiction, including an evolution vs. creationism debate and galactic travel. Today’s featured poem “I am the green fairy” is from her novel published in 1890, Wormwood: A Drama of Paris. While it was produced in the traditional Victorian three-volume format, it is considered an early proto-modernist work. Much of the book is about the effects of absinthe on the denizens of fin-de-siècle Paris. The poem represents the view of absinthe at the end of the 19th century as a dangerous hallucinogenic drug, ‘the green fairy’ leading those who imbibe its sweet green poison to their destruction.
To read Marie Corelli’s poem, “I am the green fairy”, please click
I am the green fairy
by Marie Corelli
I am the green fairy
My robe is the color of despair
I have nothing in common with the fairies of the past
What I need is blood, red and hot,
The palpitating flesh of my victims
Alone, I will kill France, the present is dead,
Vive the future…
But me, I kill the future and in family I destroy
The love of country, courage, honor,
I am the purveyor of hell, penitentiaries, hospitals.
Who am I finally?
I am the instigator of crime
I am ruin and sorrow
I am shame
I am dishonor
I am death
I am Absinthe