Every great pastime inspires its own rich history and lore, including its own library of great sayings - though these are often edited a little by tradition.
In sports, there's Yogi Berra's "It ain't over till it's over." In classical music, expressing a similar sentiment: "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
For movie fans, there's Sam Goldwyn's many classic bon mots, including that all-time put-down of well-intentioned, hard-to-watch "message" movies: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." And readers of the book review pages have Mary McCarthy's great insult to Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the."
Cigars, too, have inspired their share of notable sentences, spoken and written. After all, when the list of notable cigar smokers includes Gertrude Stein, G.K. Chesterton, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, and other notable wielders of the language, why wouldn't it?
"A smoke in times of rest is a great companion to the solitary soldier." That's Marxist guerilla Che Guevara, one of the leaders of Fidel Castro's revolutionary Cuban army and, until his death in a 1967 hail of bullets, an international gadabout for Communism.
He took enough time off from arranging revolutions and posing for those ubiquitous college-dorm posters to smoke the occasional fine Cuban cigar. Presumably he rolled in his grave when the left-wing Sandinista revolutionaries, on overtaking nearby Nicaragua in a 1979 revolt that had the support of Che's friend Castro and of nearly eighty percent of the Nicaraguan population, suspended production of cigar tobacco to concentrate on lower-quality cigarette-making.
Mark Twain, in his great cigar-related witticism, tells us that "it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake." But he wasn't as compulsive about smoking as this comment makes him sound: he told another audience, reportedly, that "To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times."
Rudyard Kipling (1855-1936), the great chronicler (and propagandist) of British imperialism, did his bit for cigar-smoking and misogyny with his bit of doggerel, "The Betrothed." Everybody knows the end line of the second-to-last stanzav "And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke" but the whole story behind the poem is worth going in to.
In 1885, a woman filed a breach-of-promise suit against a fiance who wouldn't quit smoking, saying "You must choose between me and your cigar." Kipling, reading this line from the woman's deposition in a newspaper, was inspired. He stole the line to use as the epigraph of his poem, and the poem then emerges as a reply, justifying the man's decision to choose the cigar over the woman. "Open the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,/for things are running crossways, and Maggie and I are out," he begins.
The poem's speaker muses that, though "Maggie is pretty to look at Maggie's a lovely lass," on the other hand, "the prettiest cheeks must wrinkle, the truest of loves must pass." Cigars, too, like wrinkled cheeks, get old - but when a cigar is finished, you replace it with "another as perfect and ripe and brown," something that can't be done with a wife.
The poem goes on in this mode for quite a while at one point, he compares his box of Manilas to "a harem of dusky beauties" before concluding that "if Maggie will have no rival, I'll have no Maggie for Spouse!" The poem is full of good one-liners demonstrating Kipling's love for his cigars, which make it worth reading for any cigar lover. It's also so reeking with sexism as to make any reader glad not to be dating, or to have a female relative dating, Mr. Kipling.
Then there's Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Quizzed about his penchant for cigars - and his equal penchant for judging every habit as revealing some deep psychological issue, usually sexual in nature - he's reported to have said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
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