© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Symbol Analysis

This poem has a ton of stuff to say about beer. A ton. It starts out just being something the characters are drinking, but as things go on it turns into a big symbol for temporary pleasure and the illusion of happiness. Pretty deep stuff from a glass of suds, huh?

  • Line 4: Here at the start of the poem, beer represents the opposite of sadness and seriousness. As Terence's buddy points out, you can't really be all that sad if you still have a healthy appetite and drink lots of beer. Actually, it seems like people who aren't happy have lots of reasons to drink beer, but oh well, you get the idea.
  • Line 21: In this case, beer comes out ahead of Milton in the race to explain the universe. Yup, he said it—if you want to know why God does what he does, don't read a poem, get drunk. Since Terence actually likes poems, we have to assume he's being a little ironic with his allusion to Milton. Oh, also, check out the alliteration in this line: "malt […] Milton […] man."
  • Line 23: This line sounds like it could be a jingle in a beer commercial. Terence isn't just talking about beer anymore; he's actively encouraging his buddy to drink it. Again, this is kind of a trick, since we'll soon find out that beer can't make you really happy.
  • Line 32: Suddenly we stumble into a drinking story, with Terence bragging a little about how much he had to drink when he went to Ludlow fair. Apparently he managed to gulp down "pints and quarts," although he was sorry about it later.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...