Party Like It’s 1677
by Lili Loofbourow
Remember the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ads? Here’s the 17th-century version of that, only instead of a scary fried egg it has partying, parents, and a sieve-trampoline.
It also has a longer title than the entire “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ad. Here it is:
The Prodigal Sifted:
Or the Lewd Life and Lamentable End of Idle profuse and Extravagant Persons Emblematically set forth and Described Chiefly designed for a Warning to inexperienced Youth. But necessary to be taken Notice of by all people in this vain and debauched Age, Being a useful Table to be set up in All Families.
In the middle you see two disappointed parents sifting their child as if they were panning for gold. Only instead of gold, they get sin.
Here’s the dad:
“No more indulgence to our graceless son
Let’s sift him, Wife, to know what he has done.”
Here’s the mom:
“Then sift on, Husband; for it must be known
how he hath spent our money, not his own.”
Here’s the lad:
The son is being “sieved.” Here’s a closeup of some of the things that come out of him:
Babies and pipes! Dice! Unidentified flask-like objects! Stained handkerchiefs!
Here are some other bad things you might consider Not Doing, counterclockwise.
Episode 1: Drinking and smoking by candlelight, in hats.
“We drink and smoke and think no crime to throw away our precious time.”
Episode 2: The Hangover.
“You by this picture soon will guess
He’s sick with drinking to excess”
Episode 3: Dice!
“These do not labour like the Ant
Their work is play and play their want.”
Episode 4: Debt.
“Suretyship brings thee to a jail
where thou thy self canst get no Bail.”
Closeup of an angel looking into a horn that someone’s stuck inside:
Episode 5: Partying with Goddesses!
“Soul and body thou destroys
Whilst thou makest whores thy chiefest joyes”
Episode 6: Fight!
“Put up thy sword and draw it no further
for duelling occasions murder”
(Frilled pantaloons always win.)
Episode 7: Jail!
“Murder brings thee to a jail
where friends and money quickly fail”
(… and there are really bad hats)
Episode 8: The Hanging.
Dialogue: “This wicked man brought me to this.
Second man: [?] (A guess: Whaddaya gotta say that for?)
And afterward a shame to see
Thy neck unto the triple tree.”
So, be grateful for your parents. Let them shake all the babies and playing cards out of you so you don’t end up in the cautionary pinwheel of shame and death. And if you find yourself bouncing on a sieve, hang onto your mariachi hat and CONFESS:
“Pardon, kind parents, and I’ll the truth
What I have done in my debauched youth.”
Lili Loofbourow is a writer living in Oakland. She writes about 17th-century ideas of reading and digestion, cognitive science, Chile, and femscularity. She blogs for Ms. Magazine and as Millicent over at Millicent and Carla Fran.
Photos courtesy the British Museum