The Mystery of the Cask of ’43
Robert Telleria in his book Merely Players says the reference to “the cask of ’43” in the the Fountain of Lamneth (in Bacchus Plateau) symbolizes the futility of existence. The protagonist of the story had just left the comfort of the enchantress in Panacea and was faced with the bleak prospect of having to continue his journey through life alone, amidst silhouettes of grey.
Draw another goblet
From the cask of ’43
Crimson misty memory
Hazy glimpse of me
That sounds like a good explanation of the reference, but on Ego Death and Self-Control Cybernetics, one of those websites that makes the Internet such a wild and wonderful place, the host of that site says the reference is to LSD.
“The cask of ’43 is an acid double-entendre, an allusion to LSD. Albert Hofmann discovered and synthesized LSD in 1943 in Basel, Switzerland and Sandoz Labs.”
Actually, Hofmann synthesized LSD five years earlier, in 1938, while trying to create a drug to help people with heart and respiratory ailments.
He did nothing with his substance for five years, then in 1943 he returned to it, tried a dose to see if it worked, and the rest is history.
Feeling strange and uncertain shortly afterwards, he asked a lab colleague to accompany him home and, in what must have been one of the most memorable rides on two wheels in history, hopped on the back of his colleague’s bicycle for the “trip.” (Cars were restricted in Switzerland at the time because of the war.) April 16 is now commemorated among LSD aficionados as Bicycle Day.
On the other hand, it could just be a reference to a kind of Spanish liquor, called Mirabilis, or marvelous. This wasn’t considered your typical liquor in the old days. It had a citrus, herbal quality to it, and its color was an astonishing golden yellow. The Romans, who in 209 BC had conquered the Spanish city where it was produced, Quart Hadas, in the Carthaginian Mediterranean, were initially suspicious of the drink. But over time they became its biggest fans and for generations they passed along its formula, which consists of 43 ingredients, hence its name, “Licor 43.” It’s still produced today, although with an updated look.
Really, the “cask of ’43” probably just refers to the idea that it’s time to stop relying on things outside yourself to get you through life, whether it’s LSD, a fine cognac, or even Panacea herself. (After all, what is Panacea but, well, a panacea?) At some point, no matter how cozy it is snuggling by the fire with a fine drink in your hand and a goddess by your side, you have to set these crutches aside and face the cold, otherwise you’ll stagnate and never get to your destination.
That makes the most sense, but then there’s also the “Class of ’43,” which refers to the group of young acolytes who hovered around Ayn Rand in New York while she worked on her masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged. They were referred to as the Class of ’43 because that was the year they came together. (Alan Greenspan was one, as was Nathan Branden, who went on to head up the Ayn Rand Institute.) Well, that’s just another form of panacea, isn’t it, being a member of a cult-like group? More on this. The mystery deepens!—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault