Marianne Moore: Poetry

July 16, 2010

“Armor’s Undermining Modesty:” Bock Beer Buck

“Armor’s Undermining Modesty”

“If tributes cannot be implicit,
give me . . .
the pale-ale-eyed impersonal look
which the sales placard gives the bock beer buck.”

The Nation 170 (February 25, 1950) 181

Eastern Beverage Company, Hammonton, NewJersey. Label from bottle of “Old Bohemian Bock Beer.” Moore’s footnote describes a poster, not a label, advertising this beer but it appears that the goat, or “buck,” above is the one used by this company on all its bock beer images.

Moore may have just liked the sound of “bock beer buck” but the reference to “faulty etymology” in line 13 alerts one to the sources of “bock” and “buck.”

The root of “bock” is from the German, bock, or bockbier, shortened from Eimbockbier, derived from Eimbeck, a town in Hanover. “In full, bock beer. Strong dark-colored variety of German beer.” (OED) It is brewed in the fall to be drunk the following spring. Among the OED citations is “1917 T.S.Eliot Prufrock 19 Let us . . . sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.” “Buck” is specifically the “he-goat,” now obsolete (OED), its etymological root tangled but perhaps Irish via Old English.

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