Some say the toast originated as an ancient offering of blood or wine to the "Gods", held up while offering a plea or wish from the deity. The word "Toast" was given to this action at a much later date, and is believed to be linked to the floating of spiced toasted bread on wine (of which there are claims that this was to offset the flavor of wine gone bad). By the end of the 19th century, it became a poetic art of gentility as well as a randy source of humour, and many were published in books until prohibition.
Recently I purchased such a book, "Over the Nuts & Wine, A Book of Toasts" by James Clarence Harvey (1906, H.M.Caldwell Co. publishers), who in his foreword claims, "It should be a coherent, cohesive pastel in prose or verse, illuminating some one particular thought or line of thought, and when that is complete - sit down. Many a man has overturned an excellent reputation by not knowing when to sit down", or in poetic form in his The Soul of the Toast:
It isn't so much what you say,
Or the word - that is heard;
It's the spirit within and the way
That the heart-strings are stirred.
It isn't so much what you drink,
Nor the how-nor the where;
It's the truth, in the things that you think,
That is fair - that is rare.
It isn't the drink, in the bowl,
With its flow - cheers you so;
It's the radiant glow of the Soul
Of the Toast - don't you know!
Or this toast, from "After the Town Goes Dry" by Henry C. Taylor (1919, The Howell Publishing Companty), written during the first years of prohibition:
Little drops of water,
Little drops of rye,
Make a darned good highball
When a man is dry.
Or here's my favorite, from "Buttered Toasts" by Fred Emerson Brooks (1916, Forbes & Company publishers) called A Human Prayer:
May all the weary ones find rest,
And those who mourn be comforted;
Those lonely be with friendship blest;
And every hungry soul be fed.
Let those who toil have fair reward;
All homeless ones get shelter kind;
God grant no task be made too hard;
And may each prayer its heaven find.
To which I can only say, "Hear, hear"!