Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
BRING 1 me wine, but wine which never grew
In the belly of the grape,
Or grew on vine whose tap-roots, reaching through
Under the Andes to the Cape,
Suffer no savor of the earth to scape.        5
Let its grapes the morn salute
From a nocturnal root,
Which feels the acrid juice
Of Styx and Erebus;
And turns the woe of Night,        10
By its own craft, to a more rich delight.
We buy ashes for bread;
We buy diluted wine;
Give me of the true,—
Whose ample leaves and tendrils curled        15
Among the silver hills of heaven
Draw everlasting dew;
Wine of wine,
Blood of the world,
Form of forms, and mould of statures,        20
That I intoxicated,
And by the draught assimilated,
May float at pleasure through all natures;
The bird-language rightly spell,
And that which roses say so well.        25
Wine that is shed
Like the torrents of the sun
Up the horizon walls,
Or like the Atlantic streams, which run
When the South Sea calls.        30
Water and bread,
Food which needs no transmuting,
Rainbow-flowering, wisdom-fruiting,
Wine which is already man,
Food which teach and reason can.        35
Wine which Music is,—
Music and wine are one,—
That I, drinking this,
Shall hear far Chaos talk with me;
Kings unborn shall walk with me;        40
And the poor grass shall plot and plan
What it will do when it is man. 2
Quickened so, will I unlock
Every crypt of every rock.
I thank the joyful juice        45
For all I know;—
Winds of remembering
Of the ancient being blow,
And seeming-solid walls of use
Open and flow.        50
Pour, Bacchus! the remembering wine;
Retrieve the loss of me and mine!
Vine for vine be antidote,
And the grape requite the lote!
Haste to cure the old despair,—        55
Reason in Nature’s lotus drenched,
The memory of ages quenched;
Give them again to shine;
Let wine repair what this undid;
And where the infection slid,        60
A dazzling memory revive;
Refresh the faded tints,
Recut the aged prints,
And write my old adventures with the pen
Which on the first day drew,        65
Upon the tablets blue,
The dancing Pleiads and eternal men.
Note 1. In July, 1846, Mr. Emerson wrote from Philadelphia to Miss Elizabeth Hoar, whom he always considered as a sister, of several poems which he has been writing and is impatient to show her, “especially some verses called Bacchus—not, however, translated from Hafiz.”
  Mr. Emerson wrote in his own copy of the Poems this motto, taken from Plato, to “Bacchus,” which sheds light: “The man who is his own master knocks in vain at the doors of poetry.”
  The chapter on Idealism in Mr. Emerson’s first published work Nature (see Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 47), gives a key to this poem on the inspiration which Nature gives, when seen as not final, but a symbol of the Universal Mind.
  The poem has affinities with both “Alphonso of Castile” and “Mithridates,” which were written about the same time.
  The influence of Hafiz is apparent in the poem, though it is no translation, and the wine is more surely symbolic than his.
  In a somewhat later verse-book than that which contains “Bacchus” are the beginnings of another poem of the same name, of which a portion is here given:—
  Pour the wine! pour the wine!
As it changes to foam
So Demiourgos
Rushing abroad,
New and unlooked for,
In farthest and smallest,
Comes royally home;
In spider wise
Will again geometrize;
Will in bee and gnat keep time
With the annual solar chime;
Aphides, like emperors,
Sprawl and creep their pair of hours
Strong Lyæus’ rosy gift
Lightly can the mountain lift;
It can knit
What is done
And what’s begun;
It can cancel bulk and time;
Crowds and condenses
Into a drop a tun,
So to repeat
No word or feat;
The hour an altar is of ages,
Love, the Socrates of Sages.
*        *        *        *        *
On a brown grape-stone
The wheels of Nature turn,
Out of it the fury comes
Wherewith the spondyls burn,
And because a drop of the Vine
Is Creation’s heart,
Wash with wine those eyes of thine.
Nothing is hid, nor whole nor part.
Wine is translated wit,
Wine is the day of day,
Wine from the veilèd secret
Tears the veil away.
  In a lecture on Poetry and Imagination Mr. Emerson said: “The poet is a better logician than the anatomist…. He sees the fact as an inevitable step in the path of the Creator…. Never did any science originate but by a poetic perception…. For a wise surrender to the current of Nature, a noble passion which will not let us halt, but hurries us into the stream of things, makes us truly know. Passion is logical, and I note that the vine, symbol of Bacchus, which intoxicates the world, is the most geometrical of all plants.” [back]
Note 2. “Plants are the young of the world, vessels of health and vigor; but they grope ever upward towards consciousness; the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground.”—“Nature,” Essays, Second Series, p. 181. [back]

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.