Bacchus

BACCHUS

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As printed in The New Oxford Book of American Verse; Chosen and Edited by Richard Ellmann; 1976

 

Bring 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 and the Cape,

Suffer no savor of the earth to scape.

 

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,

By its own craft, to a more rich delight.

 

We buy ashes for bread;

We buy diluted wine’

Give me to the true,—

Whose ample leaves and tendrils curled

Among the silver hills of heaven

Draw everlasting dew;

Wine of wine,

Blood of the world,

Form of forms, and mould of statures,

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.

 

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.

 

Water and bread,

Food which needs no transmuting,

Rainbow-flowering, wisdom-fruiting,

Wine which is already man,

Food which teach and reason can.

 

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;

And the poor grass shall plot and plan

What it will do when it is man.

Quickened so, will I unlock

Every crypt of every rock.

 

I thank the joyful juice

For all I know,—

Winds of remembering

Of the ancient being blow,

And seeming solid walls of use

Open and flow.

 

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,—

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,

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,

Upon tablets blue,

The dancing Pleiads and eternal men.

(Photo taken during Harvest of 2011 at Pride Mountain Vineyards on Spring Mountain,  California)

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