Top 10 wine poems

1: The Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam

A man of many talents, Persian poet, philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam is thought to have written over a thousand four-line verses known as rubaiyat, which were translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald in the mid-19th century. Wine features prominently in Khayyam’s poetry, with the enclosed stanzas offering a snapshot into his relationship with the drink, which he saw as a life force to be enjoyed during our brief time on earth.

And David’s lips are locket; but in divine

High-piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!

Red Wine!” the Nightingale cries to the Rose

That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.

 

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.

 

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,

Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

 

Then to the lip of this poor earthen Urn

I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:

And Lip to Lip it murmur’d–“While you live

Drink!–for, once dead, you never shall return.”

 

Perplext no more with Human or Divine,

To-morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,

And lose your fingers in the tresses of

The Cypress–slender Minister of Wine.

 

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press

End in what All begins and ends in–Yes;

Think then you are To-day what Yesterday

You were–To-morrow You shall not be less.

 

So when that Angel of the darker

Drink At last shall find you by the river-brink,

And, offering his Cup, invite your

Soul Forth to your Lips to quaff–you shall not shrink.

 

For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line

And “Up” and “Down” by Logic I define,

Of all that one should care to fathom,

Was never deep in anything but–Wine.

 

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,

Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape

Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and

He bid me taste of it; and ’twas–the Grape!

 

The Grape that can with Logic absolute

The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:

The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice

Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute.

2 Responses to “Top 10 wine poems”

  1. This little-known Song is a relatively early work by John Dryden, dating from 1661: a modestly comic adversion to the perils of drink. Does it deserve a larger reputation?

    Song

    Just Caesar, whom the world obeyed,
    Augustus Great, proud Tiberine
    Could ne’er have drunk, sure ne’er have made
    Kind Bacchus! such an ardent wine.
    Tell Princes, Kings; tell France; tell Spain
    Of Hippocrene
    Nectarine
    Empurpled as Augustus’ train.

    Recalling this alone:
    All men are free to drown their sorrow –
    Not Caesar only – and to sell the morrow
    Cheap. But this once done –
    How costly seems the morning sun!

    Well, while it displays some typically Drydenesque metrical daring, its effects seem, all the same, underpowered; and its reliance on Caesarean imagery, predictable. As an apprentice piece, therefore, it’s bearable; but not much more.

    The only thing to make it stand out is this curious anomaly – spotted by the Sediment research team a while ago: the poem is an acrostic, in which the first letter of every line, read from top to bottom, spells out a name. In this case, JACKTONE RANCH, nowadays associated with a popular Californian wine range. Coincidence? Prescience? How could Dryden have known of Californian wines, three hundred and sixty years ago? And why this particular brand? The mystery remains. As the does the poem itself:

  2. Sanjay Srivatsa says:

    Let us have wine and woman, mirth and laughter,
    Sermons and soda water the day after.

    Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
    The best of life is but intoxication:
    Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
    The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
    Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
    Of life’s strange tree, so fruitful on occasion:
    But to return–Get very drunk; and when
    You wake with head-ache, you shall see what then.
    Lord Byron Don Juan

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