Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bacchus - A Poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson

From: Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899. Introduction by Nathan Haskell Dole.

Background: The Ancient Romans identified Bacchus with their own Liber Pater, which translates as the "Free Father." Bacchus was the Roman god of agriculture, wine, revelry, the giver of ecstasy and fertility. In many writings, Bacchus was even compared to the equivalent of the Greek god Dionysus. In paintings, Bacchus was the one who was eating grapes from the bunch while surrounded by satyrs. To go further in origin, a “bacchanalian” party or grand feast is marked by complete and unrestrained drunkenness. There was a Roman festival called Bacchanalia, which could compare to "a rave" in modern times.

Many restaurants and parades (The Krewe of Bacchus in New Orleans during Mardi Gras), have taken on the name of Bacchus, which features high-end dining in exclusive downtown areas, but do not take on the mark of "compete and unrestrained drunkenness." Clearly, these restaurant owners went by the sound of the name rather than the origin of the name to describe their dining experience.

Bring me wine, but wine which never grew
In the belly of the grape,
Or grew on vine whose taproots reaching through
Under the Andes to the Cape,
Suffered no savor of the world 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 of 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 ot 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 lot.
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,
And 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 the tablets blue
The dancing Pleiads, and the eternal men.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. Emerson became one of America's best known and best-loved 19th-century figures.
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Emerson Quotes

"Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson