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DRINKING SONG

by
 INSCRIPTION FOR AN ANTIQUE PITCHER

Come, old friend! sit down and listen!
From the pitcher, placed between us,
How the waters laugh and glisten
In the head of old Silenus!

Old Silenus, bloated, drunken,
Led by his inebriate Satyrs;
On his breast his head is sunken,
Vacantly he leers and chatters.
Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow; Ivy crowns that brow supernal As the forehead of Apollo, And possessing youth eternal.
Round about him, fair Bacchantes, Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses, Wild from Naxian groves, or Zante's Vineyards, sing delirious verses.
Thus he won, through all the nations, Bloodless victories, and the farmer Bore, as trophies and oblations, Vines for banners, ploughs for armor.
Judged by no o'erzealous rigor, Much this mystic throng expresses: Bacchus was the type of vigor, And Silenus of excesses.
These are ancient ethnic revels, Of a faith long since forsaken; Now the Satyrs, changed to devils, Frighten mortals wine-o'ertaken.
Now to rivulets from the mountains Point the rods of fortune-tellers; Youth perpetual dwells in fountains,-- Not in flasks, and casks, and cellars.
Claudius, though he sang of flagons And huge tankards filled with Rhenish, From that fiery blood of dragons Never would his own replenish.
Even Redi, though he chaunted Bacchus in the Tuscan valleys, Never drank the wine he vaunted In his dithyrambic sallies.
Then with water fill the pitcher Wreathed about with classic fables; Ne'er Falernian threw a richer Light upon Lucullus' tables.
Come, old friend, sit down and listen As it passes thus between us, How its wavelets laugh and glisten In the head of old Silenus!

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