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Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine

 To exalt, enthrone, establish and defend,
To welcome home mankind's mysterious friend
Wine, true begetter of all arts that be;
Wine, privilege of the completely free;
Wine the recorder; wine the sagely strong;
Wine, bright avenger of sly-dealing wrong,
Awake, Ausonian Muse, and sing the vineyard song!

Sing how the Charioteer from Asia came,
And on his front the little dancing flame
Which marked the God-head.
Sing the Panther-team, The gilded Thrysus twirling, and the gleam Of cymbals through the darkness.
Sing the drums.
He comes; the young renewer of Hellas comes! The Seas await him.
Those Aegean Seas Roll from the dawning, ponderous, ill at ease, In lifts of lead, whose cresting hardly breaks To ghostly foam, when suddenly there awakes A mountain glory inland.
All the skies Are luminous; and amid the sea bird cries The mariner hears a morning breeze arise.
Then goes the Pageant forward.
The sea-way Silvers the feet of that august array Trailing above the waters, through the airs; And as they pass a wind before them bears The quickening word, the influence magical.
The Islands have received it, marble-tall; The long shores of the mainland.
Something fills The warm Euboean combes, the sacred hills Of Aulis and of Argos.
Still they move Touching the City walls, the Temple grove, Till, far upon the horizon-glint, a gleam Of light, of trembling light, revealed they seem Turned to a cloud, but to a cloud that shines, And everywhere as they pass, the Vines! The Vines! The Vines, the conquering Vines! And the Vine breaths Her savour through the upland, empty heaths Of treeless wastes; the Vines have come to where The dark Pelasgian steep defends the lair Of the wolf's hiding; to the empty fields By Aufidus, the dry campaign that yields No harvest for the husbandman, but now Shall bear a nobler foison than the plough; To where, festooned along the tall elm trees, Tendrils are mirrored in Tyrrhenian seas; To where the South awaits them; even to where Stark, African informed of burning air, Upturned to Heaven the broad Hipponian plain Extends luxurious and invites the main.
Guelma's a mother: barren Thaspsa breeds; And northward in the valleys, next the meads That sleep by misty river banks, the Vines Have struck to spread below the solemn pines.
The Vines are on the roof-trees.
All the Shrines And Homes of men are consecrate with Vines.
And now the task of that triumphant day Has reached to victory.
In the reddening ray With all his train, from hard Iberian lands Fulfilled, apparent, that Creator stands Halted on Atlas.
Far Beneath him, far, The strength of Ocean darkening and the star Beyond all shores.
There is a silence made.
It glorifies: and the gigantic shade Of Hercules adores him from the West.
Dead Lucre: burnt Ambition: Wine is best.
But what are these that from the outer murk Of dense mephitic vapours creeping lurk To breathe foul airs from that corrupted well Which oozes slime along the floor of Hell? These are the stricken palsied brood of sin In whose vile veins, poor, poisonous and thin, Decoctions of embittered hatreds crawl: These are the Water-Drinkers, cursed all! On what gin-sodden Hags, what flaccid sires Bred these White Slugs from what exhaust desires? In what close prison's horror were their wiles Watched by what tyrant power with evil smiles; Or in what caverns, blocked from grace and air Received they, then, the mandates of despair? What! Must our race, our tragic race, that roam All exiled from our first, and final, home: That in one moment of temptation lost Our heritage, and now wander, hunger-tost Beyond the Gates (still speaking with our eyes For ever of remembered Paradise), Must we with every gift accepted, still, With every joy, receive attendant ill? Must some lewd evil follow all our good And muttering dog our brief beatitude? A primal doom, inexorable, wise, Permitted, ordered, even these to rise.
Even in the shadow of so bright a Lord Must swarm and propagate the filthy horde Debased, accursed I say, abhorrent and abhorred.
Accursed and curse-bestowing.
For whosoe'er Shall suffer their contagion, everywhere Falls from the estate of man and finds his end To the mere beverage of the beast condemned.
For such as these in vain the Rhine has rolled Imperial centuries by hills of gold; For such as these the flashing Rhone shall rage In vain its lightning through the Hermitage Or level-browed divine Touraine receive The tribute of her vintages at eve.
For such as these Burgundian heats in vain Swell the rich slope or load the empurpled plain.
Bootless for such as these the mighty task Of bottling God the Father in a flask And leading all Creation down distilled To one small ardent sphere immensely filled.
With memories empty, with experience null, With vapid eye-balls meaningless and dull They pass unblest through the unfruitful light; And when we open the bronze doors of Night, When we in high carousal, we reclined, Spur up to Heaven the still ascending mind, Pass with the all inspiring, to and fro, The torch of genius and the Muse's glow, They, lifeless, stare at vacancy alone Or plan mean traffic, or repeat their moan.
We, when repose demands us, welcomed are In young white arms, like our great Exemplar Who, wearied with creation, takes his rest And sinks to sleep on Ariadne's breast.
They through the darkness into darkness press Despised, abandoned and companionless.
And when the course of either's sleep has run We leap to life like heralds of the sun; We from the couch in roseate mornings gay Salute as equals the exultant day While they, the unworthy, unrewarded, they The dank despisers of the Vine, arise To watch grey dawns and mourn indifferent skies.
Forget them! Form the Dionysian ring And pulse the ground, and Io, Io, sing.
Father Lenaean, to whom our strength belongs, Our loves, our wars, our laughter and our songs, Remember our inheritance, who praise Your glory in these last unhappy days When beauty sickens and a muddied robe Of baseness fouls the universal globe.
Though all the Gods indignant and their train Abandon ruined man, do thou remain! By thee the vesture of our life was made, The Embattled Gate, the lordly Colonnade, The woven fabric's gracious hues, the sound Of trumpets, and the quivering fountain-round, And, indestructible, the Arch, and, high, The Shaft of Stone that stands against the sky, And, last, the guardian-genius of them, Rhyme, Come from beyond the world to conquer time: All these are thine, Lenaean.
By thee do seers the inward light discern; By thee the statue lives, the Gods return; By thee the thunder and the falling foam Of loud Acquoria's torrent call to Rome; Alba rejoices in a thousand springs, Gensano laughs, and Orvieto sings.
But, Ah! With Orvieto, with that name Of dark, Eturian, subterranean flame The years dissolve.
I am standing in that hour Of majesty Septembral, and the power Which swells the clusters when the nights are still With autumn stars on Orvieto hill.
Had these been mine, Ausonian Muse, to know The large contented oxen heaving slow; To count my sheaves at harvest; so to spend Perfected days in peace until the end; With every evening's dust of gold to hear The bells upon the pasture height, the clear Full horn of herdsmen gathering in the kine To ancient byres in hamlets Appenine, And crown abundant age with generous ease: Had these, Ausonian Muse, had these, had these.
But since I would not, since I could not stay, Let me remember even in this my day How, when the ephemeral vision's lure is past All, all, must face their Passion at the last Was there not one that did to Heaven complain How, driving through the midnight and the rain, He struck, the Atlantic seethe and surge before, Wrecked in the North along a lonely shore To make the lights of home and hear his name no more.
Was there not one that from a desperate field Rode with no guerdon but a rifted shield; A name disherited; a broken sword; Wounds unrenowned; battle beneath no Lord; Strong blows, but on the void, and toil without reward.
When from the waste of such long labour done I too must leave the grape-ennobling sun And like the vineyard worker take my way Down the long shadows of declining day, Bend on the sombre plain my clouded sight And leave the mountain to the advancing night, Come to the term of all that was mine own With nothingness before me, and alone; Then to what hope of answer shall I turn? Comrade-Commander whom I dared not earn, What said You then to trembling friends and few? "A moment, and I drink it with you new: But in my Father's Kingdom.
" So, my Friend, Let not Your cup desert me in the end.
But when the hour of mine adventure's near Just and benignant, let my youth appear Bearing a Chalice, open, golden, wide, With benediction graven on its side.
So touch my dying lip: so bridge that deep: So pledge my waking from the gift of sleep, And, sacramental, raise me the Divine: Strong brother in God and last companion, Wine.

Poem by Hilaire Belloc
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