Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BOTTLES AND THE WINE, by GEORGE SANTAYANA

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE BOTTLES AND THE WINE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Would you have an illustration
Last Line: To the bottles and the wine.
Subject(s): Alcoholism & Alcoholics


Would you have an illustration
Of the thing we fellows are?
Liken every generation
To the bottles in the bar:
Vessels full of precious liquor
Standing in their brave array, --
Never bosom friends were thicker
Or of franker heart than they,
There congenially hobnobbing,
Always ready for a bout,
As half laughing and half sobbing
The fine spirits bubble out.
We buy, break, drink, waste, decant them --
Bottles come and bottles go --
Yet there always, when you want them,
Stand the bottles in a row:
Port and sherry, rum and brandy,
Irish, Bourbon, Scotch, and rye,
Always smiling, always handy
When the heart's a trifle dry.

Though the bottles change their label
And tag on another name,
They're as welcome at the table,
For the liquor's still the same.
Days gone by saw jugs in plenty,
Now less frequently on view.
Every year some ten or twenty
Pass to fields and pastures new.
There, replenished, they grow fatter
And their bellies bulge amain,
But though full as yet of matter,
You may mark a certain drain,
For the busy world's contention
Brings the liquid down a bit,
And a small god I won't mention
Sometimes takes a pull at it.
Yet apart from some mischances,
Though not standing where they stood,
For big dinners and small dances
Our old bottles still are good.
But when once the dregs are emptied,
We throw bottles in a heap,
Not one favourite exempted,
Were its spirit fine or cheap.
They're doled out in the back alley
By the scrawny hands of hags
When gaunt Death comes shilly-shally
Crying, "Bottles and old rags!"
What of that? While face and feature,
Manners, minds, and pleasures pass,
Nature breeds a younger creature,
Mate to what the other was,
And the sports we had forsaken,
And the fancies blown away
In the brighter souls they waken
Live for ever and a day.
The proud glories that entice us
No more fail because we pass
Than the founts of Dionysus
For the quaffing of a glass.

But what happens to the liquor?
The old bottles' fate to share,
Only that its flight is quicker
Up the vortices of air?
Is it lost as soon as tasted,
Rising upon moth-like wings
To be caught and scorched and wasted
In this foolish flame of things?
Ah, the blood of nature's spilling
Trickles back into her veins,
And her cup is ever filling
With the vintage that she strains.
For a moment she befriends us
With unsealing of our eyes,
But the light of life she lends us
Floods her everlasting skies.
The sweet wine that makes our passion
Linking heart to mortal heart
Is her ancient fire to fashion
All the marvels of her art.
It has painted woman's beauty,
It is parent to the flowers,
It has wedded joy to duty,
Portioned loves among the hours,
Built us palaces and churches,
Plucked its music from the lyre,
Lighted all the spirit's searches
Through the mazes of desire,
Yes, and scorning earthly places
And our human loves and wars
It has peopled heaven's spaces
And has gilded heaven's stars.

Drink, then, of this cup and drain it.
Let the wine renew the soul,
And all vessels that contain it,
May they long be sound and whole
To receive the boon and give it
That makes mortal joys divine.
Here's to life and all who live it,
To the bottles and the wine.

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