There’s a lot to say about April. It starts off with a Fools’ Day. Its showers bring May flowers, some prefer to spend it in Paris, 16th-century English composer Thomas Morley saw it in his mistress’ face. And poet T.S. Eliot famously called it the cruelest month. Which brings us to wine and poetry, because April is also National Poetry Month.
Happily, poets through the centuries have supplied us with plenty of wine-soaked words. Robert Louis Stevenson called wine “bottled poetry”; Rumi, the Persian poet, said “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” Baudelaire spoke to the wino in us all when he advised, “One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.”
Wine, poetry and love comprise a triangle. In “As You Like It,” Shakespeare warned, “I pray you, do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine,” and E.E. cummings wrote “his lips drink water but his heart drinks wine.”
You can find poems referencing wine on your own at the Poetry Foundation (and sign up for a poem-a-day newsletter). They range from classic and wistful to downright bawdy. Here are a few to enjoy for the rest of this poetic month and beyond:
The Soul Of Wine, Charles Baudelaire
One night, from bottles, sang the soul of wine:
‘0 misfit man, I send you for your good
Out of the glass and wax where I’m confined,
A melody of light and brotherhood!
Read more here | Drink: A simple French bistro wine, Beaujolais
I bring an unaccustomed wine, Emily Dickinson
I bring an unaccustomed wine
To lips long parching, next to mine,
And summon them to drink.
Read more here | Drink: Concord grape juice.
A Drinking Song, W.B. Yeats
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Drink: English sparkling wine
Ode to Wine, Pablo Neruda
wine with purple feet
or wine with topaz blood,
as a golden sword,
as lascivious velvet,
and full of wonder,
never has one goblet contained you,
one song, one man,
you are choral, gregarious,
at the least, you must be shared.
Read more here | Drink: Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon
Sad Wine (II), Cesare Pavese
The hard thing’s to sit without being noticed.
Everything else will come easy. Three sips
and the impulse returns to sit thinking alone.
Against the buzzing backdrop of noise
everything fades, and it’s suddenly a miracle
to be born and to stare at the glass.
Read more here | Drink: Nebbiolo from Piedmont
Intoxicated under the shadow of flowers, Li Qingzhao
Light mists and heavy clouds,
melancholy the long dreay day,
In the golden cencer
the burning incense is dying away.
It is again time
for the lovely Double-Nith Festival;
The coolness of midnight
penetrates my screen of sheer silk
and chills my pillow of jade.
After drinking wine at twilight
under the chrysanthemum hedge,
My sleeves are perfumed
by the faint fragrance of the plants.
Oh, I cannot say it is not enchanting,
Only, when the west wind stirs the curtin,
I see that I am more gracile
than the yellow flowers.
Drink: Cabernet Sauvignon from Ningxia
Sicilian Wine, Bayard Taylor
I’ve drunk Sicilia’s crimson wine!
The blazing vintage pressed
From grapes on Etna’s breast,
What time the mellowing autumn sun
I’ve drunk the wine!
I feel its blood divine
Poured on the sluggish tide of mine,
Till, kindling slow,
Its fountains glow
With the light that swims
On their trembling brims,
And a molten sunrise floods my limbs!
Read more here | Drink: Frappato from Sicily’s Vittoria region
The Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam
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.
Read more here | Drink: Shiraz, said to originate in Persia
But in the Wine-presses the Human Grapes Sing not nor Dance, William Blake
But in the Wine-presses the human grapes sing not nor dance:
They howl and writhe in shoals of torment, in fierce flames consuming,
In chains of iron and in dungeons circled with ceaseless fires,
In pits and dens and shades of death, in shapes of torment and woe:
The plates and screws and racks and saws and cords and fires and cisterns
The cruel joys of Luvah’s Daughters, lacerating with knives
And whips their victims, and the deadly sport of Luvah’s Sons.
Read more here | Drink: Port
Wine, Pierre Martory
I love the sweet harshness on the tongue
Filling the palate with a promised saliva
Knocking the mute keyboard of the teeth
With raised draperies of which one might say
That memory retains a fleeting trail of them
Half-glimpsed we won’t know how or else
The loud reminder of the single moment
All gravity banished the unconscious pleasure recaptured
Of being nothing but entirely animal.
Drink: Merlot, Syrah or Cinsault from Morocco
Photos, L-R and clockwise: Charles Baudelaire, W.B. Yeats, Bayard Taylor, Pablo Neruda, Pierre Martory, William Blake, Li Qingzhao, Cesare Pavese, Omar Khayyam