I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!
Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –
When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!
Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!
The speaker in this poem is describing a state of exhilaration that she experiences through nature; she has become so addicted to this state that she refuses to renounce her mode of intoxication. The poem consists of four four-line stanzas; the rhyme scheme being – abcb.The poem can be seen as an ode to the beauty of nature – the speaker is so in awe of natural beauty that she claims she is drunk on it like one would be on alcohol.
At the start of the poem, the speaker has tasted a liquor which has never been brewed(man-made process) and could not possibly be manufactured in the best of man-made factories( Vats upon Rhine). She consumes this natural liquor from tall beer glasses scooped in Pearl, now pearl is a natural thing of great worth and beauty, perhaps it refers to Pearls of wisdom, then implying that her intoxication is an intoxication of the mind, an altered state of awareness of the mind quite like when one is under the influence of alcohol.
In the next stanza she is simply drunk on air and experiences intense pleasure from dew and staggers through the endless summer days solely on the beauty of the liquid blue sky. Her addiction to the state of intoxication is so great that she will continue to drink till nature changes its course by turning away bees and butterflies from flowers. She hopes to remain intoxicated till the last of her days.
Dickinson compares alcoholic intoxication to the awe inspired in her by nature. While alcohol is man-made her liquor comes from the beauty of nature – Air, Dew, Molten Inn. The state of drunkenness is reflected in the partial lack of rhyme structure and the use of slant rhyme – perhaps she is so drunk that she can only partially rhyme her words. The constant use of dashes, pauses and that one exclamation mark which does end the third stanza in a way only to continue into the next, parallel the literal state of an alcoholic trying to give words to his ideas.
Does the poet have a reason to capitalize certain words – Tankards, Pearl, Vats, Rhine, Alcohol, Dew, Molten Blue, “Landlords” etc? I would like to believe that she does, by highlighting words related to man-made customs and traditions, and words describing nature. There is also perhaps a slight mockery of man-made customs when in the third stanza she says she will leave her liquor only when nature takes to ways of man – landlords turning away drunk customers from pubs likened to “landlords” (here nature) shunning away bees, butterflies not hovering around flowers drinking nectar by renouncing their “drams”, like an alcoholic would. Her ultimate strike against religion is in the last when she says death (/heaven) will find her close to her liquor, her ultimate god, the provider of all life and elements of nature – the Sun.
The use of descriptive imagery in the poem (tankards scooped in Pearl, inns of Molten Blue etc) is frequent and, I suppose, is employed to paint the feeling of awe the speaker experiences from elements of nature.
This poem is an ode to nature, its beauty and it is also about the awe it inspires in Dickinson. The shifting metaphor of the intoxication of alcohol and the high of nature through the moving imagery of air, water and sky clearly highlights the inadequacy of man-made alcohol to help develop a sense of appreciation for the finer things in life.
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