Best Wine Poems: Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine

The Greek god of wine Dionysus features in this poem.

© Shutterstock


The Greek god of wine Dionysus features in this poem.

© Shutterstock

Heroic Poem In Praise of Wine By Hilaire Belloc

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! 

An unrestrained celebration of wine that takes inspiration from the ancients. Perhaps best known for his entertaining work Cautionary Tales for Children, Hilaire Belloc looks back from his 20th century viewpoint to the classical Greek lyricists Anacreon and Pindar when composing this triumphant ode.

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 Thyrsus twirling, and the gleam 
Of cymbals through the darkness. Sing the drums. 
He comes; the young renewer of Hellas comes! 

The Greek god of wine, Dionysus, was believed to have originally come from the east, complete with exotic animals and ecstatic female followers, or maenads, with their instruments and “thyrsus”, or vine-wrapped staff. Belloc commemorates the god’s arrival to revive Hellas, better known in English as Greece.

And everywhere as they pass, the Vines! The Vines! 
The Vines, the conquering Vines! And the Vine 
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…

Having processed in triumph through many of Greece’s most famous sites, Dionysus wins poetic praise for reviving the unproductive land with the gift of viticulture. After all, vines famously thrive in places too hot and dry for most agricultural products.

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!