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Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Drinking Song

           Inscription for an Antique Pitcher

    COME, old friend! sit down and listen!
        From the pitcher, placed between us,
    How the waters laugh and glisten
        In the head of old Silenus!

    Old Silenus, bloated, drunken,
        Led by his inebriate Satyrs;
    On his breast his head is sunken,
        Vacantly he leers and chatters.

    Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;
        Ivy crowns that brow supernal
    As the forehead of Apollo,
        And possessing youth eternal.

    Round about him, fair Bacchantes,
        Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses,
    Wild from Naxian groves, or Zante's
        Vineyears, sing delirious verses.

    Thus he won, through all the nations,
        Bloodless victories, and the farmer
    Bore, as trophies and oblations,
        Vines for banners, ploughs for armor.

    Judged by no o'er zealous rigor,
        Much this mystic throng expresses;
    Bacchus was the type of vigor,
        And Silenus of excesses.

    These are ancient ethnic revels,
        Of a faith long since forsaken;
    Now the Satyrs, changed to devils,
        Frighten mortals wine-o'ertaken.

    Now to rivulets from the mountains
        Point the rods of fortune-tellers;
    Youth perpetual dwells in fountains, --
        Not in flasks, and casks, and cellars.

    Claudius, though he sang of flagons
        And huge tankards filled with Rhenish,
    From that fiery blood of dragons
        Never would how own replenish.

    Even Redi, though he chaunted
        Bacchus in the Tuscan valleys,
    Never drank the wine he vaunted
        In his dithyrambic sallies.

    Then with water fill the pitcher
        Wreathed about with classic fables;
    N'er Falernian threw a richer
        Light upon Lucullus' tables.

    Come, old friend, sit down and listen!
        As it passes thus between us,
    How its wavelets laugh and glisten
        In the head of old Silenus! 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's other poems:
  1. To the River Yvette
  2. To the River Rhone
  3. Oliver Basselin
  4. The Warden of the Cinque Ports
  5. The Crew of the Long Serpent

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • John Pierpont Drinking Song ("Drink, friends, drink deep-the moon is high")
  • James Stephen Drinking Song ("THERE are people, I know, to be found")

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