In My Vineyard


AT last the dream that clad the field
Is fairest fact, and stable ;
At last my vines a covert yield,
A patch for song and fable.
I thread the rustling ranks, that hide
Their misty violet treasure,
And part the sprays with more than pride,
And more than owner’s pleasure.


The tender shoots, the fragrance fine,
Betray the garden’s poet,
Whose daintiest life is turned to wine,
Yet half is shy to show it, −
The epicure, who yields to toil
A scarce fulfilled reliance,
But takes from sun and dew and soil
A grace unguessed by science.


Faint odors, from the bunches blown,
Surround me and subdue me;
The vineyard-breath of many a zone
Is softly breathing through me :
From slopes of Eshkol, in the sun,
And many a hill-side classic ;
From where Falernian juices run,
And where they press the Massic!


Where airy terraces, on high,
The hungry vats replenish,
And, less from earth than from the sky,
Distil the golden Rhenish :
Where, light of heart, the Bordelais
Compels his stony level
To burst and foam in purple spray, −
The rose that crowns the revel !


So here, as there, the subject earth
Shall take a tenderer duty;
And Labor walk with harmless Mirth,
And wed with loving Beauty:
So, here, a gracious life shall fix
Its seat, in sunnier weather;
For sap and blood so sweetly mix,
And richly run together !


The vine was exiled from the land
That bore but needful burdens ;
But now we slack the weary hand,
And look for gentler guerdons :
We take from Ease a grace above
The strength we took from Labor,
And win to laugh, and woo to love,
Each grimly-earnest neighbor.


What idle dreams! Even as I muse,
I feel a falling shadow ;
And vapors blur and clouds confuse
My coming Eldorado.
Portentous, grim, a ghost draws nigh,
To clip my flying fancy,
And change the shows of earth and sky
With evil necromancy.


The leaves on every vine-branch curl
As if a frost had stung them ;
The bunches shrivel, snap, and whirl
As if a tempest flung them ;
And as the ghost his forehead shakes,
Denying and commanding,
But withered stalks and barren stakes
Surround me where I 'm standing.


“ Beware ! ” the spectre cried; “ the woe
Of this delusive culture!
The nightingale that lures thee so
Shall hatch a ravening vulture.
To feed the vat, to fill the bin,
Thou pluck’st the vineyard’s foison,
That drugs the cup of mirth with sin,
The veins of health with poison ! ”


But now a golden mist was born,
With violet-odors mingled:
I felt a brightness as of morn,
And all my pulses tingled ;
And forms arose, − among them first
The old Ionian lion,
And they, Sicilian Muses nursed, −
Theocritus and Bion.


And he of Teos, he of Rome,
The Sabine bard and urban;
And Saadi, from his Persian home,
And Hafiz in his turban :
And Shakespeare, silent, sweet, and grave,
And Herrick with his lawns on ;
And Luther, mellow, burly, brave,
Along with Rare Ben Jonson!


“ Be comforted ! ” they seemed to say ;
“For Nature does no treasons:
She neither gives nor takes away
Without eternal reasons.
She heaps the stores of corn and oil
In such a liberal measure,
That, past the utmost need of Toil,
There’s something left for Pleasure.


“The secret soul of sun and dew
Not vainly she distilleth,
And from these globes of pink and blue
A harmless cup she filleth :
Who loveth her may take delight
In what for him she dresses,
Nor find in cheerful appetite
The portal to excesses.


“Yes, ever since the race began
To press the vineyard’s juices,
It was the brute within the man
Defiled their nobler uses ;
But they who take from order joy,
And make denial duty,
But chain the brute they should destroy
By Freedom and by Beauty!”


They spake ; and, lo ! the baleful shape
Grew dim, and then retreated;
And bending o’er the hoarded grape,
The vines my vision greeted.
The sunshine burst, the breezes turned
The leaves till they were hoary,
And over all the vineyard burned
A fresher light of glory !