Of Wine, Tears, and Folly

In vino veritas my father used to rebut my mother each time she complained about his tipsiness. In wine there is truth. But what is that truth when wine evokes so many emotions. One of my short stories features a character who drank to escape some ineffable truth. For me, it is the ritual of twirling the glass to see the clarity of its content as it makes tight swirls inside the bulbous goblet in your hand. Follow that with raising the glass to your nose. You breathe in deeply the aroma: is it smoky or oaky? A hint of cherry or berry? Peppery or flowery? So many sensations are alone to make your head spin and anticipate that first sip. Now you swirl the elixir to fill your mouth with all the aromas and…Enough! 

I can get carried away when drinking good wine, which is what happened this weekend on my visit to Paso Robles’ vineyards. This brings me back to wine, tears and folly and in vino veritas. What is the truth in wine’s loose tongue? I searched for poetry to see what the poets had to say. Sure enough, their emotions ran the gamut of human emotions. From the macabre “The Vine-Shroud” of Percy Bysshe Shelley, to the celebratory “Soul of Wine” of Charles Baudelaire, to “The Wine of Lover” by James Thomson, to the chimerical “I bring an unaccustomed wine” by Emily Dickinson, to the glorious “Ode to Wine” by Pablo Neruda, and let’s not forget Omar Kayyam’s “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,/A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou.”

The field of wine inspired poetry is as wide as the emotional spectrum between tears and folly. Perhaps there’s no difference between them, but just a feeling of the moment, the truth in wine, in vino veritas, a wine-induced vagary that is all consuming until it dissipates like a snowflake in the spring.

From a selection of ten of the best poems, I selected this short poem by William Butler Yeats and another poem.

A Drinking Song

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.
                       William Butler Yeats

To Samir

The wine of love, like its grape, may be sweet or sour
Let this poem be the pinnace to the sweet and
Bring my thoughts to you every waking
And sleeping hour.

No toast, nor tilted bottle
Nor raised glass can be
Without me thinking of thee.

My wine is sour.

Of nepenthe fill my glass
Quench my anguish
Elixir of bliss
Sate the void.

Rapture is embraced
fondling the empty chalice.

Your wine is smooth and sweet
fingering the caverns
of your latest lover.

But if your wine turns sour,
Turn to me.
I am alone and lonely
And longing for you
Every waking and sleeping hour.
                          Antonia Burgato

Yes, that last name is mine. I’d never dare put my name side by side with the great Yeats, but I’m full of the elixir and think grand thoughts. Tomorrow my cup will be dry and my grandeur won’t be grand. Let me indulge in my fantasy.

Enjoy the poems.