I taste a liquor never brewed

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"I taste a liquor never brewed" is a poem written by American writer Emily Dickinson. Dickinson never titled the poem (known as #214), so it is commonly referred to by its first line.

The speaker in Emily Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed” is describing a mystical state that she experiences through her soul awareness; the state is so overwhelmingly uplifting that she feels as if she had become intoxicated by drinking alcohol. The poem consists of four four-line stanzas. The second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme, with the first rhyme pair “Pearl” and “Alcohol” being near or slant rhyme. The poem is #214 in Thomas H. Johnson’s The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.

The poem can also be interpreted as describing a physical state of being that is neither spiritual nor mystical. It can be seen as an ecstatic ode to the beauty and mystery of nature, or even to carnal passion. The speaker here is celebrating earthly delights—and says she hopes to do so till the day she dies.

I taste a liquor never brewed --
From Tankards scooped in Pearl --
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
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 --

Alternative version:
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
From Manzanilla come! [1]

First Stanza – “I taste a liquor never brewed”[edit]

The first stanza, the speaker begins the extended alcohol/intoxication metaphor by claiming that she is experiencing a state of awareness that she has never encountered. She likens the experience to being drunk, but the “liquor” that has made her thus has "never" been “brewed". In other words, her intoxication is not caused by the physical intoxication of a drink. Furthermore, this intoxication is greater than if she had ingested the contents of "all the Vats upon the Rhine". Here Dickinson is using objects (liquor, Tankards, Vats, etc.) to describe an amorphous feeling of ecstasy.

Second Stanza – “Inebriate of Air – am I –”[edit]

Even though her state of mind is ineffable, she continues to dramatize the feeling by likening it to natural experiences. Thus, she claims that she is simply drunk on "Air", and that merely breathing makes her feel inebriated. Even the “Dew” makes her feel drunk. The “endless summer days” make her feel as though she has been imbibing at “Inns of Molten Blue", as if the sky was one huge tavern from which the liquor flowed. After she has drunk her fill, she goes “reeling” from the intoxication through those “endless summer days.”

Third Stanza – “When ‘Landlords’ turn the drunken Bee”[edit]

Next, the speaker likens the bees and the butterflies to fellow drinkers, whom she will out-drink. After the flower (which is the bee's "liquor") closes up and the bee has to leave, after the butterflies have had their fill of nectar, the speaker will be able to continue drinking her soul's intoxicant, because it is not physical and therefore without limit.The word landlord is a metaphor for God and she says that until the gods turn the bee out of the foxglove flower and the butterflies renounce the nectar she will drink the nature;i.e. she will never stop drink tasting and cherishing each and every drop of nature as all the natural activities are never going to stop.

The Fourth Stanza – “Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –”[edit]

The last line in stanza three claimed, “I shall but drink the more!” Although the exclamation mark seems to bring the sentence to an end, the idea continues in the next stanza with “Till”. She shall continue drinking, she says, until the highest order of angels "swing" their “snowy Hats,” and saints hurry to the windows to watch her “Leaning against the – Sun –“. This implies that she will never have to abstain from this intoxicant she has discovered, as it is the natural state of those in Heaven.

The original final line of the poem was "From Manzanilla come!" referring to the wine district of Spain. In this version of the poem, the speaker figures the earth as a place for the production of intoxicants in the form of nature.

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