I taste a liquor never brewed by Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis

I taste a liquor never brewed is a short lyrical poem written by Emily Dickinson which was first published in the Springfield Daily Republican on 4 May 1861. The publisher changed the title of the poem as 'The May-Wine', but Dickinson herself never titled the poem so it is commonly referred to by its first line.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The "liquor never brewed" has a touch of something unearthly about it. Not all the vats upon the Rhine can produce such drink, because it is scooped in rare pearls. The ingredients of the liquor are extraordinary. In a deeply confessional note, the poet tells us of her addiction to drink and her sensual nature. But the drink she is addicted to is exhilarating air and her sensual indulgence is in the dew. Tipsy with intoxication the poet reels away her endless summer days. No edicts or edifications can bar the poet from this indulgence, because she drinks not from earthly bars, but from the 'inns of molten blue", meaning heavenly inns. Her intoxication, therefore, is divine. The stanza has unusual and fresh images which are not "the worn out counters of expression."

When the landlords turn out the drunken bee from foxgloves in their gardens, and when the butterfly drinks to her fill and renounces, the poet can still drink the draughts of ecstasy. The poet continues to drink the divine intoxicant from the inexhaustible vessel of nature, till the saints and angels in heaven grow jubilant to see the "little tippler leaning against the sun. The ecstasy of divine intoxication is so profound that the poet is transported to the sun when she leans against him.

The theme of the poem is indirectly presented through images, metaphors and symbols. The poet speaks of her inebriety (drunkenness). The "liquor never brewed" that she tastes does not belong to this world, but to her world of sensuous imagination. She drinks to the less the exhilarating aspects of nature. The artist is intoxicated with divine madness. The "little Tippler" in the poem is Emily Dickinson, who drinks in ecstasy "from the inns of molten blue", with saints and angels. The poet, through fresh and unusual images, makes us share her ecstasy. It was a reeling triumph to be a secret drinker while in the name of Orthodox religion one can close the bars of Amberst, but not the "inns of molten blue" where she drank with saints and was served by angles.

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Shrestha, Roma. "I taste a liquor never brewed by Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 16 Nov. 2017, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/i-taste-a-liquor-never-brewed-summary-analysis.html.