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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the First. Catawba Wine

  • Written on the receipt of a gift of Catawba wine from the vineyards of Nicholas Longworth on the Ohio River.

  • THIS song of mine

    Is a Song of the Vine,

    To be sung by the glowing embers

    Of wayside inns,

    When the rain begins

    To darken the drear Novembers.

    It is not a song

    Of the Scuppernong,

    From warm Carolinian valleys,

    Nor the Isabel

    And the Muscadel

    That bask in our garden alleys.

    Nor the red Mustang,

    Whose clusters hang

    O’er the waves of the Colorado,

    And the fiery flood

    Of whose purple blood

    Has a dash of Spanish bravado.

    For richest and best

    Is the wine of the West,

    That grows by the Beautiful River;

    Whose sweet perfume

    Fills all the room

    With a benison on the giver.

    And as hollow trees

    Are the haunts of bees,

    Forever going and coming;

    So this crystal hive

    Is all alive

    With a swarming and buzzing and humming.

    Very good in its way

    Is the Verzenay,

    Or the Sillery soft and creamy;

    But Catawba wine

    Has a taste more divine,

    More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.

    There grows no vine

    By the haunted Rhine,

    By Danube or Guadalquivir,

    Nor on island or cape,

    That bears such a grape

    As grows by the Beautiful River.

    Drugged is their juice

    For foreign use,

    When shipped o’er the reeling Atlantic,

    To rack our brains

    With the fever pains,

    That have driven the Old World frantic.

    To the sewers and sinks

    With all such drinks,

    And after them tumble the mixer;

    For a poison malign

    Is such a Borgia wine,

    Or at best but a Devil’s Elixir.

    While pure as a spring

    Is the wine I sing,

    And to praise it, one needs but name it;

    For Catawba wine

    Has need of no sign,

    No tavern-bush to proclaim it.

    And this Song of the Vine,

    This greeting of mine,

    The winds and the birds shall deliver

    To the Queen of the West,

    In her garlands dressed,

    On the banks of the Beautiful River.