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

The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems

Songs. Drinking Song

Inscription for an Antique Pitcher

COME, old friend! sit down and listen!

From the pitcher, placed between us,

How the waters laugh and glisten

In the head of old Silenus!

Old Silenus, bloated, drunken,

Led by his inebriate Satyrs;

On his breast his head is sunken,

Vacantly he leers and chatters.

Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;

Ivy crowns that brow supernal

As the forehead of Apollo,

And possessing youth eternal.

Round about him, fair Bacchantes,

Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses,

Wild from Naxian groves, or Zante’s

Vineyards, sing delirious verses.

Thus he won, through all the nations,

Bloodless victories, and the farmer

Bore, as trophies and oblations,

Vines for banners, ploughs for armor.

Judged by no o’erzealous rigor,

Much this mystic throng expresses:

Bacchus was the type of vigor,

And Silenus of excesses.

These are ancient ethnic revels,

Of a faith long since forsaken;

Now the Satyrs, changed to devils,

Frighten mortals wine-o’ertaken.

Now to rivulets from the mountains

Point the rods of fortune-tellers;

Youth perpetual dwells in fountains,—

Not in flasks, and casks, and cellars.

Claudius, though he sang of flagons

And huge tankards filled with Rhenish,

From that fiery blood of dragons

Never would his own replenish.

Even Redi, though he chaunted

Bacchus in the Tuscan valleys,

Never drank the wine he vaunted

In his dithyrambic sallies.

Then with water fill the pitcher

Wreathed about with classic fables;

Ne’er Falernian threw a richer

Light upon Lucullus’ tables.

Come, old friend, sit down and listen!

As it passes thus between us,

How its wavelets laugh and glisten

In the head of old Silenus!