Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to Western States


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Catawba Wine

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 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.