Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Garda (Benacus), the Lake

Vino Santo

By Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885)

ONCE I read a strange, sweet story,

Of a sacred snowy wine,

Made by peasants on Lake Garda,

Brewed beneath the cross’s sign;

Vino Santo called forever,

Sealed with seal of things divine,—

Vino Santo, Holy Wine!

On the first days of October,

Only in a shining sun,

Only in the dew of morning,

Clusters lifted one by one;

Thus begins the solemn vintage,

Vintage with the cross for sign,—

Vino Santo, Holy Wine!

Pales the autumn, falls the winter,

Lie the grapes untouched and still;

No man hastes and no man hinders

While their subtle juices fill,

Till the sacred day of Christmas,

Day of days, of joy divine,

Then is brewed the Holy Wine.

Past the winter, past the springtime,

Into summer far and late;

For the joy of Vino Santo

They who long must long and wait;

Only glowing heat can ripen—

Glowing heat and cross’s sign,

Vino Santo, Holy Wine!

Dear, to-day, the strange, sweet story,

Sudden seemeth thine and mine;

Thine and mine and all true lovers,

Sealed by seal and signed by sign;

Silence, patience, from Love’s Vintage

Drink at last, in joy divine,

Vino Santo, Holy Wine!