Treasure Island

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)

The Two Glasses


There sat two glasses, filled to the brim,
On a rich man's table, rim to rim.
One was ruddy and red as blood,
And one was clear as the crystal flood.

Said the glass of wine to his paler brother,
"Let us tell tales of the past to each other;
I can tell of banquet, and revel, and mirth,
Where I was a king, for I ruled in might;
For the proudest and grandest souls on earth
Fell under my touch, as though struck with blight.
From the heads of kings I have torn the crown;
From the heights of fame I have hurled men down.
I have blasted many an honored name;
I have taken virtue and given shame;
I have tempted the youth with a sip, a taste,
That has made his future a barren waste.
Far greater than any king am I,
Or than any army beneath the sky.
I have made the arm of the driver fail,
And sent the train from the iron rail.
I have made good ships go down at sea,
And the shrieks of the lost were sweet to me.
Fame, strength, wealth, genius before me fall;
Ho, ho! pale brother," said the wine,
"Can you boast of deeds as great as mine?"

Said the water-glass: "I cannot boast
Of a king dethroned, or a murdered host,
But I can tell of hearts that were sad
By my crystal drops made bright and glad;
Of thirsts I have quenched, and brows I have laved;
Of hands I have cooled, and souls I have saved.
I have leaped through the valley, dashed down the mountain,
Slept in the sunshine, and dripped from the fountain.
I have burst my cloud-fetters, and dropped from the sky,
And everywhere gladdened the prospect and eye;
I have eased the hot forehead of fever and pain;
I have made the parched meadows grow fertile with grain.
I can tell of the powerful wheel of the mill,
That ground out the flower, and turned at my will.
I can tell of manhood debased by you,
That I have uplifted and crowned anew;
I cheer, I help, I strengthen and aid;
I gladden the heart of man and maid;
I set the wine-chained captive free,
And all are better for knowing me."

These are the tales they told each other,
The glass of wine and its paler brother,
As they sat together, filled to the brim,
On a rich man's table, rim to rim.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bonnie Shipman (12/6/2012 7:06:00 PM)

    Please, please, please, fix the poem Two Glasses! This is one of my favorite poems, and it's painful to read it over so dreadfully mutated.
    The lines I noticed:

    I can tell of banquet, and revel, and mirth,
    For the proudest and grandest souls on earth
    Fell under my touch, as though struck with blight.
    Where I was a king, for I ruled in might; [this line moved from between revel and mirth and souls on earth]

    [insert, Greater, ] far greater than [delet any] king am I,

    I have made good ships go down at sea,
    And the shrieks of the lost were sweet to me.
    [insert, For they said, behold, how great you be! ]
    Fame, strength, wealth, genius before [chang to you] me fall;
    [insert, For your might and power are over all.]
    Ho, ho! pale brother, [change to laughed] said the wine,

    But I can tell of hearts that were sad [hearts once sad]
    By my crystal drops made [change to light] bright and glad;
    Of thirsts I've quenched, [change to not] and brows I've laved; [contractions]

    I have leaped through the valley, dashed down the mountain,
    Slept in the sunshine, and dripped from the fountain. [should be, Flowed in the river and played in the fountain]
    I have burst my cloud-fetters, and dropped from the sky, [Slept in the sunshine and dropped from the sky]
    And everywhere gladdened the [landscape, not prospect] and eye;

    That ground out the [flour, hello! ] flower, and turned at my will.

    I set the wine-chained captive free, [actually, chained wine-captive]

    These are the tales they told each other,
    The glass of wine and [change to the] its paler brother,


    I really want this poem on my poems list, but want it to be fixed first. Ella would have wanted that too. Thank you. (Report) Reply

  • Pam Pratt. (2/2/2007 5:20:00 AM)

    I learnt this poem over 50 years ago and I think the meaning of it is so true.It is indeed a poem with great depth. (Report) Reply

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