George Sterling

(1869-1926 / United States)

Ballad Of The Grapes - Poem by George Sterling

O Sadducees and Pharisees,
Who harass the divine,
Now harken with reluctancy
How Daphne made the wine!

(I drain a glass of bootleg Scotch,
For fear my voice may tire.
I pause ... I drain a larger one,
Then whang the western lyre.)

It was in San Francisco town
Once dedicate to joy,
Now given up to hypocrites
And all reform's annoy.

Oh! Daphne was as brave a girl
As ever wore a glove.
She made her prayer to Bacchus, Pan
And all the gods of love.

Now Daphne bought a load of grapes
With ocean-purple skin;
She bought some golden muscatel
And called her lover in.

And thrice she scoured her bath-tub
(A needless act, we know)
With Bon Ami, Dutch Cleanser
And much Sapolio.

And thrice she washed her snowy legs,
At which a faun might kneel,
With Ivory soap and Colgate soap
And soap we call Castile.

Then in the tub they dumped the grapes
And in the tub she stepped;
And oh! to see her nudity
The men of God had wept!

Not as the grapes of wrath are trod
Trod she the vintage there,
Up to her knees in scarlet foam,—
Unhidden by her hair;

But rather as when dryads white
Pace slowly in the dance,
She proved our old, delicious lies
And certified romance.

O fumes of Bacchus that betrayed
The spirit ot the grape!
O unseen incense that arose
Around that lyric shape!

A dream she was of pagan days
Lost now to righteous man,
When through the vineyards of the Greek
Rippled the rout of Pan.

Right gaily up and down she strode
That treadmill of delight,
As on her breasts and on her thighs
The drops lay pink and bright.

(O Sadducees and Pharisees,
And had ye seen that dew
Ye would have longed to sip each drop—
And no such luck for you!)

But tired she was as dear she was,
Before the task was done;
So children with the close of day
Weary ot even fun.

Wherefore a little pause from toil
They did not think amiss.
Perhaps they had a glass or two,
And, it may be, a kiss.

But he had brought a goodly cask,
Funnel and strainer too,
And so they filled that goodly cask
With juice of ruddy hue.

And in a cool and darksome place
They set that goodly cask
And had, perhaps, a glass or two,
To celebrate the task.

Now months must come and months must go
And men know joy and care,
But when that wine goes twelve per cent,
May you and I be there!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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