“I taste a liquornever brewed” By: Emily Dickinson Analysis by: Christina Quaglia
Stanza 1 I taste a liquor never brewed- From Tankards scooped in Pearl- Not all the Vats upon the Rhine Yield such an Alcohol!Summary: The speaker refers to the exhilarating effect of a “liquor never brewed” suggesting that it symbolizes something more powerful than actual liquor. Not even the “Vats” (large tubs or tanks that contain alcohol and other liquids) “upon the Rhine” (a river that runs through Germany, which is a country famous for making beers) contain such an exhilarating alcohol.
Stanza 2 Inebriate of Air- am I- And Debauchee of Dew- Reeling- thro endless summer days- From inns of Molten Blue-Summary: In stanza 2, the speaker is drunk on air and dew. A “Debauchee” is someone addicted to alcohol or sensual pleasures; therefore, she is so drunk that she is staggering. In the last line she tells us that she is drinking at an inn.
Stanza 3 When the "Landlords" turn the drunken bee Out of the Foxgloves door- When Butterflies- renounce their "drams"- I shall but drink the more!Summary: The image of the speaker drinking at the inn continues into stanza 3. Even when the “Landlords” of the inn kick her out or when the butterflies “renounce” gathering nectar from flowers she will continue to drink more. She refers to nectar as "drams,” which means a small drink of liquor.
Stanza 4 Till seraphs swing their snowy Hats- And Saints- to windows run- To see the little Tippler Leaning against the- SunSummary: In the final stanza the speaker says she will continue drinking until seraphs (the highest ranks of angels) and saints notice her, meaning she won’t stop drinking until she dies.
Extended Metaphor Dickinson compares alcoholic intoxication to her fixation with nature The liquors she names all involve nature: “Air” (5). “Dew” (6). “Drams” (11). The nectar that the birds and butterflies feed on Develops this metaphor both literally and concretely
Structure The lack of rhyme scheme goes along with the theme of drunkenness and disorder The constant dashes and pauses at random places throughout each stanza also parallel the excitement and disorder that the speaker feels when she’s thinking about or experiencing nature
Capitalization Dickinson uses capitalization to emphasize all of the important words that refer to nature or have a double meaning Stanza 1: “Tankards, Pearl, Vats, Rhine, Alcohol” (1- 4). Stanza 2: “Air, Debauchee, Dew, Molten Blue” (5-8). Stanza 3: “Landlords, Bee, Foxglove’s, Butterflies” (9- 11). Stanza 4: “Seraphs, Hats, Saints, Tippler, Sun” (13-16). However, she does not capitalize the important words in the title “I taste a liquor never brewed”
Pronouns Dickinson constantly uses the pronoun “I” to show how she connects to nature
Nature “Tankards scooped in Pearl”- her liquor (nature) in the containers is pure and precious like a pearl (2). “Inebriate of Air” – intoxicated by breathing in air (5). “Debauchee of Dew”- turned on by the dew (6). “inns of Molten Blue”- the inn is the color of the sky (8). “Foxgloves door”- a beautiful pink/purple flower (10).Dickinson uses descriptive imagery when referencing the natural world to paint a vivid picture for her readers so we can experience the same feeling of awe she gets in the presence of nature
Time/Religious “endless summer days” –beauty of nature is constant (7). “seraphs swing their snowy Hats” (13). “And Saints- to windows run” (14).The last two stanzas suggest that the speaker will be intoxicated by nature forever. The religious imagery of the saints and seraphs symbolize those she will meet in heaven. Moreover, the beauty of nature will only fade when she dies, because she won’t be able to experience it anymore.
Conclusion In conclusion, this poem gives us a strong appreciation for nature through Dickinson’s extended metaphor of "liquor.” All of the beautiful things that God blesses the natural word with like the “air,” “dew,” and flowers, bring the speaker and the reader to a state of drunken joy. It is also important to recognize that this poem was written during the transcendentalist period, a time when people believed that God was in all things, especially nature. Not only does Dickinson use her intoxication with nature as a way to connect with God, but also her writing of poetry to feel the connection.
Quote Analysis “It is not meters, but a meter-making argument, that makes a poem – a thought so passionate and alive that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing” (Emerson). I thought this quote best described “I taste a liquor never brewed” because like Emerson suggests, it is not the structure that makes a poem, but rather its content. In Dickinson’s case, it is the complex extended metaphor and all of the vivid and passionate nature imagery within the content of her poem that makes her argument so powerful.