I taste a liquor never brewed —
From Tankards scooped in Pearl —
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of Air — am I —
And Debauchee of Dew —
Reeling — thro endless summer days —
From inns of Molten Blue —

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door —
When Butterflies — renounce their “drams” —
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats —
And Saints — to windows run —
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the — Sun —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem I taste a liquor never brewed


  1. johnny says:

    tankard- mug, glass, stein
    scooped- decorated
    vats- storage of vine
    rhine- river in germany known for vineyards

    inebriate- drunkard debauchee-hedonist
    reeling- stumbling
    landlord- bartender
    Foxglove- both flower and pub. bees drink nectar our of flower
    butterflies get too drunk off of shots

    angels and saints leave thier posts in heaven to see the person become such a fool

    tippler – drinker, shots etc.

  2. Aryllyra says:

    The poem reminds me, from afar, of a poem written by Paul Celan and published in his collection ‘Mohn und Gedächtnis’ (1953): “An den langen Tischen der Zeit / zechen die Krüge Gottes…. Sie trinken, was einer gebraut / der nicht ich war, noch du, noch ein dritter / Sie trinken eine Leeres und Letztes.”

  3. kyle says:

    I can almost smell it

  4. Joel says:

    The mood from this peom created the speaker’s grievence of human life. Happiness can never last long, it can be distracted by human nature.” when ‘landlords’ turn the drunken Bee Out of the Foxglove’s door.”

    Only Heaven proves to be the best place to live. the saint feels the sympathy for the “tippler” or the drinker.

  5. Alisha says:

    this poem is such a great poem. I think that it has alot of different imagery and things in it and it is an all around wonderful expression of feelings.

  6. Tasha says:

    I am writing a 3-6 page essay on this particular poem and I like what she is saying in this particular poem about being drunk off of life. Emily Dickinson is rather more one of my favorite poets because she wrote during the romance period and she is very romantic especially in her poem “Heart we will forget him.” I love that Emily wrote during this particular time period because Emily as a woman not being married and loving a married man this is the Literary period just right for Miss Emily Dickinson.
    If anyone has any comments on my comments to this wonderful poem please email me at blugurl69@yahoo.com

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I believe Dickinson is trying to tell us that she is drunk on life. Her surrounding and dipict visuals of nature are what she is living life for. Comparing the life that has yet to be lived to a liquor that hasn’t been brewed. It’s in the future that we will experience that greatness.

  8. Kerry Wood says:

    I could never be a wine connoisseur. My sense of smell is not keen, and a discriminating olfactory sense is a sine qua non for precise discernment and evaluation. Yes, I know when a wine is downright awful, but in a blind taste test comparing elegant vintage wines and their Two-Buck Chuck counterparts, I’ll choose the cheap stuff probably half the time.
    The same goes for my appreciation of pictorial art. I skipped the college course in art appreciation. I recognize the beauty of the classics and have my own unschooled preferences, but that’s about it. When my wife thinks about foreign travel, she focuses on museums and art galleries. I think about wandering through exotic cities or quaint neighborhoods, trying new cuisines and quaffing brews with the locals. Sally can sit and revel in a single painting for the same amount of time it takes me to stroll one wing of the Louvre.
    I am led to this musing by contemplation of Emily Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed,” wherein the poet celebrates her enchantment with nature in a playful extended metaphor.
    The poem makes me aware that words and language delight and intoxicate me the way a Chateau Lafitte Rothschild pleases an oenophile, the Uffizi gallery excites an art buff, and Emily gets drunk on warmth, sunshine and clouds.
    Savoring Emily’s four quatrains—rolling them about on my tongue and ear—gives me the heady satisfaction that the little lady from Amherst gets from air. Her poem is a synergy of ingredients that gives me a Massachusetts variation of a Rocky Mountain High.
    Line one with its direct statement of the metaphor is like the first sip of a perfect martini—stirred, not shaken—sipped from a chilled glass of finest crystal. Her “tankards of pearl” with that key word “scooped” trigger an image of fluffy white clouds, due perhaps to my fondness for ice cream and not to any intention of the poet. Others will respond with their own images. “Vats upon the Rhine” generates vowel music that tickles palate and ear and transports me to Burton-on-Trent and the lively liquor of A. E. Housman’s “Terence, this is stupid stuff,” a favorite poem from my teaching days. Housman was writing about beer, not liquor; still, an intoxicant’s and intoxicant. The first quatrain’s half-rhyme of “pearl” with “alcohol” produces a tang that a perfect rhyme would not convey.
    Lines 5 and 6 are my favorites — the olive or lemon twist in the cocktail of my own metaphor. The vowel alliteration of “Inebriate of air am I” enriches the dictionary meaning—an example of sound’s interplay with sense that epitomizes poetry. The first word can be construed as a past participle lacking the concluding “d” or as a noun. Thus, the line could be paraphrased either as “I am inebriated by or with air” or “I am an inebriate or habitual drunkard whose intoxicant is air.” Both ideas are implicit in Dickinson’s shaping of the sentence, and the duality imports a tinge of drunken confusion and stagger. The exquisite word choice “debauchee” reinforces the long-e assonance of “Inebriate” and alliterates with “dew” to underline the humorous hyperbole that the poet is an orgiast, in danger of overdosing on dewdrops. “Reeling” begins line 7 with a metrical variation—a trochaic substitution in the established iambic metrical pattern. (Remember your high school English class? An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by one that is stressed, as in “vermouth”; a trochaic foot is the opposite or reverse, as in “Boodles.”) My head reels as does the poetic line. The adjective “molten” is arresting in “Inns of molten blue.” I discard the image of inns created by a process of heating something blue until it was liquefied and then pouring it into a mold, and I settle for summer skies that are molten in the sense of being heated so that they glow.
    Stanza three makes me giggle tipsily. Bees getting drunk on nectar and being cut off and tossed out of the Foxglove Pub; butterflies swearing off spirituous pollen; and a snockered Belle of Amherst– all are images that strike my funny bone. A happy drunk am I!
    I have a wee problem with the concluding stanza.. I see seraphs and saints—regular inhabitants of those heavenly inns but free from problems of overindulgence or addiction
    —hustling to the window to watch Emily stumble out and lean against the sun for balance. “Little tippler” is another epitome of sound supporting sense, the short i’s and consonant l’s (I’m using consonant as an adjective, not a noun) sound like someone taking repetitive sips of liquid. I suck on the pastille trochee “Leaning” in the poem’s concluding line and taste the giddiness introduced earlier by “Reeling.” (Pastilles in a martini? Metaphorically the spritz of vermouth tempering the icy gin–Noilly Prat befitting Beefeater.)
    I have to hiccup when I swallow “seraphs swing their snowy hats.” I’ve never pictured a seraph wearing a hat, snowy or otherwise. Maybe a halo, but I usually reserve those for saints, not angels with six wings. Is it another cloud image? I’m not sure.
    Is that lack of surety the poem’s problem? Is that something black floating in my cocktail? Ah, it’s just an eyelash—one of my own. My fault, not the author/bartender’s. I fish it out and finish the drink. Good! I’ll have another.

  9. sarah says:

    I thought this was one of the greatest poems I have ever read, it was so emotional whilst talking about the taste of brewed liquiror. I have not read all of Emily Dickinsons poems but the ones that I have read this is deffintley the best.

  10. Tha_Real_Rasta says:

    We are analyzing this poem in my 9th grade honors english class, and we have came up with a possible thing she is drunk on: Spirituality/Religion/God/etc.
    “From inns of molten blue”- inns= home. Many hardcore/devout Christians believe that they are not truly home until they reside in Heaven. “Molten Blue”-the sky remember heaven is in the sky…
    All the talk of the angels and seraphs rushing to look through their window at the drunkard leaning on the Sun- “The Sun” is a play on words- The “Son”- as in Jesus. She is “drunk” on spirituality and needs support from Jesus.

    Word Up

  11. dgtheory says:

    I’ve discussed this particular poem in literature class, and believe it to be about fellatio. When butterflies renounce…even ties into Emily’s rumour as a virgin unto death. Anyways, I have heard the nature argument before, but do believe this poem to be erotic in nature. Any thoughts on this?

  12. tom says:

    I have to write a reader respone critical analasys on this poem. It would be great if i could get some ideas to build on and use! Thanks.

  13. Pisces says:

    Portraying nature as inebriating is unusual; drunkness is generally viewed with disapproval, but here being drunk is depicted as a wonderfully inspiring, even exalted, feeling.

    The speaker’s willingness to shock the Seraphs and Saints with her natural intoxication suggests an ironic distance from institutionalized religion.

    Credit goes to the Texas Annotated Teacher’s Edition of Elements of Literature Grade 2 – Page T382

  14. Kenzo says:

    There will bed no extra credit for the Scottish. Bow to the will of heaven mortal!

  15. The Scotsman says:

    Gotta love the alcohol reference,
    Give me extra credit Mr. Griffeth

  16. kathy says:

    I understand that she is intoxicated with nature but i have some questions about a few indevidual lines.
    -are “tankards scooped in pearl” a literal metaphor, and if so, for what? what kind of even metaphorical “tankard” could encompass all of nature. The only thing i can think of is the world itself, but how is that “scooped in pearl?”
    – also, in the last stanza when dickinson mentions seraphs and saints running to greet the “tipppler” is she referring to the narrator’s death and arrival in heavan? if so, is this poem really just about nature, or about how to live in general?

  17. Sephiroth says:

    How can she taste a liquor that was never brewd? Can there be such thing? Yes. It is called Nature. She is intoxicated by nature.
    (Please e-mail me your opinions and thoughts on any of Emily Dickinson poems. Don’t forget the title of the poem. Actually, it would be great if you could e-mail me the whole poem. Thanks.)

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