I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed by Emily Dickinson: Complete Analysis

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As it is with almost all the poems by Emily Dickinson, this one lacks a title too. So that’s why we readers use the most creative ways of finding and assigning the title ourselves; Just pick the first line of the poem and call it a day. “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” is one of those poems that does not express an idea, but an emotion. It is the case with almost every poem written by Dickinson.

Reading it for the first time, the poem might be a little confusing to some people. This poem is written in a very different way, very unique to Emily Dickinson’s style of writing. Dashes and pauses, different meters, slant rhyming, and so much more make this poem a little bit complicated.

But one good understanding and seeing through the complex structure and rhyming pattern, you’d be delighted to see the beautiful poetry and meaning in Dickinson’s work. Let’s unveil the curtain of this poem and see the meaning, summary, and beauty of the poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” by Emily Dickinson

I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed

I taste a liquor never brewed – 

From Tankards scooped in Pearl – 

Not all the Frankfort Berries

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!

Meaning and Summary of the Poem 

The poem starts with a statement from the poet saying that she has tasted a liquor never brewed, which is contradictory in many senses. This liquor has never been brewed, not even by the pearly tankards which can make some of the best liquor. The very first line indicates that Dickinson is not talking about alcohol. 

She then compares this “liquor” to the finest alcohol made from the best berries from Frankfort. The first stanza is used to establish this mysterious substance that is better than the best alcohol there is. But then what is this mysterious “liquor”?

The second stanza explains all the mysteries that lay behind this “liquor”. The poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” is a metaphor for enjoying the little things in life, it is about enjoying being alive. In many ways, it is a celebration of being able to experience nature. The poet enjoys nature so much that it gets her drunk, and it is better than the best wine in the world. 

The happiness that one gets when they look around and see the flowers, the yellow warm sunlight all under a glorious blue sky with splashes of white clouds. All these things are around us and yet people forget to look around and appreciate them. This poem is a celebration of that and lets people know how they are missing out on such a beautiful thing.

In summary, I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed is not at all about any wonderful alcohol, but is about the elated state of euphoria that one can reach if they start enjoying the beauties of nature. It is about looking around yourself, and as cliche, as it may sound, it is about enjoying the nature that has made us. It can get you drunk much better than the best liquor in this world.

Analyzing the Poem

Here’s a line-by-line analysis of I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed along with a paraphrased version of the poem for a better understanding of the poem. 

I taste a liquor never brewed – 

From Tankards scooped in Pearl – 

Not all the Frankfort Berries

Yield such an Alcohol!

The first stanza establishes something mysterious, a liquor that has never been brewed from artificial tankards where even the finest alcohol is made from the Frankfort berries. No man-made tankard can make such delightful alcohol as the poet has tasted.

Inebriate of air – am I – 

And Debauchee of Dew – 

Reeling – thro’ endless summer days – 

From inns of molten Blue – 

The second stanza is used to establish what this mysterious “liquor” is. The poet is talking about the elements of nature and how their beauty gives her a sense of drunkenness. The poet says that she is inebriated by the fresh air, and she is indulging in the pleasure of the dew (almost making dew drops like alcohol). 

While in this state of inebriation, she is stumbling through the endless summer days when the days are long and the sun lingers longer, she from moving under the blue sky (here inns of molten blue is used to refer to the blue sky). 

This stanza is used to establish a scene, where the blue sky is filled with fresh air and the green leaves are covered with dew. This entire scene is what the mysterious liquor is, and that’s what gets the poet inebriated. 

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee

Out of the Foxglove’s door – 

When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” – 

I shall but drink the more!

Where the second stanza was establishing what the liquor was, the third stanza is about how this liquor has affected the poet. The third stanza starts with “When the landlords turn the drunken bee out of the foxglove’s door”. This here represents a flower that is not in existence anymore.

Foxglove blooms in early summer and that’s it. As the summer season departs, so do the flowers. Here the landlord refers to the land that is fit for the flower’s bloom only during the summer seasons. So when the summers are gone, and the winter knocks at the door, the drunken bees have to return to their home, out of the flowers. 

When the butterflies have had their fill and do not drink the nectar anymore, the poet shall continue to enjoy the wonders of nature. Even when the seasons have passed, and the world around her changed, she’ll continue to indulge in the beauty of nature. This is what the third stanza is conveying. 

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – 

And Saints – to windows run – 

To see the little Tippler

Leaning against the – Sun!

The final stanza concludes the poem with an indefinite statement. “Till the Seraphs swing their snowy Hats” refers to the angels of the highest orders; Seraphs. The “snowy Hats”, where the word “hat” is capitalized, refer to the clouds. Seraphs turning their heads and saints running to the window indicates that they are shocked and surprised by something so much that they had to leave something very important. 

They all rush to see the little Tippler (where tippler refers to the poet) leaning against the sun. From dusk till dawn, when the sun is on the horizon, Dickinson shall keep indulging in this liquor of nature, and getting drunk incessantly.

The poem ends indicating an indefinite session of drinking, meaning that the readers have no idea if the poet will ever stop drinking nature’s liquor. She will continue to appreciate and enjoy every season, every little thing about nature till her last breath. 

Paraphrase of I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed

I have tasted a liquor that 

Cannot be brewed

Even the best berries from Frankfurt

Cannot make alcohol like that

I am drunk from the air

I keep enjoying the presence of the dew

The beauty of endless summer days

And everything under the sky was so blue

When the summer shall pass, and the bees shall rest

When the flowers are gone, the butterflies shall rest

Even then I shall keep drinking the beauty of nature

My love for nature shall endure time’s test

Till the angels and saints are surprised 

To see a person so drunk and high

My inebriation shall never end 

I shall enjoy the liquor of nature, till my end.

Understanding the Poem

The poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” is a goldmine of great metaphors and other literary devices. This abundance of metaphors is what makes this poem so interesting to read and understand. Let’s take a look at the different metaphors used in the poem. 

The very first line of the poem is a metaphor. Tasting a liquor here refers to experiencing the beauty of nature, and how it can get you drunk (which again is a metaphor). The metaphor of drunkenness is used in the poem often to show the elated sense of happiness and joy that one gets while appreciating nature.

Here are all the metaphors used in the poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” by Emily Dickinson

I taste a liquor never brewed – Liquor refers to the beauty of nature.

From Tankards scooped in Pearl – From tanks of shiny alcohol brewing

Inebriate of air – am I – Taking in the fresh air inside and feeling happy

And Debauchee of Dew – enjoying the beautiful dews on leaves and flowers

Reeling – thro’ endless summer days – walking around and enjoying the scenes of summer days 

From inns of molten Blue – under the clear blue skies

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee – Seasons change and the flowers don’t bloom, making the bees return. 

When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” – When butterflies go back home when there is no flower left for nectar. 

I shall but drink the more! – The poet will keep enjoying nature and its beauties. 

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – The angels look over from the clouds (used to denote surprise

Leaning against the – Sun! – Out in the open enjoying nature even when the sun sets and comes to ground level.

Literary Devices in the Poem

As mentioned before, the poem is filled with metaphors. But that’s not the only literary device in the poem. Here are all the literary devices you can find in the poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed”.

Alliteration: Alliteration has been used in lines five, six, and thirteen:

Inebriate of air – am I – 

And Debauchee of Dew – 

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – 

Form: The poem is a ballad/lyrical poem

Personification: In this poem, seasons have been personified as “landlords”, along with bees and butterflies. 

Tone: The poem has a happy and uplifting tone, which enhances the message of the poem. 

Imagery: Imagery is heavily used in this poem. For example, “tankards scooped in pearl”, “inns of molten Blue”, and “Foxglove’s door” are all used to establish a scene in the readers’ minds. 

I taste a liquor never brewed by emily dickinson

About the Poem and the Poet

I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed was written by Emily Dickinson and was published in the Springfield Daily publication on May 4, 1861. The poem has gone through a change, with a few lines different from the ones published today. Here’s what the first published version looked like: 

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, through 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!

This poem is also referred to as the “May-Wine” since in a way it is a celebration of nature during early summers. This poem is very special because out of the nearly 1,800 poems that Dickinson has written, only 10 were published while she was alive, and this poem is one of them.