Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | Study Guide

Emily Dickinson

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I taste a liquor never brewed—

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Emily Dickinson's poem "I taste a liquor never brewed—."

Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | I taste a liquor never brewed-- | Summary



This poem consists of four stanzas, which, with minor exceptions, adhere to Dickinson's typical use of ballad meter. In the poem the speaker relates how she is becoming inebriated by the glories of summer. The natural world is a "liquor never brewed"—that is, not distilled by humans. Throughout the poem Dickinson uses the language and imagery of intemperate alcohol consumption to describe how the beauty of summer affects the speaker. She is drunk on the air and the dew, reeling from the blue of the skies. Unwilling to stop while mildly intoxicated, in the third stanza she vows to continue imbibing even after fellow revelers in nature—bees and butterflies—cease their drinking. Her joy in the powerful effects of nature will not stop until she reaches the sun, an event that will draw the attention of seraphs and saints.


This poem describes the speaker's enjoyment of nature's beauty in one long conceit involving drunkenness. The speaker continues to drink, metaphorically, throughout the poem, becoming more and more inebriated until she can no longer stand up straight and must lean against the sun at the end of the poem. In creating this conceit, Dickinson uses familiar diction and expressions of the temperance literature common in her day, a time when per capita alcohol consumption in the United States was high and the temperance movement increasingly vocal.

Interposed with the imagery of inebriation are images of natural phenomena, described through Dickinson's characteristic eye for detail. From pearl "Tankards," or steins, the speaker consumes alcoholic beverages that surpass anything produced by the vintners along the Rhine River in Germany, an area known for its fine wines. She has become "Inebriate," or drunk on the air, and she has enjoyed the dew so much as to become a "Debauchee"—one who has overindulged in drinking—to the point of "Reeling," or staggering drunkenly, out of "inns of molten Blue," which refer to the liquid blue of the summer sky. She is more intoxicated than the bees that the "Landlords" of the foxgloves might turn out of their inns for being too drunk. Even when the "Butterflies" renounce their "drams," or shots, when they give up drinking she vows to continue becoming drunk on the beauty of nature until she reaches the ultimate object of nature: the sun.

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