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Analysis of Emily Dickinson's "i Taste a Liquor Never Brewed"

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Essay title: Analysis of Emily Dickinson's "i Taste a Liquor Never Brewed"

Analysis of Emily Dickinson's "I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed"

Emily Dickinson. What comes to mind from her name? Having written nearly 1,800 poems, she was a very prolific poet and, as some consider, "a poet of dread" (Melani). Was she all that dreadful? Death is a major topic in many of her poems but I think she had a very keen sense of life as well. In Dickinson's poem, "I taste a liquor never brewed," she uses metaphor, symbolism and imagery to articulate her appreciation of nature.

The theme of Emily Dickinson's "I taste a liquor never brewed" can be interpreted in several ways. Some have suggested that the "I" in the poem stands for a "hummingbird which [Dickinson] imagines to be telling about its drunken spree" (Eby 517). My interpretation of the poem is that the "I" is Dickinson herself. This gives the poem a more personal, symbolic meaning. She compares her enjoyment and pleasure from nature to that of being intoxicated.

She gets a natural high as opposed to an artificial one from a drug. Today's society is shifting away from this feeling of nature. This poem brings us back to a time when technology was not needed to be entertained.

Dickinson uses metaphors, or comparisons, to establish the theme. The first line that is also used as the title, "I taste a liquor never brewed," has a metaphor that one can only understand if the theme is known. Her liquor that is never brewed is nature. She is tasting nature in a sense. Dickinson continues the theme of drunkenness in the second stanza: "Inebriate of air am I / And debauchee of dew" (5-6). She is comparing her feeling for nature to being drunk by saying that the air and dew literally cause intoxication. Another example of metaphor is "Reeling, through endless summer days" (Dickinson 7). She is reeling, or staggering, like an intoxicated person from the "endless summer days" instead of an alcohol. The third stanza has a metaphor: "When landlords turn the drunken bee / Out of the foxglove's door" (Dickinson 9-10). The landlord is kicking the drunk out of his place like a bee leaving a foxglove, a type of flower. Dickinson keeps with the central theme of nature using metaphors.

Symbolism drives the theme of appreciating nature. The second line, "From tankards scooped in pearl" suggests that her alcohol is for the utmost special occasion. A tankard is a large drinking cup and she says it is scooped in pearl meaning it has a lining made of pearl, which is a symbol for drinking "in a more exquisite, elaborate fashion, usually when one had a notable fondness for a specific drink or occasion" (Freiburg). Lines three and four show how her drink is superior: "Not all the vats upon the Rhine / Yield such an alcohol!" Dickinson knows that the Rhine Valley symbolizes fine wine, but she has better. Lines thirteen and fourteen, "Till seraphs swing their snowy hats / And saints to windows run" (Dickinson), is saying that until seraphs, which are angels, and saints meet her, she will enjoy nature. That means up until she dies.

She says it as if "God approves of her drunkenness" by saying "angels will shake their "snowy hats" (the clouds), and the saints will rush to see her" (Melani). The snowy hats can be interpreted literally as hats or the reader can picture clouds. The last couplet of the poem,

"To see the little tippler / Leaning against the sun!" can be a symbol for Dickinson, the tippler, up in heaven after her life on Earth as well as someone standing in front of the sun during a sunset. Dickinson deepens the theme by using symbolism.

A third poetic technique, imagery, expresses the theme of nature. The reader may get an image of Dickinson herself being drunk and roaming about which was not entirely Dickinson's idea. "We know that the picture of the drunk-divine poet she paints in this poem was

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