Autobiographical but here as elsewhere the Master and not Francis is emphasized. And he is not so much interested in his own story but trying to accomplish the colossal task of forcing the whole current of human striving to take a new direction, the task he had begun in Stay With God. Only the Master’s wine can make us die to life to be born again. Here is a radical message as radical and mysterious as St Paul’s preaching of the risen Christ in us.
The beauty of the seasons is still bound in time and nature. The poet quested on for something beyond, first seeking wandering and non-conformity, his Bohemian years. But there is an enormous gulf, uncrossable, between this seeking and the grace of the real wine.
The poem has to do more than just state the transcendent, it must give us a flavour of its magic and mystery. Images convey the wonder and urgency – a cosmic flood and intoxication, the heart made ductile and beaten into a golden temple. Then the simple experience we have all had of seeing a drop reflect the world becomes a metaphor for the microcosm of the transformed heart containing the universe and then finally dissolving all created worlds. What a crescendo after the quiet lyrical opening to the poem with its slightly ominous past tense –
Spring used to come round each year with its myriad bud-breaking,
And summer ripened the grapes for an abundant wine-making.
Then, overshadowing nature’s abundance the intuition of the great return voyage to be made by all, and of an inspiration beyond romantic nature’s:
But even then I dreamt of another wine poured by another hand;
Even then my soul was freighted to some beyond-the-stars Homeland.
First the abandoning of the blandishments of society –
Soon, then, I was initiated into the swagmen’s tribe,
Where success and honour were spoken of as the devil’s bribe.
A long seeking to find something beyond conceptual knowledge –
But it took me thirty years to find the Master’s door
In Love Street which runs along the shoreless ocean’s shore.
Materialism and conditioned worldview dissolve in that first sip (no time for a pause after that first line) –
That night when he poured the first glass of wine, the earth was sunk
In the wide ocean forever, and the whole world was drunk.
Next a beautiful image of the heart’s transforming but that temple is constructed with many blows!
With love’s little hammer he beat my heart into thin sheets of gold
For a temple in which love’s story should endlessly be told.
And finally folks here we go beyond any solar system energy out into the boundless cosmos within
Such is the Master’s wine that in one drop the sun has been trapped.
If He pours another glass the thread which binds the stars will be snapped.