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Ode to Wine October 18, 2013

Posted by Alex Sawit in About Wine, Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

October 19, 2013




In for a penny, in for a pound.

After completing my translation of Neruda’s Sonnet No. 12, I then decided to also translate his poem, Ode to Wine. This is another Neruda poem that I felt I could render into English better, especially given my insights in the wine business. In other translations, crucial details of the wine story get lost due to the translators’ lack of familiarity with winemaking traditions, which is a pity because the poem is an honest window into Neruda’s rich vineyard experiences (for instance, the poem actually describes the vineyard sights he encountered on the stunning Mediterranean isle of Capri).

I used the same translation software for Ode to Wine that I used for the sonnet to generate lines of raw English text from the original Spanish. But unlike my previous effort where I first examined other English versions before proceeding, this time I took the lines of raw text and then crafted them into the most meaningful interpretations, only after which did I check the versions of other translators to see if they compared favorably.

All this has given me a more profound opinion of Neruda as a fellow wine drinker. So just like before, I invite Neruda fans who may disagree with my translation to come to the shop for a friendly debate over a bottle of something nice. Because for me, his poem is the most magnificent tribute to the love of wine that has ever been written. I’m glad I got it right. Cheers!



Ode to Wine

by Pablo Neruda


Wine the color of day,

wine the color of night,

wine with purple feet

or topaz blood,


starry son

of the earth,

wine, smooth

like a saber of gold,


like a decadent velvet feel,

wine decanted in a spiral seashell

and suspended,



you’ve never belonged in one cup,

in one song, in one man,

chorus-like, gregarious are you,

and at least, feeling’s mutual.


you feed on our memories

of fatalistic melancholy,

sloshed in your wave

tumbling in tomb dead drunk we go,

you mason of this stone-cold sepulcher,

and we cry

passing tears,


to be in your handsome

picnic suit

is a different scene,

the heart rises to the treetops,

the rustling breeze keeps the day going,

nothing is left unmoved

within your immovable soul.

The vintage

puts in motion the springtime bustle,

the joy of winemaking grows like a plant,

derelict walls are felled,

vineyard-laden cliffs are beheld,

the steep drops are closed,

the song is born.

Oh thou, jug of wine, in the desert

with the tasty woman whom I adore,

songfully recited the old bard.

Now that be the pitcher of wine

whose kiss complements the kiss of love.

My love, instantly

your hip

is the full curve

of the wine cup,

your bosom is the bunched fruit of the vine,

the bright teardrop lines of the alcohol your hair,

the grapes your nipples,

your navel the vintner’s genuine seal

stamped on your wine vessel womb,

and your love the cascade

of wine inextinguishable,

the clarity that illuminates my senses,

the earthly splendor of life.

Yet no true love,

burning kiss

or heart consumed with fire

are you, wine of life,

but for

the friendship of others, in the open,

in the conducted chorus of song,

in the abundant flowering of conviviality.

I love having on a table,

when engaged in conversation,

the light of a bottle

of intelligent wine.

That in drinking it,

I remember in every

drop of gold

or cup of topaz

or spoon of purple

that job that is the autumn harvest

all the way to the filling of wine in the vessels

and the man who seeks illumination learns,

in the ritual celebration of his business,

to remember the land and his duties,

to propagate the sacred song of the fruit.



Translated by Alex Sawit
October 19, 2013








1. Paulina Lopez - April 6, 2014

Compelled to stop and say BRAVO!

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