Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Romanticism in Emily Dickinson’s “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” College

Upon first read of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed,” it appears to be a relatively straightforward piece whose main goal is to praise nature as a source of beauty and inspiration. Conventions of romanticism are employed to achieve this goal, and in Dickinson’s hands it succeeds wonderfully. However, when reading the poem with a consideration of Dickinson’s wit and aversion to poetic convention, another layer is discovered that elevates the poem above a simple exercise in romanticism. Ultimately, the poem stands as both an homage to, and a satire of, the romantic tradition, revealing an intellectual depth that would become a core component of modernist poetry.

In the first two stanzas of Dickinson’s poem, a figurative drunkenness is described that immediately invokes John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” Dickinson describes that the “liquor never brewed” on which she is drunk is nature itself: “Inebriate of air — am I / And Debauchee of Dew,” while Keats credits his drunk-like state to “the viewless wings of Poesy.” Each continue in their poetic intoxication to muse on nature’s majesty. Keats famously admires “the grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild,” and Dickinson feverishly devours the “endless...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1336 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 9977 literature essays, 2512 sample college application essays, 474 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in