"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Monday, May 1, 2017

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Catawba Wine

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Catawba Wine
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1907-1882)

*Written on the receipt of a gift of Catawba wine
from the vineyards of Nicholas Longworth on the Ohio River.

    This song of mine
    Is a Song of the Vine,
To be sung by the glowing embers
    Of wayside inns,
    When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers. 

    It is not a song
    Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
    Nor the Isabel
    And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys. 

    Nor the red Mustang,
    Whose clusters hang
O'er the waves of the Colorado,
    And the fiery flood
    Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado. 

    For richest and best
    Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;
    Whose sweet perfume
    Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver. 

    And as hollow trees
    Are the haunts of bees,
Forever going and coming;
    So this crystal hive
    Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing and humming. 

    Very good in its way
    Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
    But Catawba wine
    Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy. 

    There grows no vine
    By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
    Nor on island or cape,
    That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River. 

    Drugged is their juice
    For foreign use,
When shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic,
    To rack our brains
    With the fever pains,
That have driven the Old World frantic. 

    To the sewers and sinks
    With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer;
    For a poison malign
    Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil's Elixir. 

    While pure as a spring
    Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it, one needs but name it;
    For Catawba wine
    Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it. 

    And this Song of the Vine,
    This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
    To the Queen of the West,
    In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.

Catawba Wine by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Cincinnati, Ohio, Fountain Square - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow verse on wall nearby


Cincinnati Museum Center

How Did Cincinnati Come to be Known as the Queen City?

During the first forty years after its founding, Cincinnati experienced spectacular growth. By 1820, citizens, extremely proud of their city, were referring to it as The Queen City or The Queen of the West.

On May 4, 1819, Ed. B. Cooke wrote in the Inquisitor and Cincinnati Advertiser, "The City is, indeed, justly styled the fair Queen of the West: distinquished for order, enterprise, public spirit, and liberality, she stands the wonder of an admiring world."

In 1854, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem, Catawba Wine, to memorialize the city's vineyards, especially those of Nicholas Longworth. The last stanza of the poem reads:

And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver,
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.


Nicolas Longworth was a self-made millionaire and attorney who had an avid interest in horticulture. Beginning as early as 1813, he started vineyards along the banks of the Ohio River, hiring German immigrants whose homeland work was similar. He first began with a grape called “Alexander”, but found that it was only palatable as a fortified wine. He also planted “Catawba” vines and made a table wine which met with some success with the German immigrants in the area. An accidental discovery in the 1840’a led him to produce, with the later help of instruction from French winemakers on the “methode champenoise”, a sparkling Catawba wine – which met with great success both locally and on the East Coast. By the 1850’s, Longworth was producing 100,000 bottles of sparkling Catawba a year and advertising nationally. In the mid-1850’s he sent a case to poet, Henry Longfellow, then living in New York City, who wrote this ode. Remember, when Longfellow refers to the “Beautiful River”, he is referring to the Ohio River, which begins in Pittsburgh and passes through Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky on its way to Mississippi.

Catawba (grape)

Catawba is a red American grape variety used for wine as well as juice, jams and jellies. The grape can have a pronounced musky or "foxy" flavor. Grown predominantly on the East Coast of the United States, this purplish-red grape is a likely cross of the Native American Vitis labrusca and Vitis vinifera. Its exact origins and parentage are unclear but it seems to have originated somewhere on the East coast from the Carolinas to Maryland.

Catawba played an important role in the early history of American wine. During the early to mid-19th century, it was the most widely planted grape variety in the country and was the grape behind Nicholas Longworth's acclaimed Ohio sparkling wines that were distributed as far away as California and Europe.

Catawba is a late-ripening variety, ripening often weeks after many other labrusca varieties and, like many vinifera varieties, it can be susceptible to fungal grape diseases such as powdery mildew.

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