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   WINE POET
  OF THE MOMENT*

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson
1850-1894
*moment:  a unit of time ranging from a nano-second to eternity, as in “I will be with you in a moment.”

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Ad Nepotem (Bass)
As Daniel, bird alone, in that far land
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the wine is bottled poetry


Robert Louis Stevenson

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   Seven Novels            
 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde * Treasure Island 
Kidnapped * The Master of Ballantrae * David Balfour
The Black Arrow * Prince Otto


   
BOTTLED POETRY: Verses from the Vine
VINTAGE WINE POEMS     NEW PRESSINGS
vinted and bottled by Stephen H. Bas

. . . the wine is bottled poetry

      Wine in California is still in the experimental stage . . . the beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals:  the wine-grower also "Prospects."  One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another.  This is a failure; that is better; a third best.  So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite . . . those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire; those virtuous Bonanzas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry:  these still lie undiscovered; chaparral conceals, thicket embowers them;  the miner chips the rock and wanders farther, and the grizzly muses undisturbed.  But there they bide their hour, awaiting their Columbus;  and nature nurses and prepares them.  The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson.

from The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)


Best known for his novel Treasure Island (1883), which introduced the pirate Long John Silver to the world, and the classic horror story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886),  Robert Louis Stevenson was also a wine connoisseur of some renown.  In this excerpt from the travel book  The Silverado Squatters, he takes the reader to the Napa Valley of 1883, a land in the waning days of the Gold Rush and her vineyards still in their infancy.  His prose is both prophetic and poetic, a piece of "prose poetry", a concept of which Stevenson may not have approved (see note at Charles Baudelaire's prose poem Be Drunken).

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 -1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet and essayist.   As G.  K. Chesterton put it, he was the man who "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins" (a game of physical and mental skill in which sticks have to be removed from a pile without disturbing the remaining ones).  Stevenson was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Vladimir Nabokov, and J. M. Barrie.

After a stellar writing career, in 1890 Stevenson purchased four hundred acres of land in Upolu, one of the Samoan islands.  There he built  Vailima ("Five Rivers"), a beautiful estate whose tropical climes held hope for easing the tuberculosis from which he suffered.  His influence spread to the natives who consulted him for advice, and he soon became involved in local politics.  Convinced that the European officials appointed to rule the natives were incompetent, Stevenson wrote a stinging protest against the conditions in Samoa entitled,  "A Footnote to History".  As a result, two officials were recalled, and for a time Stevenson feared his own deportation. When things had finally blown over he wrote a friend, "I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!"


During the evening of December 3, 1894, while conversing with his wife and straining to open a bottle of wine, he suddenly exclaimed, "What's that!", and collapsed beside her.  He died within a few hours, probably of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 44.  The natives insisted on surrounding his body with guards during the night, eventually bearing their "Tusitala" (Samoan for "Story Writer") upon their shoulders to nearby Mt Vaea where he was buried on a spot overlooking the sea.  A tablet was placed there, which bore the inscription of his 'Requiem', the piece he always had intended as his epitaph:


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

- S. H. Bass  

Source:   "Robert Louis Stevenson" in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  (wikipedia.org)

"The Vintage in California - at work at the wine presses" by Paul Frenzeny (1840-1902)
This color engraving is the work of French artist Paul Frenzeny on assignment for Harper's Weekly to document the the life of the Chinese in San Francisco in the late 1800's.  It's appearance in the magazine is not exactly certain (late 19th Century). It's subject matter is controversial today, as the Chinese laborer was often abused during this time period.  This image is in the public domain in the U.S.A.  Visit  Vintage Wine  Poems Pinterest Boards
(click image to enlarge)

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