Water or Wine ?



The Two Glasses 

There sat two glasses, filled to the brim, 
On a rich man’s table, rim to rim; 
One was ruddy and red as blood, 
And one was clear as the crystal flood. 


Said the glass of wine to his paler brother: 
Let us tell the tales of the past to each other; 
I can tell of banquet and revel and mirth, 
And the proudest and grandest souls on earth 
Fell under my touch as though struck by blight, 
Where I was a king, for I ruled in might; 
From the heads of kings I have torn the crown, 
From the heights of fame I have hurled men down: 
I have blasted many an honored name; 
I have taken virtue and given shame; 

  • I have tempted the youth with a sip, a taste, 

  • That has made their future a barren waste. 

Greater, far greater than king am I, 
Or than any army beneath the sky. 
I have made the arm of the driver fail, 
And sent the train from the iron rail; 
I have made good ships go down at sea, 
And the shrieks of the lost were sweet to me, 
For they said, ‘Behold how great you be! 
Fame, strength, wealth, genius before you fall, 
For your might and power are over all.’ 
Ho! ho! pale brother, laughed the wine, 
Can you boast of deeds as great as mine? 


Said the water-glass: I cannot boast 
Of a king dethroned or a murdered host; 
But I can tell of a heart once sad, 
By my crystal drops made light and glad; 
Of thirsts I’ve quenched, of brows I’ve laved, 
Of hands I have cooled, and souls I have saved; 
I have leaped through the valley, dashed down the mountain, 
Flowed in the river and played in the fountain, 
Slept in the sunshine and dropped from the sky. 
And everywhere gladdened the landscape and eye. 
I have eased the hot forehead of fever and pain; 
I have made the parched meadows grow fertile with grain; 
I can tell of the powerful wheel of the mill, 
That ground out the flour and turned at my will. 
I can tell of manhood debased by you, 
That I have uplifted and crowned anew. 
I cheer, I help, I strengthen and aid; 
I gladden the heart of man and maid; 
I set the chained wine-captive free; 
And all are better for knowing me. 


These are the tales they told each other, 
The glass of wine and the paler brother, 
As they sat together filled to the brim, 
On a rich man’s table, rim to rim. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


That was clever, me thinks.

  • Alcohol the destroyer of man.

11 responses to “Water or Wine ?

  1. Fabulous poem. We crave wine, but the craving for water runs deeper (70% deeper).


  2. What a great poem Kenny! Thanks for sharing it as I did not know it. I am just now listening to an audible book by Stephen King about writing and I am at the part which talks about his battle with drink and other things. Very moving. Many have been laid low and many have risen too. Continued strength to you and thanks again for the great poem. Ruth 🙂


    • I have always liked her. “Laugh and the World laughs with you” etc… It was not exactly a battle for me to stop drinking. It was a rout !!! The precise moment I saw the image of my liver on my consultants screen. I knew not one drop of alcohol would ever pass my lips ever again. It was so so simple. Wish stopping smoking was just as simple.

      RE: other things. Never used them so never had a problem with them !!!


  3. Listen to the water next time it speaks to you!! … Timid one 🙂


  4. I liked that Kenny, very profound


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