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 as clear as the crystal flood.
Said the glass of wine to his paler brother:
“Let us tell tales of the past to each other.
I can tell of banquet, and revel, and mirth,
Where I was king, for I ruled in might;
And the proudest and grandest souls on earth
Fell under my touch, as though struck with blight.
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 honoured name;
I have taken virtue and given shame;
I have tempted the youth, with a sip, a taste,
That has made his future a barren waste.
Far greater than any king am I,
Or than any army under the sky.
I have made the arm of the driver fail,
And sent the train from its iron rail.
I have made good ships go down at sea,
And the shrieks of the lost were sweet to me.
Fame, strength, wealth, genius, before me fall,
And my might and power are over all.
Ho! ho! pale brother,” laughed the wine,
“Can you boast of deeds as great as mine?”
Said the glass of water: “I cannot boast
Of a king dethroned or a murdered host;
But I can tell of hearts that were sad,
By my crystal drops made light and glad;
Of thirsts I have quenched, and brows I have laved;
Of hands I have cooled and souls I have saved.
I have leaped through the valley and dashed down the mountain;
Slept in the sunshine and dripped from the fountain.
I have burst my cloud-fetters 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 o’ 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 its paler brother,
As they sat together, filled to the brim,
On the rich man’s table, rim to rim.