To Have a Good Vintage and Very Good Wine by the Aid of Diana
“Sweet is the vintage when the showering grapes
In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth,
Purple and gushing.”
–Byron, Don Juan, c. 124.
“Vinum bonum et suave,
Bonis bonum, pravis prave,
O quam dulcis sapor–ave!
–“Latin Songs”, E. du Meril.
He who would have a good vintage and fine wine, should take a horn full of wine and with this go into the vineyards or farms wherever vines grow, and then drinking from the horn, say:–
Bevo ma non bevo il vino,
Bevo il sangue di Diana,
Che da vino nel sangue di Diana
Si deve convertire,
E in tutte le mie viti
E buona raccolta nu verra
E quando avro avuto buona raccolta,
Non saro ancora fuori di sciagura,
Perche il vino cattivo mi puol venire
Perche puol nascere l’uva
A luna vecchia…
E cosi il mio vino puole sempre andare
In malora–ma io bevendo
In questo corno, e bevendo il sangue,
Il sangue di Diana col suo aiuto
La mano alla Luna nuova io bacero,
Che la mia uva possa guardare,
Al momento che crea l’occhiolo
Alla crescenza del uva
E fino alla raccolta,
Che possa venire il mio vino buono,
E che si possa mantenere
Da prendere molti quattrini,
E possa entrare la buona fortuna
Nelle mi e vigne,
E nel miei poderi!
Quando il mio vino pendera
Di andare male, il corno prendero,
E forte, forte lo suonero,
Nel punto della mezza notte,
Dentro alla mia cantina lo suonero,
Lo suonero tanto forte
Che tu bella Diana anche da molto lontano,
Tu lo possa sentire,
E finestre e porte
Con gran forza tu possa spalancare,
A gran corsa tu mi possa venire,
A trovare, e tu possa salvarmi
Il mio vino, e tu possa salvare,
Salvare me da grande sciagura,
Perche se il mio vino a male andera
La miseria mi prendera.
E col tuo aiuto bella Diana,
Io saro salvato.
I drink, and yet it is not wine I drink,
I drink the blood of Diana,
Since from wine it has changed into her blood,
And spread itself through all my growing vines,
Whence it will give me good return in wines,
Though even if good vintage should be mine,
I’ll not be free from care, for should it chance
That the grape ripens in the waning moon,
Then all the wine would come to sorrow, but
If drinking from this horn I drink the blood–
The blood of great Diana–by her aid–
If I do kiss my hand to the new moon,
Praying the Queen that she will guard my grapes,
Even from the instant when the bud is horn
Until it is a ripe and perfect grape,
And onward to the vintage, and to the last
Until the wine is made–may it be good!
And may it so succeed that I from it
May draw good profit when at last ’tis sold,
So may good fortune come unto my vines,
And into all my land where’er it be!
But should my vines seem in an evil way,
I’ll take my horn, and bravely will I blow
In the wine-vault at midnight, and I’ll make
Such a tremendous and a terrible sound
That thou, Diana fair, however far
Away thou may’st be, still shalt hear the call,
And casting open door or window wide,
Shalt headlong come upon the rushing wind,
And find and save me–that is, save my vines,
Which will be saving me from dire distress;
For should I lose them I’d be lost myself,
But with thy aid, Diana, I’ll be saved.
This is a very interesting invocation and tradition, and probably of great antiquity from very striking intrinsic evidence. For it is firstly devoted to a subject which has received little attention–the connection of Diana as the moon with Bacchus, although in the great Dizionario Storico Mitologico, by Pozzoli and others, it is expressly asserted that in Greece her worship was associated with that of Bacchus, Esculapius, and Apollo. The connecting link is the horn. In a medal of Alexander Severus, Diana of Ephesus bears the horn of plenty. This is the horn or horns of the new moon, sacred to Diana. According to Callimachus, Apollo himself built an altar consisting entirely of horns to Diana.
The connection of the horn with wine is obvious. It was usual among the old Slavonians for the priest of Svantevit, the Sun-god, to see if the horn which the idol held in his hand was full of wine, in order to prophesy a good harvest for the coming year. If it was filled, all was right; if not, he filled the horn, drank from it, and replaced the horn in the hand, and predicted that all would eventually go well. It cannot fail to strike the reader that this ceremony is strangely like that of the Italian invocation, the only difference being that in one the Sun, and in the other the Moon is invoked to secure a good harvest.
In the Legends of Florence there is one of the Via del Corno, in which the hero, falling into a vast tun or tina of wine, is saved from drowning by sounding a horn with tremendous power. At the sound, which penetrates to an incredible distance, even to unknown lands, all come rushing as if enchanted to save him. In this conjuration, Diana, in the depths of heaven, is represented as rushing at the sound of the horn, and leaping through doors or windows to save the vintage of the one who blows. There is a certain singular affinity in these stories.
In the story of the Via del Corno, the hero is saved by the Red Goblin or Robin Goodfellow, who gives him a horn, and it is the same sprite who appears in the conjuration of the Round Stone, which is sacred to Diana. This is because the spirit is nocturnal, and attendant on Diana Titania.
Kissing the hand to the new moon is a ceremony of unknown antiquity, and Job, even in his time, regarded it as heathenish and forbidden which always means antiquated and out of fashion–as when he declared (xxxi. 26, 27), “If I beheld the moon walking in brightness… and my heart hath been secretly enticed or my mouth hath kissed my hand… this also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge, for I should have denied the God that is above.” From which it may or ought to be inferred that Job did not understand that God made the moon and appeared in all His works, or else he really believed the moon was an independent deity. In any case, it is curious to see the old forbidden rite still living, and as heretical as ever.
The tradition, as given to me, very evidently omits a part of the ceremony, which may be supplied from classic authority. When the peasant performs the rite, he must not act as once a certain African, who was a servant of a friend of mine, did. The coloured man’s duty was to pour out every morning a libation of rum to a fetish and he poured it down his own throat. The peasant should also sprinkle the vines, just as the Devonshire farmers, who observed all Christmas ceremonies, sprinkled, also from a horn, their apple-trees.
Footnote to Chapter Eight
- ^ Kreussler, Sorbenwendische Alterthümer, Pt. I. p. 272.