Letter from Stirbey winery
This strong and endless-seeming winter reminds me of a column written by Harry Eyres – one of my favourite columnists – in the “Slow Lane” on the last page of a Sunday edition of the Financial Times, in a similar winter:
“I was doing just what the Roman poet Horace ordered, in the beautiful ninth poem of his first book of odes, viewing at the snowy summit of Mount Soracte near Rome – still, Horace´s winter recipe may remain the best one around: “ Pile logs on the fire, unfreeze the cold, Thaliarchus, and take down that jar of four-year-old Sabine wine” – Horace is talking about the unpretentious produce of his own farm.
Leave the rest to the gods, the poem goes on. The storm now raging will suddenly calm, and then the cypresses and the old ash trees will no longer be shaken. They are in the grip of the elements, just a layer of
bricks removed; we are not immune from sudden shocks, including economic ones, and the immutable laws of nature. Who knows whether we, no less than the trees, can bear the weight of the snow?
Horace´s poem achieves its good cheer in the face of winter, cold, darkness, transitoriness and death. It does not deny them. With just a sudden change of mood, we could be facing the grim prospect of going all into the dark, the vacant interstellar spaces, or facing a re-run of the 1930s. But that is not the direction in which Horace leads us.
What is the secret of his cheer? Well, in a sense, there isn´t a secret. Horace´s secret is an open one, open to all. It´s all there, in front and around you, if you have your senses in play, and your heart in tune, or at least open to tuning.
The first secret is companionship, or companionableness. Horace celebrates companionship. We have no idea of the identity of Thaliarchus, addressed in this poem. But he is certainly a companion, a drinking companion (don´t broach the jar on your own!), a winter, fireside companion, someone to share the view with.
And the second secret is transitoriness: If you really look, and live, Horace says, you will see that everything is transitory: the wind will die down, the snow will melt, the frozen river will flow again. It is enough to say: “enjoy the view, pour the wine” – that jar of wine will not last long (though a great wine can last as long as a human being); let´s hope we outlive it. Living in the moment doesn´t mean we can hold on to it; it means we can appreciate its poignant aliveness, passingness and beauty.”
So let´s enjoy like Harry Eyres with Horace these transitory days of cold wind and heavy snow, in companionship, warmed up at the fire by a jar of good wine – may I suggest a Prince Stirbey Merlot 2008, or -even better – a Merlot Rezerva 2007?
February 2012 / Jakob Kripp