A Draught of Vintage

Definition & Etymology of “A Draught of Vintage”

A Draught:

  • I. 1.a. The action, or an act, of drawing or pulling, esp. of a vehicle, plough, etc.; pull, traction. beast of draught: a horse or other animal used for drawing a cart, plough, etc. Also . rarely draft. (OED)
  • Pronounced draft.  A portion of liquid to be drunk, especially alcoholic.  The act or an instance of drinking; a gulp or swallow.  The act or process of drawing air, smoke, etc., into the lungs. (Dictionary.com)
  • A fanciful name for a ‘company’ of butlers. Obs. – 1486 Bk. St. Albans Fvjb, A Draught of boteleris. (OED)1835 DICKENS Sk. Boz (1837) 2nd Ser. 39 A pot of the real draught stout. (OED)


  • The yield of wine or grapes from a vineyard or district during one season. (Dictionary.com)
  • b. poet. Wine, esp. of good or rare quality. 1820 KEATS To a Nightingale ii, O! for a draught of vintage, that hath been Cool’d a long age in the deep~delved earth. (OED)


About the website’s name: “A Draught of Vintage”

The origin of “a draught of vintage” is a quote from Keats’ Poem “Ode to a Nightengale.”  I highly recommend this poem to you.

The speaker in “Ode to a Nightengale” addresses his monologue to (as the title indicates) a bird, a nightengale that “singest of summer in full-throated ease.”  The speaker exclaims: “Oh for a draught of vintage! that hath been / Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvéd earth.  He asks for a drink “That [he] might drink, and leave the world unseen.”  But why leave the world?  The speaker sees the nightengale in its purity and beauty and wants to follow it not only to escape the world “where men sit and hear each other groan,” but to follow the nightengale, that “light winged dryad of the trees,” to its eternal home, where Beauty and Love abide.  “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird,” he exclaims.

This is the type of poem that cannot easily be un-packed in a paragraph or two.  As the poem continues the speaker seems to change his attitude toward the bird, toward humanity, the world, and his own place within the world.  He becomes aware of something, and perhaps this bird is not who he thinks it is.  The poem forces us to exercise our reason rather than sink “lethewards,” but we must use our reason while holding the mystery of the poetic and the nightingale in our minds.

Now Fly! fly “on the viewless wings of Poesy!”

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