Text: Jane Ermina Locke to Edgar Allan Poe — August 1848


[[ . . . . ]]

I hope you will acknowledge the receipt of this immediately, tho’ more than this I shall not entreat of you, leving [[leaving]] all to your own discretion and feelings, mine are written out, and you cannot mistake them; therefore you can judge of the safety of any thing you may say to me, or of the manner in which it will be received. But the courtesy due, if you do not believe my heart — I beg you will not deny me, that I may know you have received this. — Have these given you even greater sympathy than I now feel. —

Yrs. as ever
Jane. E. Locke

[page 2:]

Ermina’s Tale.

There fell upon my soul a wildering dream,

No, not a dream, but strange reality;

So wild, so sweet so trance — like did it seem,

I feared to start, lest all should change and flee.

It came — at the dense heat of noon — a shade —

A twilight shade — a gorgeous rose-wreathed bower;

Where flashing to the light a fountain played,

And cast in sparkling mist a fairy shower.

I had grown faint and weary with the day,

And heat and dust and travel sweltered me;

My soul was lonely in the crowded way,

And my cheek ap led the homaged breath to free.

Within my heart of hearts there had awoke

A void, long since, YET NONE DIVINED THERE;

A weary void, that when each orient broke,

Filled with strange music set to songs in air!

Here broke the vision — lovely shade and bower,

And leaping fount; — lingering I cast my care,

For to my soul a strange and mighty power,

Soft and beguiling words seemed whispering there!

The air felt laden with the breath of myrrh,

And strains of music, as the fabled notes

Of dying swans, made every leaflet stir, —

And rippled the bright fount with fairy boats.

Then forth there came to my enraptured sight, —

From whence I know not — how — or why it came —

A mortal form! — immortal — veiled! — in light

That well nigh had consumed my heart; its flame,

[page 3:]

The flame that wrapt its glory blazed around,

As altars blaze with hallowed incense; air,

And sky, and earth, and all that crowned,

Gave back the gorgeousness, and odor there.

Around his brow there twined a serpent wreath, —

And to his fingers swayed harp strings of fire,

That swelled forlornest strains, burthening the breath

Of air, to memories of uncrowned desire.

It seemed, the wild refrain of my soul’s void

That echoed back in deeper melody;

Full-voiced but sweeter far joined cadenced word,

Answering its longings strange, in consonant measures free.

I felt as in the presence of a god!

My heart awe-struck sent up a censer flame

With fingers clasped; flower burthened was the sod,

And there the figure knelt as best it me became!

Then solemn vows on the warm breath of love,

In tones beguiling entered all my soul;

And from his dark eye flashes as famed Jove

The immortal gave where Ægea’s surges roll.

The trancing while I pressed my throbbing heart,

And twisted every key in torturing pain;

But I forgot the tightened chord can start

To deeper music in a Memnon strain.

Then I relaxed its strings, but freshest tears,

Bathed them and shrunk them to a tension free,

And gathering unknown strength acquired of years,

To strains he poured they thrilled in extacy.

But could a god so kneel to mortal form,? —

So could a mortal charm immortal here?

Could soul so waken soul, — heart, heart so charm,

An arid Eden freshen by a tear? —

Then deep, deep down within my wondering heart,

There woke a thought — a dream — a picture e’en,

Like to that figure, drawn in youth, apart, —


[page 4:]

I stood a moment statue-like — as still —

Palsied — consuming with the unveiled sight;

Then rushed my idol worship but to fill

In the full maddening splendor of that light.

I felt his clasp as lip to lip he pressed,

Listened, beguiled as to an angel’s tone,

To his impassioned words; — then sank to rest,

In trance divine m heart upon his own!

Can I recal [[recall]] it now? — no — noah, NO,

The flame hath touched it, and the glory wrought;

Vapor of incense in empurpled glow,

Hath rapt with wild delirium every thought[[.]]

That fond sweet clasp, the serpent-fold shall prove,

That down to death, the Laocoon could bind;

The lip’s warm kiss — the burning breath of love,

The melted lava’s touch — the desert wind!

But had the vision fell upon my youth

It had been more the light, faint dream of sleep,

Less of the soul’s deep felt eternal truth,

And I could see its shadows change nor weep.

Years strengthen thought — alas, they swell the heart,

To powers, unfelt, mortal could ne’er divine;

They give it fearful energy; impart

A godlike strength the love of earth to shrine.

So pebbles thrown upon the gathered sea,

Sink unrecovered ‘neath the waves of time;

But scattered o’er the streamlet gushing free

In youth, from mountain slide and slime;

The boy may reach them with his tender palm

And bear in youthful sport the prize away;

Or, in their shallow bed, each planet charm

An answering glow to every toying ray.

[page 5:]

So breaks from breath of years the Aloe bud

Amid high air, beyond a mortal grasp;

So in time gathered fury bursts the flood

Of flame, untameable, from Yaanek’s clasp!

But as the aloe one long life thus gives

To birth its single flower, then droops and dies,

So the one blossom of my heart, late love’s

Full dream, shall waste its root no more to rise.

The spirit-blow is struck!” — my life-way leads,

Henceforth through lushest vapor, — through the cloud;

And every spot on which my faint foot treads,

Shall gush the foul wave, or the miry shroud.

Henceforth the “RAVEN’s “ beak my heart shall bear;

And the strange flapping of his ebon wings,

Fan my sad spirit to a deep despair

Wild as the “nevermore “ it ceaseless sings!

But yet Endymion-like, “my higher hope

Shall be of that which becks consort divine

A fellowship with essence”; all its scope,

“Till free of space full alchemysed we shine”!

When the last clarion sounds and orbéd crowns

Shall set upon man’s brow as suns of fire;

And all sad earth-notes one sweet quaver drowns

And the long anthem strikes to full desire;

Then shall that heart, once more, beat ‘gainst mine own,

Nor on the lip cool love’s delicious kiss;

Then all of being be one trance alone,

Ideal with ideal blend in bliss.

Wamesit Cottage
August /48



The top of the letter has been cut off, with the resulting loss of an undetermined amount of text.

We are particularly grateful to John Reilly for providing a full transcript of Mrs. Locke’s long poem.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - J. E. Locke to Poe (RCL719a)