Text: John Neal (and E. A. Poe), “Unpublished Poetry,” the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, December, 1829, pp. 295-298


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[page 295, continued:]

UNPUBLISHED POETRY.

THE following passages are from the manuscript-works of a young author, about to be published in Baltimore. He is entirely a stranger to us, but with all their faults, if the remainder of [[“]]Al Aaraaf[[”]] and [[“]]Tamerlane[[”]] are as good as the body of the extracts here given — to say nothing of the more extraordinary parts, he will deserve to stand high — very high — in the estimation of the shining brotherhood. Whether he will do so, however, must depend, not so much upon his worth now in mere poetry, as upon his worth hereafter in something yet loftier and more generous — we allude to stronger properties of the mind, to the magnanimous determination that enables a youth to endure the present, whatever the present may be, in the hope, or rather in the the belief, the fixed, unwavering belief, that in the future he will find his reward. “I am young,” he says in a letter to one who has laid it on our table for a good purpose, “I am young — yet not twenty — am a poet — if deep worship of all beauty can make me one — and wish to be so in the more common meaning of the word. I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination. (By the way, do you remember — or did your ever read the exclamation of Shelley about Shakespeare? — ‘What a number of ideas must have been afloat before such an author could arise!’) I appeal to you as a man that loves the same beauty which I adore — the beauty of the natural blue sky and the sunshiny earth — there can be no tie more strong than that of brother for brother — it is not so much that they love one another, as that they both love the same parent — their affections are always running in the same direction — the same channel — and cannot help mingling.

I am and have been, from my childhood, an idler. It cannot therefore be said that

‘I left a calling for this idle trade,

A duty broke — a father disobeyed’ —

for I have no father — nor mother.

I am about to publish a volume of ‘Poems,’ the greater part written before I was fifteen. Speaking about ‘Heaven,’(1) the editor of the Yankee says, ‘He might write a beautiful, if not a magnificent poem’ — (the very first words of encouragement I ever remember to have heard.) I am very certain that as yet I have not written either — but that I can, I will take an oath — if they will give me time.

The poems to be published are ‘Al Aaraaf’ — ‘Tamerlane’ — [page 296:] one about four, and the other about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces. ‘Al Aaraaf’ has some good poetry, and much extravagance, which I have not had time to throw away.(2)

     ‘Al Aaraaf’ is a tale of another world — the star discovered by Tycho Brahe, which appeared and disappeared so suddenly — or rather, it is no tale at all. I will insert an extract, about the palace of its presiding Deity, in which you will see that I have supposed many of the lost sculptures of our world to have flown (in spirit) to the star ‘Al Aaraaf’ — a delicate place, more suited to their divinity.

Uprear’d upon such height arose a pile

Of gorgeous columns on th’ unburthened air —

* Flashing, from Parian marble, that twin-smile

Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,

And nursled the young mountain in its lair:

Of molten stars their pavement — such as fall

Thro’ the ebon air — besilvering the pall

Of their own dissolution while they die —

Adorning, then, the dwellings of the sky;

A dome by linked light (3) from Heaven let down,

Sat gently on these columns as a crown;

A window of one circular diamond there

Looked out above into the purple air,

And rays from God shot down that meteor chain

And hallow’d all the beauty twice again,

Save when, between th’ Empyrean, and that ring,

Some eager spirit flapp’d a dusky wing:

But, on the pillars, seraph eyes have seen

The dimness of this world: that grayish green

That nature loves the best for Beauty’s grave,

Lurked in each cornice — round each architrave —

And every sculptur’d cherub thereabout

That from his marble dwelling ventured (4) out,

Seemed earthly in the shallow of his niche —

Archaian statues in a world so rich?

Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis —

From Balbec and thy stilly, clear abyss

Of beautiful Gomorrah! — oh! the wave

Is now upon thee — but too late to save!

Far down within the crystal of the lake

Thy swollen pillars tremble — and so quake

The hearts of many wanderers who look in

Thy luridness of beauty — and of sin. [page 297:]

Another —

—— Silence is the voice of God —

Ours is a world of words: quiet we call

“Silence” — which is the merest word of all.

Here Nature speaks — and ev’n ideal things

Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings;

But ah! not so, when in the realms on high,

The eternal voice of God is moving by,

And the red winds are withering in the sky!

From Tamerlane —

The fever’d diadem on my brow

I claimed and won usurpingly:

Hath not the same fierce heirdom given

Rome to the Cæsar — this to me?

The heritage of a kingly mind

And a proud spirit which hath striven

Triumphantly with human-kind.

* * * *

On mountain soil I first drew life,

The mists of the Taglay have shed

Nightly their dews upon my head;

And, I believe, the winged strife

And tumult of the headlong air

Hath nestled in my very hair.

* * * *

So late from Heaven, that dew, it fell,

Mid dreams of an unholy night,

Upon me with the touch of Hell —

While the red flashing of the light

From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,

Seem’d then to my half-closing eye

The pageantry of monarchy;

And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar

Came hurriedly upon me telling

Of human battle (near me swelling.)

* * * *

The rain came down upon my head

Unshelter’d, and the heavy wind

Was giantlike — so thou, my mind!

It was but man, I thought, who shed

Laurels upon me — and the rush —

The torrent of the chilly air

Gurgled within my ear the crush

Of empires — with the captive’s prayer;

The hum of suiters, and the tone

Of flattery round a sovereign-throne.

* * * *

Young Love’s first lesson is the heart:

For mid that sunshine and those smiles,

When, from our little cares apart,

And laughing at her girlish wiles,

I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,

And pour my spirit out in tears,

There was no need to speak the rest —

No need to quiet any fears

Of her — who ask’d no reason why,

But turned on me her quiet eye. [page 298:]

Tamerlane dying —

Father! I firmly do believe —

I know — for Death, who comes for me

From regions of the blest afar,

(Where there is nothing to deceive)

Hath left his iron gate ajar;

And rays of truth you cannot see

Are flashing through Eternity —

I do believe that Eblis hath

A snare in every human path;

Else how when in the holy grove

I wandered of the idol, Love,

Who daily scents his snowy wings

With incense of burnt offerings

From the most undefiled things —

Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven

Above with trelliced rays from Heaven

No mote may shun — no tiniest fly

The lightning of his eagle eye.

How was it that Ambition crept

Unseen, amid the revels there,

Till, growing bold, he laugh’d and leapt

In the tangles of Love’s brilliant hair?

Passage from the minor poems.

If my peace hath flown away

In a night — or in a day —

In a vision — or in none —

Is it therefore the less gone?

I am standing mid the roar

Of a weatherbeaten shore,

And I hold within my hand

Some particles of sand —

How few! and how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep!

My early hopes? — No — they

Went gloriously away,

Like lightning from the sky

At once — and so will I.

Having allowed our youthful writer to be heard in his own behalf, — what more can we do for the lovers of genuine poetry? Nothing. They who are judges will not need more; and they who are not — why waste words upon them? We shall not.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 295:]

(1)  A poem by the author of [[“]]Al Aaraaf,[[”]] mentioned in No. III: 168.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 296:]

(2)  This will remind the reader of the following anecdote. Your sermon was too long sir — why didn’t you make it shorter? I hadn”t time.

(3)  The idea of linked light is beautiful; but, the moment you read it aloud, the beauty is gone. To say link-ed light would be queer enough, notwithstanding Moore’s “wreath-ed shell;” but to say link’d-light would spoil the rhythm.

(4)  The word in the original was peered: we have changed it for the reason stated above.

*  Alluding to a prior part.

 


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Notes:

The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette was owned and edited by John Neal, and the introductory comments, although unsigned, are presumed to have been written by him. In Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), from which these not-yet published extracts were taken, Poe dedicated “Tamerlane” to him.

The final four lines of “Al Aaraaf” appear only in this selection of extracts. As they apparently did not survive the final editing of the full poem, one may presume them among the “much extravagance” which Poe eventually did find time to “throw away.”

The excerpts of “Al Aaraaf” are taken, respectively, from lines 11-39 of part II and lines 126-132 of part I of the full version published late  in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.

The excerpts of “Tamerlane” are taken from lines 28-64, 102-111 and 222-243 of the full version published late in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.

The excerpts of “To ——” are taken from lines 13-26 of the full version published late in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.


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[S:1 - YBLG (microfilm), 1829] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Extracts from Fairyland