Text: Charles W. Kent (notes) Robert A. Stewart (variants) (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Notes to The City in the Sea,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VII: Poems (1902), pp. 175-178


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[page 175, continued:]

THE CITY IN THE SEA.

Page 49.

AMERICAN WHIG REVIEW (SUB-TITLE, A PROPHECY,) APRIL, 1845; 1845; BROADWAY JOURNAL, II. 8. THE DOOMED CITY, 1831; THE CITY OF SIN, SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER, AUGUST, 1836.

Text, 1845.

The earliest version (1831) reads as follows:

Lo! Death hath rear’d himself a throne

In a strange city, all alone,

Far down within the dim west —

And the good, and the bad, and the worst, and the best,

Have gone to their eternal rest.

 

There shrines and palaces and towers

Are — not like anything of ours —

O! no — O! no — ours never loom [page 176:]

To heaven with that ungodly gloom!

Time-eaten towers that tremble not!

Around, by lifting winds forgot,

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

A heaven that God doth not contemn

With stars is like a diadem —

We liken our ladies’ eyes to them —

But there! That everlasting pall!

It would be mockery to call

Such dreariness a heaven at all.

 

Yet tho’ no holy rays come down

On the long night-time of that town,

Light from the lurid, deep sea

Streams up the turrets silently —

Up thrones — up long-forgotten bowers

Of sculptur’d ivy and stone flowers —

Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls

Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —

Up many a melancholy shrine

Whose entablatures intertwine

The mask — the viol — and the vine.

 

There open temples — open graves

Are on a level with the waves —

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol’s diamond eye,

Not the gayly-jewell’d dead

Tempt the waters from their bed:

For no ripples curl, alas!

Along that wilderness of glass —

No swellings hint that winds may be

Upon a far-off happier sea:

So blend the turrets and shadows there

That all seem pendulous in air,

While from the high towers of the town

Death looks gigantically down. [page 177:]

 

But lo! a stir is in the air!

The wave! there is a ripple there!

As if the towers had thrown aside,

In slightly sinking, the dull tide —

As if the turret-tops had given

A vacuum in the filmy heaven:

The waves have now a redder glow —

The very hours are breathing low —

And when, amid no earthly moans,

Down, down that town shall settle hence,

Hell rising from a thousand thrones

Shall do it reverence,

And Death to some more happy clime

Shall give his undivided time.

Variations of Southern Literary Messenger (Title, The City of Sea) from above.

Line 4 And (Where) 6 shrines (shrines,) 6 palaces (palaces,) 7 anything (any thing) 8 O! (Oh,) 8 O! (O) 20 Yet . . . down (No holy rays from heaven come down) 22 Light . . . sea (But light from out the lurid sea) 35 gayly (gaily) 46 wave! (—) 50 heaven: (.) 54 down (down,) 55 Hell rising (All Hades) 55 thrones (thrones,).

Variations of The American Whig Review from the text.

Line 3 Far . . . West, (Far off in a region unblest) 12 heaven (cap.) 22 wreathéd (wreathed) 25 The melancholy (Around the mournful) 27 air, (.) 28-35 omit 36 For no (No murmuring) 39 some (a) 41 Seas less hideously (Oceans not so sad —) 47 Heaven. (. —) 49 hours (cap.).

EDITORS NOTE.

Death has a throne in a strange city by the edge of the waters. It is ever night time and the only light is from [page 178:] the lurid sea. The city hangs in pendulous reflection, with Death on a high tower. The sea is hideously serene, but a stir comes and the city will slip in the sea.

The music of this poem is charming. The theme of the city sunk in the sea is not unknown to the German ballad-writers; cf. the kindred themes of the chapel lost in the woods (Uhland), “Die Versunkene Glocke” of Hauptmann, etc., and Al Aaraaf, II.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Notes to The City in the Sea)