Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “To Helen,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VII: Poems (1902), pp. 107-109


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[page 107:]

TO HELEN.

I SAW thee once — once only — years ago:

I must not say how many — but not many.

It was a July midnight; and from out

A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,

Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,

There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,

With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber,

Upon the upturn’d faces of a thousand

Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,

Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe —

Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses

That gave out, in return for the love-light,

Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death —

Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses

That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted

By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.

 

Clad all in white, upon a violet bank

I saw thee half reclining; while the moon

Fell on the upturn’d faces of the roses,

And on thine own, upturn’d — alas, in sorrow!

 

Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight —

Was it not Fate, (whose name is also Sorrow,)

That bade me pause before that garden-gate,

To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?

No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept, [page 108:]

Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! — oh, God!

How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)

Save only thee and me. I paused — I looked —

And in an instant all things disappeared.

(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!) 

 

The pearly lustre of the moon went out:

The mossy banks and the meandering paths,

The happy flowers and the repining trees,

Were seen no more: the very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.

All — all expired save thee — save less than thou:

Save only the divine light in thine eyes —

Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.

I saw but them — they were the world to me.

I saw but them — saw only them for hours —

Saw only them until the moon went down.

What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten

Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres!

How dark a wo!, yet how sublime a hope!

How silently serene a sea of pride!

How daring an ambition! yet how deep —

How fathomless a capacity for love!

 

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,

Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;

And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees

Didst glide way [[away]]. Only thine eyes remained.

They would not go — they never yet have gone.

Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,

They have not left me (as my hopes have) since.

They follow me — they lead me through the years.

They are my ministers — yet I their slave.

Their office is to illumine and enkindle —

My duty, to be saved by their bright light, [page 109:]

And purified in their electric fire,

And sanctified in their elysian fire.

They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope,)

And are far up in Heaven — the stars I kneel to

In the sad, silent watches of my night;

While even in the meridian glare of day

I see them still — two sweetly scintillant

Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!

 


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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) (To Helen)