Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Isaac Lea — about May 11-27, 1829 (LTR-012)


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Dear Sir,

I should have presumed upon the politeness of Mr R. Walsh for a personal introduction to yourself, but was prevented by his leaving town the morning after my arrival — You will be so kind as to consider this as a literary introduction until his return from N.Y.

I send you, for your tenderest consideration, a poem —

“Some sins do bear their privilege on earth.”

You will oblige me by placing this among the number.

It was my choice or chance or curse

To adopt the cause for better or worse

And with my worldly goods & wit

And soul & body worship it —

But not to detain you with my nonsense it were as well to speak of “the poem”.

It’s [its‘] title is “Al Aaraaf” — from the Al Aaraaf of the Arabians, a medium between Heaven & Hell where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil & even happiness which they suppose to be the characteristic of heavenly enjoyment[.]

Un no rompido sueno

Un dia puro, allegre, libre

Quiera —

Libre de amor, de zelo

De odio, de esperanza, de rezelo — [page 2:]

I have placed this “Al Aaraaf” [Poe misplaces the ending quote mark slightly, making it appear as “Al Aaraa”f] in the celebrated star discovered by Tycho Brahe which appeared & dissapeared [disappeared] so suddenly. It is represented as a messenger star of the Deity, &, at the time of its discovery by Tycho, as on an embassy to our world. One of the peculiarities of Al Aaraaf is that, even after death — , those who make choice of the star as their residence do not enjoy immortality — but, after a second life of high excitement, sink into forgetfulness. & death — This idea is taken from Job — “would not live >>them<< always — let me alone”. I have imagined that some would not be pleased (excuse the bull) with an immortality even of bliss. The poem commences with a sonnet (illegitimate) a la mode de Byron in his prisoner of Chillon. But this is a digression — I have imagined some well known characters of the age of the star’s appearance, as transferred to Al Aaraaf — viz Michael Angelo — and others — of these Michael Angelo as yet, alone appears. I send you parts 1st 2d & 3d. I have reasons for wishing not to publish the 4th at present — for its character depends in a measure upon the success or failure of the others —

As these 3 parts will be insufficient for a [page 3] volume — I have wished to publish some minor poems with Al Aaraaf — But as the work would depend for character upon the principal poem it is needless, at present to speak of the rest.

If the poem is published, succeed or not, I am “irrecoverably a poet.” But to your opinion I leave it, and as I should be proud of the honor of your press, failing in that I will make no other application.

I should add a circumstance which, that no justification of a failure, is yet a boast in success — the poem is by a minor & truly written under extraordinary disadvantages.

with great respect
Your obt sert
Edgar A. Poe

I am staying at Heiskells‘.

I cannot refrain from adding that Mr Wirt’s voice is in my favor.


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Notes:

Facsimile, Quinn, 1941, pp. 139-141. Corrections have been applied from Joseph Moldenhauer, A Descriptive Catalog of Edgar Allan Poe Manuscripts in the Humanities Research Center Library [of] The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Austin, 1973, 41. The final sentence can also be read as “voice is in my favor — “ with a trailing dash.

Heiskill’s Indian Queen Hotel stood at 15 South Fourth Street in Philadelphia. It was torn down about 1930.

The quotation “Un no rompido . . . de rezelo” is from the poem “Vida Retirada,” by Fray Luis de Leon or, as Poe gives the name in his footnote to “Al Aaraaf,” Luis Ponce de Leon. Quinn prints the translation as “An unbroken sleep / a day pure, joyful, free / I wish — / Free from love, from jealousy / From hatred, from hopes, from suspicion.”


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to I. Lea (LTR012/RCL028)