Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “Ulalume,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 409-423 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


­[page 409, continued:]

ULALUME

“Ulalume” is by many considered the greatest of all Poe’s poems. The vocal music by itself conveys one emotion after another, like the lapping of a river against a shore — steady, quiet, and resistless. It must be read aloud or sounded to the “inner ear,” and indeed it was composed for recitation.

E. C. Stedman said, “It is so strange . . . and . . . full of meaning, that of itself it might establish a new method.” Mrs. Whitman called it “perhaps the most original and the most strangely suggestive of all Poe’s poems,” and Theodore Watts-Dunton once said that Poe expressed himself “in the same way that the . . . musician would . . . by monotonous reiterations . . . ‘Ulalume’ properly intoned would produce something like the same effect upon a listener knowing no word of English that it produces upon us.”(1) It is certainly possible to read it as a tuneful expression of the poet’s own inner emotions; it is that. But it has a wholly explicable story, although some readers may prefer the indefinite effect and choose to skip the minute analysis that follows.(2) Yet it seems to me that when the parts are explained and the plot is understood, the poem remains as a whole inexplicably powerful, an unparalleled evocation of mystery.

The story of how Poe came to write “Ulalume” can at last be ­[page 410:] completely told.(3) The Reverend Cotesworth P. Bronson, an ordained Episcopal minister, became a famous teacher of public speaking whose book, Elocution, or Mental and Vocal Philosophy (copyright 1845), went through many editions. He gave lectures at various colleges, was usually addressed as “Professor,” and had a wide acquaintance among politicians. In June 1847 he visited New York with his young daughter, Mary Elizabeth, partly to “hunt lions.” Some lady (probably Mrs, Shew, who was a devout Episcopalian) suggested a trip to Fordham to meet a really big lion, Mr. Poe. He proved to be charming, assured his guests that a print of a lovely girl on the wall was not “the lost Lenore,” and apologized for not having a pet raven. The Bronsons called several times before leaving the city for a while. When they returned in September (the young lady wrote in 1860) they found that “Mr. Poe had grown thin” and seemed unusually nervous. Mrs. Clemm “spoke hopefully of what Eddie could do if he could only obtain some regular employment worthy of his abilities.” In 1888 our informant explained that her father, “knowing Poe’s genius and poverty . . . urged him to write something suitable for recitation embodying thoughts that would admit of vocal variety and expression. He recited to the Poet in illustration Collins’ Ode to the passions and assured Poe that he would gain both fame and profit for any suitable poem of this kind, Ulalume, Annabell [sic] Lee, and The Bells were written as the result of this suggestion and subsequent encouragement.”

Poe took nothing from Collins except the idea of presenting varying emotions in a single poem. The impulse finally came to ­[page 411:] compose a version of “Ulalume” after a walk to Mamaroneck, New York, on the mainland a dozen miles from Fordham. There he saw the private cemetery of the Guion family, of Revolutionary stock. The tomb of Thomas Guion is approached by an avenue of pine trees, which gave Poe his setting. I heard the story myself from a lady resident of Mamaroneck over twenty years ago, and it is still told locally.(4)

Poe took his basic plot from a piece called “The Summons Answered,” by his friend Elizabeth Oakes Smith, printed first in The Token for 1844 and reprinted in her Poetical Writings (1845), which Poe reviewed in Godey’s for December 1845. There he wrote:

Of the miscellaneous poems included in the volume . . . we greatly prefer “The Summons Answered.” It has more of power, more of genuine imagination . . . It is a story of three “bacchanals,” who, on their way from the scene of their revelry, are arrested by the beckoning of a white hand from the partially unclosing door of the tomb. One of the party obeys the summons. It is the tomb of his wife. We quote the two concluding stanzas.

“This restless life with its little fears,

Its hopes that fade so soon,

With its yearning tenderness and tears,

And the burning agony that sears —

The sun gone down at noon

The spirit crushed to its prison wall,

Mindless of all beside —

This young Richard saw, and felt it all —

Well might the dead abide!

 

“The crimson light in the east is high,

The hoar-frost coldly gleams,

And Richard chilled to the heart well-nigh,

Hath raised his wildered and bloodshot eye

From that long night of dreams.

He shudders to think of the reckless band

And the fearful oath he swore —

But most he thinks of the clay-cold hand,

That opened the old tomb door.”

The germ of “Ulalume” was there, but what Poe did with so crude a story was amazing. ­[page 412:]

Mrs. LeDuc reports that a few weeks after the Bronson visit to Fordham she saw Mrs. Clemm, who told her that Poe had written a beautiful poem; the following day the professor received a note from Poe:

Monday —

My Dear Sir,

I am anxious to see you for many reasons — not the least of which is that I have not seen you for so long a time — but among other things, I wish to ascertain if the poem which, at your suggestion, I have written, is of the lenth [sic], the character &c you desire: — if not I will write another and dispose of this one to Mrs Kirkland. Cannot Miss Bronson and yourself, pay us a visit at Fordham — say this afternoon or tomorrow?

Truly your friend

Poe

Prof. C. P. Bronson

The Bronsons could not accept the invitation, and Poe took the poem to them the next day, but found only the young lady at home. She asked if she might read it, and, she says, “He not only assented, but opened the roll . . . It was the ‘Ballad of Ulalume.’ He made one or two remarks in regard to the ideas intended to be embodied, answering my questions while he read it to me, and expressing his own entire satisfaction with it.”

It is not entirely clear whether Bronson paid Poe something for the poem he had commissioned. In any case he did not oppose the poet’s selling the piece to a magazine. I doubt that Poe thought his retelling of a ghost story especially obscure; Auber and Weir, whose names have puzzled later readers, were both well known at the time. But when Poe approached Mrs. Kirkland of the Union Magazine, she sought advice from young Richard Henry Stoddard! They “could not understand it,” and the poem was rejected.(5) Poe then went to his friend George Hooker Colton, who had purchased “The Rationale of Verse,” but had been hesitant to publish it in his American Review. “I gave him ‘a song’ for it,” Poe wrote to George W. Eveleth on January 4, 1848, “and took ­[page 413:] it back. The song was ‘Ulalume a Ballad’ published in the December number of the Am. Rev.”(6) As Poe had already been paid for the essay — probably seventy-five or a hundred dollars, at space rates for prose — he was for once decently compensated for a poem.

In a bid for publicity, he had the poem printed anonymously in Colton’s magazine, but wrote Willis on December 8, 1847, asking that he reprint the poem in the Home Journal with a query about its authorship. Willis did this in the issue of January 1, 1848, calling his introduction “Epicureanism in Language.” In Providence, Poe wrote his name as author in the copy of the American Review at the Athenaeum — the actual copy is preserved there. He also discussed the poem with Helen Whitman, and finally arranged to have it reprinted as his own in the Providence Journal of November 22, 1848, with an introduction embodying that of Willis and a second paragraph he obviously composed himself:

We do not know how many readers we have who will enjoy as we do, the following exquisitely piquant and skillful exercise of rarity and niceness of language. It is a poem that we find in the American Review, full of beauty and oddity in sentiment and versification, but a curiosity, (and a delicious one, we think,) in its philologic flavor. Who is the author?

In copying the paragraph above from Willis’ “Home Journal,” the “Saturday Courier,” of Philadelphia gave the usual credit by appending the words “Home Journal, N. P. Willis.” A Southern paper mistook the words, however, as a reply to the query just preceding — “Who is the author?” and thus, in reprinting the ballad, assigned it to the pen of Willis: — but, by way of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we now correct the mistake — which would be natural enough but for the wide difference of style between “Ulalume” and anything by Willis. “Ulalume,” although published anonymously in the “American Review,” is known to be the composition of EDGAR A. POE.

Poe sent this for republication in the New York Literary World where the editor, E. A. Duyckinck, in the issue of March 3, 1849 (4:202) gave the poem a brief introduction of his own, remarking that “in peculiarity of versification, and a certain cold moonlight ­[page 414:] witchery, it has much of the power of the author’s ‘Raven.’ ” Meanwhile one dull parody had appeared.(7)

The surface story of “Ulalume” may be thus told. In October of a year when recollection is difficult, in the imaginary realm of music and painting the protagonist and his soul walk through a strange landscape. It is Hallowe’en (when the dead have power), and as dawn approaches they see the planet of love in the sky. She is seen as warmer than the moon and as having escaped from the turmoil of lust. The soul distrusts Venus but is calmed by reasoning until stopped by a tomb, now seen to be that of the protagonist’s lost love. The question is asked if the ghouls (friendly to living people) have called up a phantom of hope to save the walkers from memory of an irreparable loss.

More poetically but less completely Mrs. Whitman, in a letter dated September 29, 1875, published in the New-York Tribune of October 13, wrote:

. . . The geist of the poem . . . is . . . “Astarte” — the crescent star of hope and love, that after a night of horror was seen . . .

The forlorn heart [was] hailing it as a harbinger of happiness yet to be, hoping against hope . . . when the planet was seen to be rising over the tomb of a lost love, hope itself was rejected as a cruel mockery . . .

She also indicates that Poe told her there was some autobiographical allegory in it, for she wrote Mrs. Clemm in April 1859: “Virginia died in January, did she not? . . . Perhaps the correspondence in time was purely ideal — I know he described the emotions themselves as real.”(8)

Poe later sometimes refused to discuss the poem. In a charming but slightly ironic letter of September 10, 1849, sent to Miss Susan Ingram in Norfolk with a manuscript copy of “Ulalume,” which she had heard him read the night before, he said, “I would endeavor to explain to you what I really meant — or what I fancied I meant by the poem, if it were not that I remember Dr. Johnson’s bitter and rather just remarks about the folly of explaining what, if worth explanation, should explain itself.”(9) ­[page 415:] There is also a tradition that after Poe recited “Ulalume” at the Mackenzies’ home, Duncan Lodge, in Richmond, his hostess said, “Mr. Poe, why don’t you write your poems so that everyone can understand them?” He replied, “Madam, I write so that every body can not understand them.”(10) Real lovers of poetry usually can. Even in his first biography Woodberry wrote, “The criticism that finds in the ballad . . . merely a whimsical experiment in words has little to go on . . . we have, in this poem, the most spontaneous, the most unmistakably genuine utterance of Poe.”(11)

 

TEXTS

(A) American Review, December 1847 (6:599); (B) Home Journal, January 1, 1848; (C) Providence Journal, November 22, 1848; (D) Literary World, March 3, 1849 (4:202); (E) manuscript about Henry B. Hirst, 1849 (lines 30-88); (F) R. W. Griswold, Poets and Poetry of America, 10th edition, p. 419; (G) Works (1850), II, 20; (H) Works (1850), III, 211 (lines 30-38); (J) Richmond Examiner proof sheets, summer, 1849, reprinted by Whitty (1911), p. 82; (K) manuscript written for Susan Ingram, September 10, 1849, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library.

I give K as text, by permission of the Pierpont Morgan Library; the closing quotation marks at the end of line 50 have been supplied; they do not appear in the manuscript. E (lines 30-38) is in a brief critical article (replying to an absurd charge of plagiarism by Henry B. Hirst) in the collection of William H. Koester, now at the University of Texas. Poe, since he and Hirst were reconciled in July 1849, may have wished to suppress the article, but Griswold included it in the third volume of his edition in 1850. For the complete poem (G) in his second volume, Griswold apparently used a slightly corrected clipping, but omitted the final stanza. It is certainly an earlier version than J and K.

[[v]]

[[n]]

ULALUME — A BALLAD [K]

[[v]]

The skies they were ashen and sober;

[[v]]

The leaves they were crispéd and sere —

[[n]]

The leaves they were withering and sere: ­[page 416:]

[[n]]

It was night, in the lonesome October

[[n]]

5

Of my most immemorial year:

[[n]]

It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,

[[n]]

In the misty mid region of Weir: —

It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

 

[[n]]

10

Here once, through an alley Titanic,

[[n]]

Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul —

[[n]]

Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.

[[v]]

These were days when my heart was volcanic

[[n]]

As the scoriac rivers that roll —

15

As the lavas that restlessly roll

[[n]]

Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek,

In the ultimate climes of the Pole —

That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek,

In the realms of the Boreal Pole.

 

20

Our talk had been serious and sober,

But our thoughts they were palsied and sere —

Our memories were treacherous and sere;

For we knew not the month was October,

And we marked not the night of the year —

[[n]]

25

(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)

We noted not the dim lake of Auber,

(Though once we had journeyed down here)

[[v]]

We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,

Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

 

30

And now, as the night was senescent,

[[v]]

[[n]]

And star-dials pointed to morn —

[[v]]

As the star-dials hinted of morn —

[[v]]

At the end of our path a liquescent

And nebulous lustre was born,

[[v]]

35

Out of which a miraculous crescent

Arose with a duplicate horn — ­[page 417:]

[[n]]

Astarte’s bediamonded crescent,

Distinct with its duplicate horn.

 

[[n]]

And I said — “She is warmer than Dian;

[[v]]

40

She rolls through an ether of sighs —

[[n]]

She revels in a region of sighs.

[[n]]

She has seen that the tears are not dry on

These cheeks where the worm never dies,

[[n]]

And has come past the stars of the Lion,

45

To point us the path to the skies —

[[n]]

To the Lethean peace of the skies —

Come up, in despite of the Lion,

To shine on us with her bright eyes —

Come up, through the lair of the Lion,

50

With love in her luminous eyes.”

 

[[v]]

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,

Said — “Sadly this star I mistrust —

Her pallor I strangely mistrust —

[[v]]

Ah, hasten! — all, let us not linger!

55

Ah, fly! — let us fly! — for we must.”

[[n]]

In terror she spoke; letting sink her

[[v]]

Wings till they trailed in the dust —

In agony sobbed; letting sink her

[[v]]

Plumes till they trailed in the dust —

60

Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

 

I replied — “This is nothing but dreaming.

Let us on, by this tremulous light!

[[n]]

Let us bathe in this crystalline light!

[[n]]

Its Sibyllic splendor is beaming

65

With Hope and in Beauty to-night —

See! — it flickers up the sky through the night!

Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming

And be sure it will lead us aright —

[[v]]

We surely may trust to a gleaming ­[page 418:]

70

That cannot but guide us aright

Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”

 

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,

And tempted her out of her gloom —

And conquered her scruples and gloom;

[[v]]

[[n]]

75

And we passed to the end of the vista —

[[v]]

But were stopped by the door of a tomb —

[[n]]

By the door of a legended tomb: —

[[n]]

And I said — “What is written, sweet sister,

On the door of this legended tomb?”

80

She replied — “Ulalume — Ulalume! —

’T is the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

 

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober

[[v]]

As the leaves that were crispéd and sere —

As the leaves that were withering and sere —

85

And I cried — “It was surely October,

On this very night of last year,

[[n]]

That I journeyed — I journeyed down here! —

That I brought a dread burden down here —

On this night, of all nights in the year,

[[v]]

[[n]]

90

Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?

Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —

This misty mid region of Weir: —

Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber —

[[v]]

This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

 

[[v]]

[[n]]

95

Said we, then — the two, then — “All, can it

[[n]]

Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —

The pitiful, the merciful ghouls,

To bar up our way and to ban it

From the secret that lies in these wolds —

100

From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —

[[v]]

[[n]]

Have drawn up the spectre of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls — ­[page 419:]

This sinfully scintillant planet

From the Hell of the planetary souls?”

[1847-1849]

 


[page 419, continued:]

VARIANTS

Title:  To — — —. Ulalume: a Ballad (A); Ulalume (G)

1  they / omitted (C)

2  crispéd / crispèd (A, J); crisped (B, C, G)

13  days / the days (D)

28  We / omitted (C, F, G); remembered / Remember’d (F)

31  And / As (C)

32  As / And (C)

33  our / my (H)

35  Out / Ont (misprint, D)

40  an / on (misprint, B)

51  uplifting / uplifted (C)

54-55  Ah . . . ah . . . Ah / Oh . . . oh . . . Oh (A, B, C, D, F, G)

57  Wings / Plumes (C); till / until (G)

59  Plumes / Wings (C)

69  surely / safely (A, B, C, D, F, G)

75  the vista / a vista (K)

76  But were / And were (A, B, D); But we (C)

83  crispéd / crispèd (A, K); crisped (B, C, G)

90  Ah / Oh (A, B, C, D, F); hath / has (A, B, C, D, F, G)

94  This / In the (A, B, D, F)

95-104  Last stanza omitted (C, G)

101  Have / Had (A, B)

 


[page 419, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  The name is Poe’s creation, and is what may be called a sorrowful form of “Eulalie,” the title of the poem’s cheerful companion piece. This is supported by Poe’s pronunciation, “You-la-loom,” which is certainly known, from the way Susan Ingram, who had heard the author’s reading, said it to Belle da Costa Greene at the Pierpont Morgan Library. Miss Greene told me she recalled it distinctly, because she had been uncertain about what Miss Ingram said and asked her to repeat the name. It seems probable that the sound of the last syllable is meant to suggest the verb to loom. But no completely satisfactory explanation of the etymology of Poe’s word as a whole has been found, hence all with which I have met must be discussed.

(1) One simple explanation seems the most probable: that the name combines the elements of the Latin verb ululare, to wail (the English cognate), and lumen, a light — Light of Sorrow. (2) Other explanations do not fit so well with the pronunciation, which many readers have not known. George Arms points out to me that William Dean Howells printed “Ullalume” (in dialogue) three times in Indian Summer (1886). (3) “Ul-ul-loo” — variously spelled — is a Gaelic phrase of wailing. (4) Thomas Holley Chivers suggested in his Life of Poe (edition of 1952, p. 76): “Ullalume [sic] signifies the . . . luminous guiding star of love, as Ul-Erin signifies the guiding star of Ireland.” I am told that Chivers’ Gaelic is wrong, but his notion that something Irish was intended is of interest. (5) A Turkish word of wailing is mentioned in the form “Wul-wullah” in Byron’s Bride of Abydos, II, xxvii. (6) In the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, September 1959, Palmer C. Holt suggests that ulu is a Turkish word for dead, and part of a name of the Dead Sea taken by Poe from Chateaubriand in a note on “Al Aaraaf,” II, 38. See a note below ­[page 420:] on line 37, for a possible allusion to Chateaubriand, and observe the strange name “Tophet-Nour” given to Poe’s “Al Aaraaf” on one occasion; Holt’s suggestion cannot be wholly dismissed. (7) In Turkish ulu has another meaning, “high” or “elevated,” recorded by Barthélemy d’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale (1687), p, 914. (8) There is a suggestion, in an eccentric article by Diana Pittman printed in the revived Southern Literary Messenger for August 1941, that there is some connection with Ulema, a Turkish term for ecclesiastical hierarchy. Dedication (Version A): The three blanks probably stand for “C. P. Bronson” or “M. E. Bronson.” Earlier suggestions have been “Frances Sargent Osgood” or “Marie Louise Shew.”

3  Nelson Adkins in London Notes and Queries, January 14, 1933 (pp. 30-31), points out a parallel in a poem “To the Autumn Leaf” by W[illis] G[aylord] C[lark] in an anthology, Autumn Leaves (New York, 1837); the second and third lines read: “Last of a summer race, withering and sere / And shivering — wherefore art thou lingering here?” Another parallel was cited to me by the late Kenneth Daughrity in a poem “To — — —,” by “Cassius” (N. P. Willis), reprinted from the Boston Statesman in the New-York Mirror of March 28, 1828, where “The bank on which I knelt” and “the grass” were “sere and withering.”

4  Astrologically speaking, October is the month of hope; Poe almost surely finished his poem in that month in 1847.

5  “Immemorial” most usually refers to what cannot be remembered; the phrase “from time immemorial” is used in law for something true for as long a time as anyone can recall. The narrator of the poem cannot recall something that he knows it is important that he should recall. Complaint of a celebrated critic that Poe merely echoes Tennyson’s “immemorial elms” is pointless; the Laureate used the word in a different, though correct, sense of “very old.”

6  Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (1782-1871), composer of some forty operas, wrote a ballet, Le Lac des Fées, in 1839. It was presented at the Olympic Theater, New York, on December 1, 1845, and was part of the repertoire of the celebrated danseuse, Hermine Blangy, at about the time when Poe wrote his poem. (See G. C. D, Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, volume V, passim.) The rhyme with “October” agrees with the usual pronunciation of the surname when it is borne by Americans. In his parody “The Willows” Bret Harte joked about “the sweet music of Auber,” but academic critics long thought it a made-up name. None of them seems to have referred to one slightly similar real place name: a small river Awber, on the east boundary of Derbyshire, is mentioned in the second chapter of Charles Cotton’s continuation (1676) of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler.

7  Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) was a prominent painter of the Hudson River School who painted in glowing and magic colors the kind of scenery that surrounded Poe when he composed his poem. (See an article by Lewis Leary and my response in Explicator, February and June 1948.) Poe is capable of puns in serious poetry (as were Milton and Shakespeare) and ­[page 421:] “weir” means a trap. The word also may suggest weird, as James E. Miller remarked in the Philological Quarterly, April 1955, p. 203

10  See note on “Dream-Land,” line 10.

11  The cypress is emblematic of mourning.

12  Psyche means both “butterfly” and “soul” in Greek. But it is also the name of the beautiful maiden in classic fable, whose story is most fully told by Apuleius. She became at first the secret wife of Cupid, whose mother, Venus, disapproved of, but later accepted, her daughter-in-law. Because of the old quarrel Psyche distrusts Venus. Soul-body dialogues occur frequently in literature, but Poe shows no dependence on others. Psyche in “Ulalume” is not a Doppelgänger, as has sometimes been suggested, for she is not of the same sex as the narrator.

14  “Scoriac” is an adjective connected with scoriae, jagged blocks of loose lava; in the twenty-fourth chapter of “Arthur Gordon Pym” Poe wrote of Antarctica, “Scoria [sic] were abundant.” No use of the adjective earlier than Poe’s is known, but it may someday be found in the literature of Antarctic exploration.

16-19  William P. Trent, in his textbook, The Raven . . . (1897), p. 13, says: “Generally speaking boreal means northern, from Boreas, the north wind. But Poe’s imagination usually turned to the South Pole, so that it seems possible that he was following the French terminology, in which ‘boreal pole’ is that pole of the magnetic needle which points to the South. The whole expression would then be equivalent to ‘Antarctic regions.’ ” Since no active volcano was known in Poe’s time within the Arctic Circle — Mount Hecla in Iceland is south of it — this is necessarily correct. Poe is by no means the only writer of English to use the French term, which applies generally to magnets but only infrequently to geography.

There is one active volcano in the Antarctic: Mount Erebus, discovered in 1840 by the expedition of Sir James Clark Ross and named for one of his warships — appropriately, since the word means the infernal regions. It was first pointed out by Howard P. Lovecraft in a story in his volume The Outsider (1939), p. 445, that this must be Poe’s Mount Yaanek. But why Poe called it so is a crux to which no quite satisfactory answer, as yet, is forthcoming. The double vowel suggests that Poe had something Arabic in mind. The following tentative explanations have been offered: (1) There is an Arabic execration, yanak, of uncertain meaning (probably obscene), but if Poe (in polyglot New York) asked what was the Arabic term for “hell,” he might have been given the expletive and supposed it to be a place name. (2) Campbell, Poems (1917), p. 274, cited Yanik, a district in Trebizond (a country in which Poe in “Al Aaraaf” placed “the unforgiven”), but it is in the northern hemisphere and is not a mountain, let alone a volcano. (3) “Janik” (equivalent to “Jack”) is sometimes used by Polish Jews for an unkindly Christian. (4) Ya Neyk is said to be Arabic for “O, thou fool.” (5) Yal anak is said to be Arabic for “May God curse you.” (6) Joseph Auslander told me he thought Poe changed slightly, for the rhyme, Gehinnom, the vale of Hinnom of Joshua 15:8 — the modern Arabic pronunciation is “Yahannam.” ­[page 422:] (7) An acquaintance of mine thought it rather like a word he had heard in Turkey meaning “Let it burn.”

25  The “night of all nights” is Hallowe’en, when the dead have power.

31  “Star dials” I take to be the heavenly spheres regarded as horologues; the position of the stars shows that morning is near. Although time can be told scientifically by the stars, an astronomer assures me that no instruments that could be called star dials exist in fact.

37  Astarte is here as in “Eulalie” identified with the planet Venus. A star or planet can have diamond-like brilliance; the moon cannot. In the article quoted in our note on the poem’s title, Palmer Holt points out a passage in Shoberl’s translation of Chateaubriand’s Travels in Greece (Philadelphia, 1813), p. 220:

“On the 12th [of October] at four in the morning, we weighed anchor . . . Aurora dawned on our right behind the highlands . . . the Eastern sky . . . grew paler as the light increased; the morning star sparkled in the empurpled radiance; and below that beautiful star the crescent of the moon was scarcely discernible . . . the ancients would have said that Venus, Diana and Aurora had met to announce . . . the most brilliant of the gods.”

Poe quoted from Chateaubriand’s book in notes on “Al Aaraaf,” and used the rare word “empurpled” in his poem “To Marie Louise” of 1847. Compare also Fitz-Greene Halleck’s “Twilight,” lines 35-36: “. . . the dim evening star / That points our destined tomb.”

39  Diana has the title Triplex, for she has power in heaven, earth, and hell, but as a virgin is not a patron of marriage. Observe that Diana is here definitely distinct from the star; the moon is contrasted with the planet of love, as she had been in Poe’s early poem “Evening Star.”

41  Some critics have found this line hard to scan. Poe’s intention I think he would have expressed thus, “She revels in a region of sighs.”

42  See Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 for the transgressors whose “worm shall not die.” But Wordsworth in “Guilt and Sorrow,” line 590, has “Say that the worm is on my cheek.” See J. P. Blumenfeld in the London Notes and Queries, March 29, 1952, p. 147.

44  Venus in Leo signifies lust or trouble in love, as is mentioned in “E. K.’s” gloss to Spenser’s Shepheards Calender, “December.” Acting on a hint from Floyd Stovall, I have learned from an astronomer something of the aspect of the heavens in 1847. Venus left the sign of Leo and entered Virgo on July 30 and (partly because of a retrograde motion) remained in it until December; the latter sign is unfavorable to marriage. Venus was also in Virgo on Hallowe’en in 1846, but not in 1845.

46  Lethe is the river of Hades that brings forgetfulness. See Dryden’s translation of Vergil, Aeneid, VI, 1016ff., where purified souls

“. . . drink the deep Lethaean flood

. . . to steep the cares

Of their past labors . . .”

before reincarnation. ­[page 423:]

56-60  Drooping wings in sorrow is as old as the sixteenth fragment of Sappho. Poe had quoted with approval in the Broadway Journal of August 9, 1845, from Thomas Hood’s “Ode to Melancholy”:

. . . the secret soul’s mistrust,

To feel her fair ethereal wings

Weigh’d down with vile degraded dust.

Henry B. Hirst, in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier for January 22, 1848, pointed out a parallel in Thomas Buchanan Read’s “Christine,” lines 19-22:

Then my weary soul went from me, and it walked the world alone,

O’er a wide and brazen desert, in a hot and brazen zone!

 

There it walked and trailed its pinions, slowly trailed them in the sands,

With its hopeless eyes fixed blindly, with its hopeless folded hands.

The poem first appeared in Graham’s for December 1846 (29:314), and Campbell, Poems (1917), p. 275, remarks that the parallel is evident.

63  The word “crystalline” refers to the sphere of the fixed stars according to N. Bailey’s Dictionary (1721). See “Al Aaraaf,” I, 143.

64  “Sibyllic” means prophetic; the Sibyls were inspired by Apollo.

75  “Vistas” and “sisters” are rhymed by Mrs. Osgood in her “Dying Rosebud’s Lament.” For many New Englanders, New Yorkers, and Southerners the rhyme is good.

77  “Legended” means “inscribed with something legible.”

78  The protagonist is the brother of the soul; as in “The Fall of the House of Usher” the man represents reason, the sister intuition. In Eureka (1848), p. 70, Poe wrote, “The body and the soul walk hand in hand.”

87  There is no reason to accept a suggestion of a few critics that there is any remorse for a crime here; it is at variance with the rest of the poem and its sources.

90  Poe “disliked the dark . . . He said to me, ‘I believe that demons take advantage of the night to mislead the unwary . . . although you know . . . I don’t believe in them.’ ” This is from a letter George R. Graham wrote William Fearing Gill on May 1, 1877, quoted in Harrison’s edition of Poe, XVII, 437.

95-104  Poe’s omission of the last stanza in some versions was at Mrs. Whitman’s suggestion. See the Ingram List, numbers 138 and 303. The sentiment is obviously ungraceful for a fiancé. But the lady later felt she had made a mistake, and Poe was to come to the same conclusion.

96-97  The ghouls are here friendly; they do not harm living people.

101-104  Here, as in “Fairyland,” the poet has in mind ancient notions that every moon is a monthly or even a daily new creation. Since Venus has phases like the moon, Poe applies the idea to her too. Limbo, “the easiest room in hell,” is chiefly peopled by those lacking baptism.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 409:]

1  E. C. Stedman, The Poets of America (1885), p. 246; Sarah Helen Whitman, Edgar Poe and His Critics (1860), p. 29; [Theodore Watts-Dunton], “Poetry,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (1910-11), XXI, 880.

2  My friend the late Professor Marjorie Anderson told me she regretted learning that the poem had a definite meaning, and I promised her I would put in my book the suggestion that one need not seek it unless one wished.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 410:]

3  In the New York Home Journal of July 21, 1860, some of the facts were given in an article, “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe,” signed only “Mrs, — ——,” quoting a letter from Poe to the writer’s father, whose name appeared as a blank. That article was overlooked by scholars until Carroll D. Laverty reprinted it in American Literature, May 1948. The actual letter, with a brief description including the recipient’s name — Professor C. P. Bronson — was sold by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1901, but was untraced until 1962. It then entered the collection of William H. Koester, accompanied by a manuscript of authentication signed by M. E. LeDuc as daughter of the recipient, with a new account of her acquaintance with Poe dated “Hastings, Minnesota, Nov. 1888.” In my discussion I quote the letter from the original manuscript and use both accounts by Bronson’s daughter. Some information is added from the manuscript autobiography of the lady’s husband, William Gates LeDuc, examined for me by Miss Lucile Kane in the Minnesota Historical Society at St. Paul.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 411:]

4  Local inhabitants point out the rock on which they say Poe sat, and sometimes say that the poem was “Annabel Lee” — a slight confusion that tends to confirm the tradition. I have found no printed reference to the story earlier than that in my Selected Poetry and Prose of . . . Poe (1951), p. 412.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 412:]

5  See James C. Derby, Fifty Years Among Authors, etc. (New York, 1884), p. 597. Stoddard seems never to have printed any candid account of this incident, although he wrote much about Poe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 413:]

6  Mary Gove Nichols, in the Sixpenny Magazine for February 1863, told a story of how Colton was induced to buy what she supposed was “Ulalume” from Poe. From Poe’s statement to Eveleth it seems that it was actually the highly technical essay on verse which Colton bought only after hesitation.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 414:]

7  “Sophia Maria,” in Thomas Dunn English’s Philadelphia magazine, The John-Donkey, of January 29, 1848.

8  See Quinn and Hart, p. 49

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 414, running to the bottom of page 415:]

9  Miss Ingram’s recollections and the letter were printed in the New York Herald, ­[page 415:] February 19, 1905, and are liberally quoted by Woodberry, II, 329f., and Miss Phillips, II, 1468f. Miss Phillips learned from Miss Ida Thurston of the Pierpont Morgan Library that Susan Ingram said Poe slipped the note and manuscript under her door at the Hygeia Hotel, and Miss Phillips gives a daguerreotype of Miss Ingram.

10  I do not recall seeing the Mackenzie story in print; I was told it in Richmond.

11  Edgar Allan Poe (1885), p. 282.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Ulalume)