Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and W. H. L. Poe), “Appendix V (Part I: Poems by William Henry Leonard Poe),” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 515-520 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 515, continued:]

I. POE’S BROTHER

William Henry Leonard Poe(1) was born in Boston, January 30, 1807, and was soon taken to Baltimore, where his grandfather had something to do with his upbringing. His godfather, Henry Didier,(2) helped to educate him and later took him into his counting house. In 1825 Henry Poe visited his brother and sister at Richmond. He went to sea, and in February 1827 wrote a travel letter from Montevideo, where he attended the carnival; his other travels are matters of somewhat vague tradition, but he probably did visit Russia. Edgar Poe adopted the sailor’s yarns of his brother as adventures of his own.(3)

Henry was writing poetry as early as 1826. He probably knew the Baltimore poet Edward Coote Pinkney and he was a friend of Frederick W. Thomas, who years later, on August 3, 1841, wrote to Edgar that Henry and he had been “rather rivals in a love affair.” Henry was at one time in love ­[page 516:] with a lady whose name was Rosa Durham. Stoddard says that he was handsome and talented, but of irregular habits because of which his fiancée dismissed him.(4)

The brothers saw much of each other in 1827 and in 1829 and 1831. Edgar wrote to John Allan, August 10, 1829, that Henry was already hopelessly addicted to drink. He incurred debts that were later to embarrass Edgar, who wrote to Allan about them on November 18, 1831, after Henry’s death.

Henry died, presumably of tuberculosis, on August 1, 1831, at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and was buried the next day in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church, according to the Baltimore American of August 2. No portrait of him is known.

POEMS OF WILLIAM HENRY POE

Most of the few compositions of William Henry Poe known in 1926 were collected in that year by Hervey Allen and myself in a volume called Poe’s Brother. Nothing can be added to the prose, but a slightly expanded list of the verses may now be offered. Texts of three have been inserted with commentary below. The first dozen listed are in the volume of 1926.

1.  “Jacob’s Dream,” Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, January 20, 1827; sixty-four lines, beginning, “Inspir’d by faith’s illuming ray.”

2.  “Psalm 139th,” Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, February 3, 1827; thirty-two lines, beginning, “Lord! thou hast searched and scanned me through.”

3.  “On the Death of Miss E. S. B.,” Baltimore North American, July 28, 1827; twelve lines beginning, “The eyes which once with sweetest beauty shone.”

4.  “Oh! Give that Smile,” Baltimore North American, August 4, 1827; sixteen lines beginning, “Oh! give that smile — that smile again.”

5.  [“In a Pocket Book”], Baltimore North American, August 11, 1827:

FOR THE NORTH AMERICAN

(In a pocket book I lately found three locks of hair, from which originated the following lines: —)

My Father’s! — I will bless it yet

For thou hast given life to me:

Tho’ poor the boon — I’ll ne’er forget

The filial love I owe to thee.

 

My Mother’s, too! — then let me press

This gift of her I loved so well, —

For I have had thy last caress,

And heard thy long, thy last farewell. ­[page 517:]

 

My Rosa’s! pain doth dim my eye,

When gazing on this pledge of thine —

Thou wer’t a dream — a falsity —

Alas! — ’tis wrong to call thee mine!

 

A Father! he hath loved indeed!

A mother! she hath blessed her son, —

But LOVE is like the pois’ning weed

That taints the air it lives upon.

The first two stanzas are self-explanatory. The third obviously concerns an unhappy love affair, surely that referred to by Stoddard in the passage mentioned above. In 1926 Hervey Allen and I, who knew nothing definite of Henry Poe’s broken engagement, thought that “Rosa” might have some reference to his sister Rosalie, an opinion I reject now, since the next item (no. 6) here shows that Henry’s lady love had the initial “R.” Frances Winwar, in The Haunted Palace (1959), p. 63, suggests that the feeble quatrains on the three locks of hair are the work of Edgar Poe, but neither Hervey Allen nor I ever thought such a thing as that. The verses are certainly by one who remembered his mother, and Edgar said that he did not. (See Annals, p. 533.)

6.  “To R.,” Baltimore North American, September 22, 1827. This obviously also refers to the broken engagement, and to someone not yet married:

TO R.

Nay — ’tis not so — it cannot be —

Those feelings ne’er will come again;

I gave my heart — my soul to thee,

And madly clasped the burning chain.

 

’Tis sever’d now — and like the slave

When freed, will scorn the bars he wore,

And feels he would prefer the grave

Than wear those galling fetters more —

 

Yet not like him — for memory brings

A tear to joys — to pleasures fled —

A something which still fondly clings —

“’Tis vainly mourning o’er the dead.”

 

It cannot be! for pride will now

Relieve the anguish of my heart —

Thy faithless pledge! thy broken vow!

’Tis fit — ’tis meet — that we should part.

7.  Sixteen lines without title, North American, September 29, 1827, beginning, “I’ve lov’d thee — but those hours are past.”

8.  Sixteen lines without title, North American, October 6, 1827, beginning, “Scenes of my love! of boyhood’s thoughtless hour!”

9.  Twenty-four lines, North American, November 3, 1827, beginning, “Despair! Despair! — oh what art thou?” ­[page 518:]

10.  “LINES written extempore on a tombstone with a pencil,” North American, November 10, 1827; twenty-two lines of blank verse, beginning, “There is something in this holy place.”

11.  “On Seeing a Lady Sleeping,” North American, November 17, 1827; seventeen lines, beginning, “Dream’st thou of love?”

12.  “Waters of Life,” North American, November 24, 1827; sixteen lines, beginning, “There are thoughts so wild in our childhood’s hours.”

13.  “To ——”; thirty-nine lines beginning, “A bitter tear for thee is shed.” Reproduced (with no. 14) in W. F. Gill’s Life of Edgar Allan Poe (1877), pp. 43-45, from the Baltimore Minerva, a literary paper conducted by John H. Hewitt. I think Gill used clippings for his sources.

14.  “To Minnie”; five quatrains beginning, “The rose that gloried on your breast.” Reproduced with number 13.

15.  “Woman,” written in Margaret Bassett’s album in which Edgar wrote his cento “To Margaret” in 1827. The manuscript is now in the Lilly Collection, Indiana University, at Bloomington. I saw it in the Walpole Galleries Sale of March 25, 1930, and by permission of the late Mrs. Edward Turnbull copied it and gave a text in London Notes and Queries, May 21, 1932, p. 369:

WOMAN

Well then I will — altho’ I like it not —

E’en stain this page with an attempt at rhyme

But now indeed — I really have forgot —

And wish the book in other hands than mine —

 

Yet as I’ve promised — I must now begin,

Tho’ lame and jaded as my Muse appears,

But as I hope some little praise to win,

I’ll spur her on — although with many fears.

 

I cannot flatter — nor will not even say

More than I think when Woman is the theme,

But if the truth I speak — if truth I may —

They’ve been to me a dark and troubled dream.

 

I hate the Sex — not hate — to meaner thought —

They’re fickle — tasteless — vain — without a heart —

And if they have — for Gold it can be bought,

A changing — giddy toy — yet often full of art.

Balt. 11th Sept. 1827.    W. H. Poe

16.  Three stanzas, untitled, written in Edgar Poe’s hand and ascribed to his brother in the album of Lucy Holmes, later Mrs. Balderston. In the same album Edgar wrote his own fine poem “Alone.” The date is presumably 1829. Eugene L. Didier printed Henry’s poem in his Baltimore No Name Magazine for August 1890. It was reprinted, from a copy sent me by the late Kenneth Rede, in London Notes and Queries, May 21, 1932, p. 369. ­[page 519:]

I have gaz’d on woman’s cheek

With a passion and a thrill,

Which my tongue would never speak —

I have taught it to be still.

 

I have linger’d on a lip

In an ecstasy of bliss —

I have thought it heaven to sip

The luxury of a kiss.

 

Those kisses are all over

With my deep love, and, so, then,

I will be no more a lover —

Till I love as much again.

17.  [Verses written in an album belonging to Miss Durham], mentioned by Amelia F. Poe in a letter to Ingram, February 28, 1911 (Ingram List, no. 446). The album is said to have been destroyed by fire. These verses were probably distinct from number 6 above.

18.  “Life,” from a copy sent by William Hand Browne to Ingram about 1875 and now preserved at the University of Virginia (Ingram List, no. 2). Browne, a respected scholar but something of an enthusiast when he dealt with Poe, said it was understood in Baltimore that the lines had been written by Poe in the album of Miss Mary A. Hand. The verses are surely too valueless to be the work of Edgar Poe, but Browne does not ascribe them firmly to Edgar, and they may well be a production of William Henry Poe. The lines are headed “Life (original)” in the manuscript. Because they seem not to have been published, they are here quoted in full:

LIFE

Look back on life! Years, how they pass away —

Hopes, how they rise, and fade, and die: —

How transient bliss! how soon to feel decay,

And wake the stings of grief and memory!

 

The blessed sunshine of the sportive child

How soon obscured by manhood’s clouds of care:

The cheeks with health that glowed — its lips that smiled —

How soon the curl of scorn or grief may wear.

 

The dreams of Love, that soothed the swelling heart,

Sweep by like dreams the chained captive knows,

Where thoughts run back to scenes that can impart

Awhile — till broken — respite for his woes.

 

The changing world — the lost remembered friends —

The urn decaying o’er a friend decayed —

Bring thoughts — and hopes — and fear that tends

To pall the present and the past upbraid. ­[page 520:]

 

Oh Life! thou art a weary load indeed,

Yet one, though bitter, few would cast aside,

But bear the pangs that make the bosom bleed

And cling to thee — to woo thee and to chide.

P.

Baltimore, October 22, 1829.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 515:]

1  There is no doubt that this was his full name, but on May 2, 1912, Amelia F. Poe wrote to J. H. Ingram that she had no idea why he was named Leonard. He was usually called Henry, and signed his printed works W. H. P. or W. H. Poe. No personal letter from Poe’s brother is known, but the text of one addressed to him by John Allan on November 1, 1824, is given in A. H. Quinn’s Edgar Allan Poe, p. 89.

2  Father of Eugene L. Didier, whose statements in his Life and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1877) are based on information from people who remembered Poe’s brother.

3  Henry Poe’s Montevideo letter was published in the Baltimore North American, September 22, 1827. His narrative “The Pirate” and two other prose pieces — all romantic fictions — also appeared during that year in the same periodical, as did a number of his poems.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 516:]

4  The surname comes from Amelia F. Poe in a letter to Ingram, February 28, 1911; the given name is revealed in Henry’s poems, Stoddard’s remarks are from his memoir, p. xxxvii.

 


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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) (Appendix V - Part I: Poems by William Henry Leonard Poe)