Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Eleonora,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 635-647 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 635:]

ELEONORA

“Eleonora” is a story of happiness lost and regained, and a favorite of romantic readers. But like the more somber prose poems “Shadow” and “Silence” it is cryptic, and Poe was not quite satisfied with it. Reviewing the annual in which it first appeared, he called it a tale “which is not ended so well as it might be — a good subject spoiled by hurry in the handling.”* Since he made no radical changes in revision, he clearly never decided upon a better ending.

Critics have been more lenient. Woodberry wrote, “In this alone of all his tales is there . . . the warmth, the vital sense of human love. The myth . . . is pictorial, like a medieval legend . . . Here love came to the boy and girl, beneath the fantastic trees . . . Symbolism has seldom been more simple and pure . . . more absolute master of the things of sense for the things of the spirit than in this unreal scene.”

Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, likening the story to the Ossianic poems, spoke of the “flower-gemmed Valley” where Poe “spent, with the Morning Star of his Soul . . . his youth,” and added, “This Tale . . . revealing . . . the freshest as well as the loftiest emotions of his soul . . . contains the rudiments of many of his after-thoughts.”

Poe probably expected readers to suppose his story partly inspired by Dr. Johnson’s Rasselas, which was subtitled “The Happy Valley,” but Poe took little else from the lexicographer. Poe’s plot reminds many of Bernardin de St. Pierre’s Paul et Virginie (1788). There a boy and girl grow up together in idyllic surroundings on the island of Mauritius. They reach the age of discretion, fall in [page 636:] love, and see the world in a new light. They are separated, and the beauty departs. Finally they are reunited, but the girl soon dies.§

In tone and color, like “The Island of the Fay,” to which it is akin, “Eleonora” may have taken something from Miss Mercer’s “Fairy Tale” (SLM, January 1836), quoted in the introduction to the former story, above.

Some autobiographical element in Poe’s story is undeniable — the two cousins and the girl’s mother parallel the poet’s personal life. May Garrettson Evans saw the story’s relation to the unfolding of Poe’s love when the family lived in Amity Street, Baltimore; and John C. French thought the scene of “Eleonora” partly inspired by the clear stream and wooded hills at the valley of Gwynn’s Falls in Baltimore County about a mile and a half west of Poe’s home, to which the two young people probably walked.* A. H. Quinn thought the story Poe’s way of telling Virginia that she was his mate for eternity.

Since Poe expressed dissatisfaction with the first form of “Eleonora,” we cannot seek for a completely consistent plot in it, but the deletion of two fairly long passages and some of the careful changes in wording may indicate one in the revised version. Yet there are several interpretations of the action even in that. The simplest is that it is a story of reincarnation: the virtuous Eleonora is permitted to return as Ermengarde. The time element is awkward, however, and the hero hears Eleonora after his marriage. A notion of “bipart” soul in Eleonora, the uniting of both parts in [page 637:] Ermengarde, may be intended — the hint of that in the first version was canceled later.

A second interpretation is ethical. As a child Eleonora accepted vows that her husband should not have taken. Mature, in Heaven, she is allowed to absolve him of them, for there “the Spirit of Love reigneth,” and in this world too.

A third view is based on the hint of the hero’s madness — Ermengarde is hallucinatory. Poe usually gave his less romantic readers some reason for a matter-of-fact explanation in his stories, but “Eleonora” seems to me primarily a fairy tale.

The allegorical undercurrent in “Eleonora” may be interpreted in several ways. Some feel the allegory is of childhood and maturity — as hinted in the reference to the riddle of the Sphinx. Some would even see the idea of paradise lost and regained. And the interpretation has been offered that the artist’s career is shadowed forth, as he emerges from a world of unreality into a real world of manhood and action.§ It can be observed that “Eleonora” is perhaps the last of Poe’s tales in his extreme arabesque manner.

Poe wrote to his friend Snodgrass on January 17, 1841, “I have one or two articles in statu pupillari that would make you stare, at least, on account of the utter oddity of their conception. To carry out the conception is a difficulty which — may be overcome.” Poe presumably had “Eleonora” ready during the first two months of the year, for on February 22, 1841, one of the editors of The Gift wrote, “. . . the work is now in the hands of the printer.”*

TEXTS

(A) The Gift: A Christmas and New Year’s Present for 1842 (1841), pp. 154-162; (B) Broadway Journal, May 24, 1845 (1:322-324); (C) Works (1850), I, 446-452. PHANTASY-PIECES, title only.

The version of the Broadway Journal is followed; Griswold’s version (C) shows no author’s correction, and introduces a misprint. [page 638:]

Reprints

Boston Notion, September 4, 1841; Roberts’ Semi-Monthly Magazine as “Eleonora — A Fable,” September 15, 1841; New-York Weekly Tribune, September 18, 1841; New-York Daily Tribune, September 20, 1841; Literary Souvenir (Lowell, Mass.), November 13, 1841 and July 9, 1842. All from The Gift.

ELEONORA.   [B]   [[n]]   [[v]]

Sub conservatione formae specificae salva anima.

Raymond Lully.   [[n]]   [[v]]

I am come of a race noted for vigor of fancy and ardor of passion.{a} Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is{b} not the loftiest{c} intelligence — whether much that is glorious — whether all that is profound — does{d} not spring from disease of thought — from moods{e} of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.(1) They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape {ff}those who dream only{ff} by night. In their grey visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awaking,{g} to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the{h} mere knowledge which is of evil.(2) They penetrate, however rudderless or compassless, into the vast ocean of the “light ineffable”(3) and again, like the adventurers{i} of the Nubian geographer,(4)agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exploraturi.”

We will say, then, that I am mad. I grant, at least, that there are two distinct conditions of my mental existence — the condition of a lucid reason, not to be disputed, and belonging to the memory of events forming the first{j} epoch of my life — and a condition of shadow and doubt, appertaining to the present, and to the recollection of what constitutes the second great era of my being. Therefore, what I shall tell of the earlier period, believe; [page 639:] and to what I may relate of the later time, give only such credit as may seem due; or doubt it altogether; or, if doubt it ye cannot{k} then play unto its riddle the Oedipus.{l} (5)

She whom I loved in youth, and of whom I now pen calmly and distinctly these remembrances, was the sole daughter of the only sister of my mother long departed. Eleonora was the name of my cousin. We had always dwelled together, beneath a tropical sun, in the Valley of the{m} Many-Colored Grass.(6) No unguided footstep ever came upon that vale; for it lay{n} far away up among a range of giant hills that hung beetling around about it, shutting out the sunlight from its sweetest recesses. No path was trodden in its vicinity; and, to reach our happy home, there was need of putting back, with force, the foliage of many thousands of forest trees, and of crushing to death the glories of many millions of fragrant flowers. Thus it was that we lived all alone, knowing nothing of the world without the valley, — I, and my cousin, and her mother.

From the dim regions beyond the mountains at the upper end of our encircled domain, there crept out a narrow and deep river, brighter than all save {oo}the eyes of Eleonora;{oo} and, winding stealthily about in mazy courses, it passed away, at length, through a shadowy gorge, among hills still dimmer than those whence{p} it had issued. We called it the “River of Silence:” for there seemed to be a hushing influence in its flow. No murmur arose from its bed, and so gently it wandered along{p’} that the pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down within its bosom, stirred not at all, but lay in a motionless content, each in its own old station, shining on gloriously forever.(7)

The{q} margin of the river, and of the many dazzling rivulets that glided, through devious ways, into its channel, as well as{r} the spaces that extended from the margins{s} away down into the depths of the streams until they reached the bed of pebbles at the bottom, — these spots, not less than the whole surface of the valley, from the river to the mountains that girdled it in, were carpeted all by a [page 640:] soft green grass, thick, short, perfectly even, and vanilla-perfumed,(8) but so besprinkled throughout with the yellow buttercup, the white daisy, the purple violet, and the ruby-red asphodel, that its exceeding beauty spoke to our hearts, in loud tones, of the love and of the glory of God.

And, here and there, in groves about this grass, like wildernesses of dreams, sprang up fantastic trees, whose tall slender stems stood not upright, but slanted gracefully towards{t} the light that peered at noon-day into the centre of the valley. Their bark was speckled with the vivid alternate splendor{u} of ebony and silver, and was smoother than all save the cheeks of Eleonora;(9) so that but for the brilliant green of the huge leaves that spread from their summits in long tremulous lines, dallying with the Zephyrs,(10) one might have fancied them giant serpents of Syria doing homage to their Sovereign the Sun.(11)

Hand in hand about this valley, for fifteen years, roamed I with Eleonora before Love entered within our hearts. It was one evening at the close of the third lustrum of her life, and of the fourth of my own, that we sat, locked in each other’s embrace, beneath the serpent-like trees, and looked down within the waters of the River of Silence at our images therein. We spoke no words during the rest of that sweet day; and our words even{v} upon the morrow were tremulous and few. We had drawn the God Eros from that wave,(12) and now we felt that he had enkindled within us the fiery souls of our forefathers. The passions which had for centuries distinguished our race{v’} came thronging with the fancies for which they had been equally noted, and together breathed a delirious bliss over the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass. A change fell upon all things. Strange brilliant flowers, star-shaped, burst out upon the trees where no flowers had been known before. The tints of the green carpet deepened; and when, one by one, the white daisies shrank away, there sprang up, in place of them, ten by ten of the ruby-red asphodel.(13) And life arose in our paths; for the tall flamingo, hitherto unseen, with all gay glowing birds, [page 641:] flaunted his scarlet plumage before us. The{w} golden and silver fish haunted the river, out of the bosom of which issued, little by little, a murmur that swelled, at length, into a lulling melody more divine than that of the harp of Æolus(14) — sweeter than all save the voice of Eleonora. And now, too, a{x} voluminous cloud, which we had long watched in the regions of Hesper,(15) floated out thence, all gorgeous in crimson and gold, and settling in peace above us, sank, day by day, lower and lower, until its edges rested upon the tops of the mountains, turning all their dimness into magnificence, and shutting us up, as if forever, within a magic prison-house of grandeur and of glory.(16)

The loveliness of Eleonora was that of the {yy}Seraphim; but she{yy} was a maiden artless and innocent as the brief life she had led among the flowers.(17) No guile disguised the fervor of love which animated her heart, and she examined with me its inmost recesses as we walked together in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, and discoursed of the mighty changes which had lately taken place therein.{z}

At length, having spoken one day, in tears, of the last sad change which must befall Humanity, she thenceforward dwelt only upon this one sorrowful theme, interweaving it into all our converse, as, in the songs of the bard of Schiraz,{a} (18) the same images are found occurring, again and again, in every impressive variation of phrase.

She had seen that the finger of Death was upon her bosom — [page 642:] that, like the ephemeron,{b} she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die;(19) but the terrors of the grave, to her, lay solely in a consideration which she revealed to me, one{c} evening at twilight, by the banks of the River of Silence. She grieved to think that, having entombed her in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, I would quit forever its happy recesses, transferring the love which now was{d} so passionately her own to some maiden of the outer and every-day world. And, then and there, I threw myself hurriedly at the feet of Eleonora, and offered up a vow, to herself and to Heaven, that I would never bind myself in marriage to any daughter of Earth — that I would in no manner prove recreant to her dear memory, or to the memory of the devout affection with which she had blessed me. And I called the Mighty Ruler of the Universe to witness the pious solemnity of my vow. And the curse which I invoked of Him{e} and of her, a saint in Helusion,{f} (20) should I prove traitorous to that promise, involved a penalty the exceeding great horror of which will not permit me to make record of it here. And the bright eyes of Eleonora grew brighter at my words; and she sighed as if a deadly burthen{g} had been taken from her breast; and she trembled and very bitterly wept; but she made acceptance of the vow, (for what was she but a child?) and it made easy to her the bed of her death. And she said to me, not many days afterwards, tranquilly dying, that, because of what I had done for the comfort of her spirit, she would watch over me in that spirit when departed, and, if so it were permitted her, return to me visibly in the watches of the night; but, if this thing were, indeed, beyond the power of the souls in Paradise, that she would, at least, give me frequent indications of her presence; sighing upon me in the evening winds, or filling the air which I breathed with perfume from the censers of the angels.(21) And, with these words upon her lips, she yielded up her innocent life, putting an{h} end to the first epoch of my own.

Thus far I have faithfully said. But as I pass the barrier in Time’s path formed by the death of my beloved, and proceed with{i} [page 643:] the second era of my existence, I feel that a{j} shadow gathers over my brain, and I mistrust the perfect sanity of the record. But let me on. — Years dragged themselves along heavily, and still{k} I dwelled within the Valley of the Many-Colored {ll}Grass; — but a{ll} second change had come upon all things. The star-shaped flowers shrank into the stems of the trees, and appeared no more. The tints of the green carpet faded; and, one by one, the ruby-red asphodels withered away; and there sprang up, in place of them, ten by ten, dark eye-like violets that {mm}writhed uneasily(22) and were ever encumbered with dew.{mm} And Life departed from our paths; for the tall flamingo flaunted no longer his scarlet plumage before us, but flew sadly from the vale into the hills, with all the gay glowing birds that had arrived in his company. And the golden and silver fish swam down through the gorge at the lower end of our domain and bedecked the sweet river never again. And the lulling melody that had been softer than the wind-harp of Æolas and more divine than all save the voice of Eleonora, it died(23) little by little away, in murmurs growing lower and lower, until the stream returned, at length, utterly, into the solemnity of its original silence. And then, lastly the voluminous cloud uprose, and, abandoning the tops of the mountains to the dimness of old, fell back into the regions of Hesper, and took away all its manifold golden and gorgeous glories from the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass.

Yet the promises of Eleonora were not forgotten; for I heard the sounds of the swinging of the censers of the angels; and streams of a holy perfume floated ever and ever about the valley; and at lone hours, when my heart beat heavily, the winds that bathed my brow came unto me laden with soft sighs; and indistinct murmurs filled often the night air; and once — oh, but once only! I was awakened from a slumber like{n} the slumber of death by the pressing of spiritual lips upon my{o} own.

But the void within my heart refused, even thus, to be filled. I longed{p} for the love which had before filled it to overflowing. At length the valley pained me through its memories of Eleonora, [page 644:] and I left it forever for the vanities and the turbulent triumphs of the world.

  * * * * *  

I found myself within a strange{q} city, where all things might have served to blot from recollection the sweet dreams I had dreamed so long in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass. The pomps and pageantries of a stately court, and the mad clangor of arms, and the radiant loveliness of woman, bewildered and intoxicated my brain. But as yet my soul had proved true to its{r} vows, and the indications of the presence of Eleonora were still given me in the silent hours of the night. Suddenly, these manifestations they{s} ceased; and the world grew dark before mine{t} eyes; and I stood aghast at the burning thoughts which possessed — at the terrible temptations which beset me; for there came from some far, far{u} distant and unknown land, into the gay court of the king I served, a{v} maiden to whose beauty my whole recreant heart yielded at once — at whose footstool I bowed down without a struggle, in the most ardent, in the most abject worship of love. What indeed was {ww}my passion{ww} for the young girl of the valley in comparison with the {xx}fervor, and the delirium, and the spirit-lifting{xx} ecstasy of adoration(24) with which I poured out my whole{y} soul in tears at the feet of the ethereal{z} Ermengarde? — Oh bright was the seraph{a} Ermengarde!{b} and in that knowledge I had room for none other. — Oh divine was the angel Ermengarde! and as I looked down into the depths of her memorial eyes(25) I thought only of them — and of her.{b} [page 645:]

I wedded; — nor dreaded the curse I had invoked; and its bitterness was not visited upon me.(26) {cc}And once — but once again in{cc} the silence of the night, there came{d} through my lattice the soft sighs which had forsaken me; and they modelled themselves into {ee}familiar and{ee} sweet voice, saying:

“Sleep in peace! — for the Spirit of Love reigneth and ruleth, and, in taking to thy passionate heart her who is Ermengarde, thou art absolved, for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven, of thy vows unto Eleonora.”

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 638:]

Title:  Eleonora. A Fable. (A)

Motto:  Not in A

a  After this: Pyrros is my name. (A)

b  is or is / be or be (A)

c  loftier (A)

d  do (A)

e  moods (A)

ff . . . ff  the dreamers (A)

g  waking, (C)

h  that (A)

i  adventures (C) misprint

j  flrst (B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 639:]

k  dare not, (A)

l  Sphynx. (A)

m  Omitted (A); he (B) misprint

n  lay singularly (A)

oo . . . oo  Eleonora’s eyes; (A)

p  from which (A)

p’  along, (B, C) corrected from A

q  And the (A)

r  as well as / and (A)

s  brinks (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 640:]

t  toward (A)

u  splendours (A)

v  Omitted (A)

v’  race, (B, C) corrected from A

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 641:]

w  us. The / us; and (A)

x  a vast and (A)

yy . . . yy  seraphim — and here, as in all things referring to this epoch, my memory is vividly distinct. In stature she was tall, and slender even to fragility; the exceeding delicacy of her frame, as well as of the hues of her cheek, speaking painfully of the feeble tenure by which she held existence. The lilies of the valley were not more fair. With the nose, lips, and chin of the Greek Venus, she had the majestic forehead, the naturally-waving auburn hair, and the large luminous eyes of her kindred. Her beauty, nevertheless, was of that nature which leads the heart to wonder not less than to love. The grace of her motion was surely ethereal. Her fantastic step left no impress upon the asphodel — and I could not but dream as I gazed, enrapt, upon her alternate moods of melancholy and of mirth, that two separate souls were enshrined within her. So radical were her changes of countenance, that at one instant I fancied her possessed by some spirit of smiles, at another by some demon of tears. New paragraph. She (A)

z  place therein. / place. (A)

a  Shiraz (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 642:]

b  ephemera, (A)

c  one still (A)

d  now was / was now (A)

e  Him / him, (A)

f  Elysium, (A)

g  burden (A)

h  Omitted (A)

i  into (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 643:]

j  a vague (A)

k  still, with the aged mother of Eleonora, (A)

ll . . . ll  Grass. A (A)

mm . . . mm  quivered uneasily. (A)

n  like unto (A)

o  mine (A)

p  longed — I madly pined (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 644:]

q  strange Eastern (A)

r  her (A)

s  Omitted (A)

t  my (A)

u  far, far / far (A)

v  a fair-haired and slender (A)

ww . . . ww  the passion I had once felt (A)

xx . . . xx  madness, and the glow, and the fervour, and the spirit-stirring (A)

y  Omitted (A)

z  lady (A)

a  lady (A)

bb . . . bb  I looked down into the blue depths of her meaning eyes, and I thought only of them, and of her. Oh, lovely was the lady Ermengarde! and in that knowledge I had room for none other. Oh, glorious was the wavy flow of her auburn tresses! and I clasped them in a transport of joy to my bosom. And I found rapture in the fantastic grace of her step — and there was a wild delirium in the love I bore her when I started to see upon her countenance the radical transition from tears to smiles that I had wondered at in the long-lost Eleonora. I forgot — I despised the horrors of the curse I had so blindly invoked, and I wedded the lady Ermengarde. (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 645:]

cc . . . cc  And in (A)

d  came once again (A)

ee . . . ee  Omitted (A)

 


[page 645, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  The heroine’s name is symbolic. Poe liked the name Helen in its various forms; he had written the poem “To Helen” about his first love. The form used in the present story may be taken from John Dryden’s Eleonora (1692), an elegy — written at the request of her husband — on the virtuous Countess of Abingdon, who died young. It may also be that Poe had heard of Éléonore, whose husband, Jean-Pierre-Jacques-Auguste de Labouïsse-Rochefort (1778-1852), called “le poete de l’hymen,” celebrated her beauty and virtues in Les Amours; à Éléonore (1817), and other works. She came from the tropics (Mauritius, the home of St. Pierre’s Paul and Virginia), and lived until 1833.

The other characters have names which may also be significant. That of the narrator, Pyrros, given only in the first version, is from Greek pur or pyr (fire), and means ardent. The philosopher Pyrrho of Elis, c. 300 B.C., denied the possibility of certainty; hence “pyrrhonism” — absolute skepticism, universal doubt (see “MS. Found in a Bottle,” note 1). Pyrrhus of Epirus (3rd century B.C.) was the king whose victory in battle, won at great loss, is the origin of the expression “pyrrhic victory.” Several royal and noble ladies were called Ermengarde; the best remembered was a twelfth century Countess of Narbonne, a patron of troubadours [Burton Pollin makes a case for the Lady of Baldringham, great-aunt of the heroine of Scott’s novel, The Betrothed (1825) — see London N & Q, September 1970]; but N. P. Willis included verses to an unidentified Ermengarde in the American edition of his Melanie and Other Poems (1837).

Motto:  This can be translated “Under the protection of a specific form, the soul is safe.” I agree that Poe almost certainly found the quotation in Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame (Book VII, chapter vi), a work from which he took the final motto for “The Island of the Fay.” This was brought to my attention by Burton Pollin. [See his Discoveries in Poe (1970).] Poe hardly knew the works of Raymond Lully (1235-1315) at first hand.

1.  William Peterfield Trent, in his edition of The Raven . . . and . . . Tales (1898), II, 86-95, compared with the opening paragraphs Poe’s comment in “Fifty [page 646:] Suggestions,” number 23 (Graham’s, May 1849), on the relation of genius to madness. Poe there quotes inaccurately Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, line 163, “Great wits are sure to madness near allied.”

2.  For the knowledge of good and evil see Genesis 2:17.

3.  “Light ineffable” may be an echo of Paradise Lost, V, 734, “Lightning Divine, ineffable.”

4.  The Nubian geographer is the author of Geographia Nubiensis (Paris, 1619), catalogued by the British Museum under “Nubian Geography” and described as “an abridgment in Latin of Al Idrisi’s Nuzhat Al Mushtak” — a compilation completed in the middle of the twelfth century by the Arab scientist, poet, and traveler for Roger II of Sicily. Poe follows Bryant’s Antient Mythology (3rd ed. 1807), IV, 79. The quotation means, “They were come into the sea of shades, to find out what is in it.” Mare Tenebrarum is the name regularly used for the Atlantic Ocean by “the Nubian,” who is also mentioned in “A Descent into the Maelström,” “Mellonta Tauta,” and Eureka.

5.  The Sphinx, a monster half woman and half beast, asked travelers, “What goes on four legs, two, and three legs?” Those unable to answer, she threw from a cliff near Thebes in Bœotia. Oedipus replied, “A baby crawls, a man walks, and an old man uses a staff,” whereupon the monster jumped from the cliff herself. There is another reference to Oedipus solving an enigma in “Thou Art the Man.”

6.  Compare Shelley’s Adonais, line 462, “Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,” and Miss Mercer’s description of the fairy’s crystal grotto: “The few rays of light that penetrated through its deep shade, fixed in its vaulted roof an unfading rainbow. Its floor was inlaid with many colored pebbles . . .”

7.  The River of Silence typifies the mystery surrounding life. It resembles Alph with its “mazy motion” in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” (Sam S. Baskett, MLN, May 1958, points out other resemblances to details in “Kubla Khan.”) Compare also a canceled line after “Al Aaraaf,” II, 40, “Far down within the crystal of the lake.”

8.  The “Epidendron Flos Aeris,” mentioned in “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” has a perfume like vanilla, but is not a grass. See the notes on those two stories.

9.  Compare a passage in “The Island of the Fay,” where “the trees are lithe, . . . bright, slender, and graceful . . . with bark smooth, glossy and particolored.”

10.  For dalliance with Zephyrs, gentle western winds, compare Milton’s “L’Allegro,” line 19, “Zephyr with Aurora playing.”

11.  The giant serpents may refer to the hundred-headed Typhon, but no quite satisfactory explanation has been found. Compare also a phrase in Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici, II, xi, “A piece of divinity in us . . . that . . . owes no homage to the sun.”

12.  The Neo-Platonist Iamblichus drew Eros and Anteros (Love and Love [page 647:] Returned) in the form of youths from their fountains at Gadara, according to Eunapius, Vitae Philosophorum, cited by Byron in his note on Manfred, II, ii, 93.

13.  Poe often refers to asphodels — classically associated with death or the dead (see “The Valley Nis,” line 26, and note, Mabbott, I, 192, 194) — but those in “Eleonora” are not pale, as in nature, but red, being transformed by the power of love.

14.  The harp of Æolus — god of the winds — refers to the sound of the wind in the trees. It is mentioned also in “The Poetic Principle.”

15.  Hesperus, the evening star; Hesperia, the region of the west.

16.  Compare “The Coliseum,” line 9, “grandeur, gloom, and glory: [and, Mr. Pollin suggests, the third text of “To Helen,” line 9, in Graham’s, September 1841, where “the glory that was Greece” appeared, to join for the first time “the grandeur that was Rome”].

17.  Poe echoes William Cullen Bryant’s extremely popular “Death of the Flowers,” lines 28-30, “And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief; / . . . So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers.”

18.  The bard of Shiraz in Persia was Shams-ud-din Mahomet, known by the sobriquet Hafiz (Rememberer [of the Koran by heart]), whose pen name appears in every one of his poems. He was a Sufi, and his lines in praise of wine and women are believed to be mystical expositions of his philosophy. He died about A.D. 1389.

19.  An ephemeron is any insect that lives only one day in the mature state.

20.  In “Pinakidia,” number 80 (SLM, August 1836, p. 578), Poe records that “Bochart derives Elysium from the Phoenician Elysoth, joy, through the Greek ’Ηλυσιον.” Samuel Bochart’s typically chimerical etymology is in Geographia Sacra (1707), XXXIV, col. 600, which Poe knew surely at second hand through H. N. Coleridge’s Introductions, p. 141. Poe uses “Helusion” in “Shadow — a Parable,” and in a review of R. H. Horne’s Orion in Graham’s for March 1844.

21.  Compare “The Raven,” lines 79-80, “perfumed from an unseen censer / Swung by seraphim.”

22.  For the violets compare “The Valley Nis” (1831), lines 29-30, “Helen, like thy human eye / There th’ uneasy violets lie.”

23.  Observe the Gallicism of “the lulling melody . . . it died” and, below, “These manifestations, they ceased.” Poe uses this device from time to time.

24.  Compare the similar effective use of the article repeated in the last sentence of “Ligeia.”

25.  Here “memorial eyes” means those that awaken memory.

26.  This sentence is cited in Mabbott, I, 484, as one of “three examples of rhyming prose of the most serious kind”; the others are in “Morella” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” The last clause of the sentence echoes Exodus 20:5: “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children . . .”

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 635:]

*  See the review of The Gift for 1842 in Graham’s Magazine, November 1841.

  Poe (1885), p. 168. Unaware that annuals were usually on sale well before the beginning of the year for which they were issued, Woodberry connected the illness of Eleonora with that of Virginia Poe, whose first serious hemorrhage occurred in January 1842. He was also reminded of the thirteenth century romance, Aucassin and Nicolette, a work not published in America until after Poe’s time.

  Life of Poe (first printed in 1952), p. 79. Poe regarded “Ossian” highly, although aware the poems are modern.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 636:]

§  See Sinclair Snow in Romance Notes, Autumn 1963. Marguerite Mespoulet sent me this suggestion independently. Paul and Virginia in English translation was extremely popular in Poe’s time. The basic plot, however, is an old one — witness I. D’Israeli’s “Mejnoun and Leila” (in his Romances, first American edition, Philadelphia, 1803), retelling a traditional Arabian love story from the version by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami. Kais and Leila, educated together, are separated by Leila’s father. Kais, deprived of his love, loses his mind and wanders in the desert, becoming known as “Mejnoun” (“Madman”). Leila dies of grief, and shortly afterward Mejnoun dies at her grave and is buried beside her. Some of D’Israeli’s exotic details may be reflected in “Eleonora.”

*  See articles in the Maryland Historical Magazine, December 1941, and March 1955, respectively.

  Poe, p. 329. Professor Wightman F. Melton, in the South Atlantic Quarterly, April 1912, pointed out parallels between “Eleonora” and “Annabel Lee”; verbal resemblances, however, are rather to “The Raven.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 637:]

  A student, Mr. Richard Oliver, thought the motto inserted in the second version strengthens this view, which I prefer myself.

§  Thanks are due to my students Greta Boxer, Eileen O’Connor, Adrienne Rosignana, and Patricia Walsh for suggestions on interpretation.

*  Edward L. Carey to Charles West Thomson, quoted by Heartman and Canny, A Bibliography of . . . Poe (1943), p. 68.

 


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Eleonora)