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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "[Excerpts from 'Al Aaraaf' (B), 'Tamerlane' and 'To ——' ]," the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, December, 1829, pp. 296-298. The introductory comments, aside from those taken from Poe's letter, are presumably by John Neal, owner and editor of the Yankee.



    The following passages are from the manuscript-works of a young author, about to be published in Baltimore. He is entirely a stranger to us, but with all their faults, if the remainder of "Al Aaraaf" and "Tamerlane" are as good as the body of the extracts here given — to say nothing of the more extraordinary parts, he will deserve to stand high — very high — in the estimation of the shining brotherhood. Whether he will do so, however, must depend, not so much upon his worth now in mere poetry, as upon his worth hereafter in something yet loftier and more generous — we allude to stronger properties of the mind, to the magnanimous determination that enables a youth to endure the present, whatever the present may be, in the hope, or rather in the the belief, the fixed, unwavering belief, that in the future he will find his reward. "I am young," he says in a letter to one who has laid it on our table for a good purpose, "I am young — yet not twenty — am a poet — if deep worship of all beauty can make me one — and wish to be so in the more common meaning of the word. I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination. (By the way, do you remember — or did your ever read the exclamation of Shelley about Shakespeare? — 'What a number of ideas must have been afloat before such an author could arise!') I appeal to you as a man that loves the same beauty which I adore — the beauty of the natural blue sky and the sunshiny earth — there can be no tie more strong than that of brother for brother — it is not so much that they love one another, as that they both love the same parent — their affections are always running in the same direction — the same channel — and cannot help mingling.

    I am and have been, from my childhood, an idler. It cannot therefore be said that
                   'I left a calling for this idle trade,
                     A duty broke — a father disobeyed' —

for I have no father — nor mother.

    I am about to publish a volume of 'Poems,' the greater part written before I was fifteen. Speaking about 'Heaven,' the editor of the Yankee says, 'He might write a beautiful, if not a magnificent poem' — (the very first words of encouragement I ever remember to have heard.) I am very certain that as yet I have not written either — but that I can, I will take an oath — if they will give me time.

    The poems to be published are 'Al Aaraaf' — 'Tamerlane' — one about four, and the other about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces. 'Al Aaraaf' has some good poetry, and much extravagance, which I have not had time to throw away.

    'Al Aaraaf' is a tale of another world — the star discovered by Tycho Brahe, which appeared and disappeared so suddenly — or rather, it is no tale at all. I will insert an extract, about the palace of its presiding Deity, in which you will see that I have supposed many of the lost sculptures of our world to have flown (in spirit) to the star, 'Al Aaraaf' — a delicate place, more suited to their divinity."

[The following excerpts of "Al Aaraaf" are taken, respectively, from lines 11-39 of part II and lines 126-132 of part I of the full version published late  in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.]

Uprear'd upon such height arose a pile
    Of gorgeous columns on th' unburthen'd air —
Flashing, from Parian marble, that twin-smile
    Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,
    And nursled the young mountain in its lair:
*Of molten stars their pavement — such as fall
Thro' the ebon air — besilvering the pall
Of their own dissolution while they die —
Adorning, then, the dwellings of the sky;
A dome by linked light from Heaven let down,
Sat gently on these columns as a crown;
A window of one circular diamond there,
Look'd out above into the purple air,
And rays from God shot down that meteor chain
And hallow'd all the beauty twice again,
Save when, between th' Empyrean, and that ring,
Some eager spirit flapp'd a dusky wing:
But, on the pillars, seraph eyes have seen
The dimness of this world: that grayish green
That nature loves the best for Beauty's grave,
Lurked in each cornice — round each architrave —
And ev'ry sculptur'd cherub thereabout
That from his marble dwelling ventured out,
Seemed earthly in the shallow of his niche —
Archaian statues in a world so rich?
riezes from Tadmor and Persepolis —
From Balbec and thy stilly, clear abyss
Of beautiful Gomorrah! — oh! the wave
Is now upon thee — but too late to save!
Far down within the crystal of the lake
Thy swollen pillars tremble — and so quake
The hearts of many wanderers who look in
Thy luridness of beauty — and of sin.
Another —
— Silence is the voice of God —
Ours is a world of words : quiet we call
"Silence" — which is the merest word of all.
Here Nature speaks — and ev'n ideal things
Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings ;
But ah! not so, when in the realms on high,
The eternal voice of God is moving by,
And the red winds are withering in the sky !
[The following excerpts of "Tamerlane" are taken from lines 28-64, 102-111 and 222-243 of the full version published late in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.]

From Tamerlane —

The fever'd diadem on my brow
    I claim'd and won usurpingly:
Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
    Rome to the Cæsar — this to me?
        The heritage of a kingly mind
And a proud spirit which hath striven
        Triumphantly with human-kind.

On mountain soil I first drew life,
    The mists of the Taglay have shed
    Nightly their dews upon my head;
And, I believe, the winged strife
And tumult of the headlong air
Hath nestl'd in my very hair.

So late from Heaven, that dew, it fell,
    Mid dreams of an unholy night,
Upon me with the touch of Hell,
    While the red flashing of the light
From clouds that hung, like banners, o'er,
    Seem'd then to my half-closing eye
    The pageantry of monarchy;
And the deep trumpet-thunder's roar
    Came hurriedly upon me telling
        Of human battle (near me swelling.)
        (O! how my spirit would rejoice,
And leap within me at the cry)
The battle-cry of Victory!

The rain came down upon my head
    Unshelter'd and the heavy wind
    Was giantlike — so thou, my mind!
It was but man, I thought, who shed
    Laurels upon me — and the rush —
The torrent of the chilly air
Gurgled within my ear the crush
    Of empires — with the captive's prayer;
The hum of suiters, and the tone
Of flattery round a sovereign-throne.

Young Love's first lesson is —— the heart:
    For mid that sunshine and those smiles,
When, from our little cares apart,
    And laughing at her girlish wiles,
I'd throw me on her throbbing breast,
    And pour my spirit out in tears,
There was no need to speak the rest —
    No need to quiet any fears
Of her — who ask'd no reason why,
But turn'd on me her quiet eye.

Tamerlane dying —
Father ! I firmly do believe —
    I know — for Death, who comes for me
From regions of the blest afar,
(Where there is nothing to deceive)
    Hath left his iron gate ajar ;
And rays of truth you cannot see
Are flashing through Eternity —
I do believe that Eblis hath
A snare in ev'ry human path ;
Else how when in the holy grove
I wandered of the idol, Love,
Who daily scents his snowy wings
With incense of burnt offerings
From the most undefiled things —
Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
Above with trelliced rays from Heaven
No mote may shun — no tiniest fly
The lightning of his eagle eye.
How was it that Ambition crept
    Unseen, amid the revels there,
Till, growing bold, he laugh'd and leapt
    In the tangles of Love's brilliant hair?
Passage from the minor poems.

[The following excerpts of "To ——" are taken from lines 13-26 of the full version published late in 1829 as part of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.]

If my peace hath flown away
In a night — or in a day —
In a vision — or in none —
Is it therefore the less gone?
I am standing mid the roar
Of a weatherbeaten shore,
And I hold within my hand
Some particles of sand —
How few ! and how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep!
My early hopes ? — No — they
Went gloriously away,
Like lightning from the sky
At once — and so will I.
Having allowed our youthful writer to be heard in his own behalf, — what more can we do for lovers of genuine poetry? Nothing. They who are judges will not need more; and they who are not — why waste words upon them? We shall not.

[The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette was owned and edited by John Neal. In Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), from which these not-yet published extracts were taken, Poe dedicated "Tamerlane" to him.]

[The final four lines of "Al Aaraaf" appear only in this selection of extracts. As they apparently did not survive the final editing of the full poem, one may presume them among the "much extravagance" which Poe eventually did find time to "throw away."]

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