Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Al Aaraaf” (Text-E), ­Poems­ (1831), pp. 83-109


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­ ­ [page 83:]

AL ARAAF [[AARAAF]].

———

PART FIRST.

 

Mysterious star!

Thou wert my dream

All a long summer night —

Be now my theme!

By this clear stream,

Of thee will I write;

Meantime from afar

Bathe me in light!

 

Thy world has not the dross of ours,

Yet all the beauty — all the flowers

That list our love, or deck our bowers

In dreamy gardens, where do lie

Dreamy maidens all the day, ­[page 84:]

While the silver winds of Circassy

On violet couches faint away.

 

Little — oh! little dwells in thee

Like unto what on earth we see:

Beauty’s eye is here the bluest

In the falsest and untruest —

On the sweetest air doth float

The most sad and solemn note —

If with thee be broken hearts,

Joy so peacefully departs,

That its echo still doth dwell,

Like the murmur in the shell.

Thou! thy truest type of grief

Is the gentle falling leaf —

Thou! thy framing is so holy

Sorrow is not melancholy.

 

‘Twas a sweet time for Nesace — for there

Her world lay lolling on the golden air,

Near four bright suns — a temporary rest —

A garden spot in desert of the blest.

 

Away — away — ‘mid seas of rays that roll

Empyrean splendor o’er th’ unchained soul — ­[page 85:]

The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)

Can struggle to its destin’d eminence —

To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode,

And late to ours, the favor’d one of God —

But, now, the ruler of an anchor’d realm,

She throws aside the sceptre — leaves the helm,

And, amid incense, and high spiritual hymns,

Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.

 

Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely earth,

Whence sprang the “idea of Beauty” into birth,

(Falling in wreaths through many a startled star,

Like woman’s hair ‘mid pearls, until, afar,

It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt)

She look’d into infinity — and knelt.

Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled —

Fit emblems of the model of her world —

Seen but in beauty — not impeding sight

Of other beauty glittering through the light —

A wreath that twined each starry form around,

And all the opal’d air in colour bound.

 

All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed

Of flowers: of lilies such as rear the head ­[page 86:]

On the fair Capo Deucato,* and sprang

So eagerly around about to hang

Upon the flying footsteps of — deep pride —

Of her who lov’d a mortal and so died —

The Sephalica, budding with young bees,

Uprear’d its purple stem around her knees —

And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnamed —

Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham’d

All other loveliness: its honied dew

(The fabled nectar that the heathen knew)

Deliriously sweet, was dropp’d from Heaven,

And fell on gardens of the unforgiven

In Trebizond, and on a sunny flower

So like its own above that, to this hour,

It still remaineth, torturing the bee

With madness, and unwonted reverie —

In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf

And blossom of the fairy plant, in grief

Disconsolate linger — grief that hangs her head,

Repenting follies that full long have fled,

Heaving her white breast to the balmy air  ­[page 87:]

Like guilty beauty, chasten’d and more fair —

Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light

She fears to perfume, perfuming the night —

And Clytia* pondering between many a sun,

While pettish tears adown her petals run —

And that aspiring flower that sprang on earth —

And died, ere scarce exalted into birth,

Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing

Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king —

And Valisnerian lotus thither flown

From struggling with the waters of the Rhone —

And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante!§

Isola d’oro! — Fior di Levante! —

And the Nelumbo bud|| that floats for ever

With Indian Cupid down the holy river — ­[page 88:]

Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given

To bear the goddess’ song,* in odours, up to heaven —

 

“Spirit! that dwellest where

In the deep sky,

The terrible and fair,

In beauty vie!

Beyond the line of blue —

The boundary of the star

Which turneth at the view

Of thy barrier and thy bar —

Of the barrier overgone

   By the comets who were cast

From their pride, and from their throne

To be drudges till the last —

To be carriers of fire

(The fire of their heart)

With speed that may not tire

And with pain that shall not part —

Who livest — that we know —

In Eternity — we feel — ­[page 89:] 

But the shadow of whose brow

What spirit shall reveal?

Though the beings whom thy Nesace,

Thy messenger hath known

Have dreamed for thy infinity

A model* of their own —

 

Thy will is done, O! God!

The star hath ridden high

Through many a tempest, but she rode

Beneath thy burning eye:

And here, in thought, to thee —

In thought that can alone ­[page 90:]

Ascend thy empire, and so be

A partner of thy throne —

By wing’d Fantasy,*

My embassy is given

Till secresy [[secrecy]] shall knowledge be

In the environs of heaven.”

 

She ceas’d — and buried then her burning cheek

Abash’d, amid the lilies there, to seek

A shelter from the fervor of his eye,

For the stars trembled at the Deity.

She stirr’d not — breath’d not — for a voice was there

How solemnly pervading the calm air!

A sound of silence on the startled ear

Which dreamy poets name “the music of the sphere.”

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, thus, in realms on high

The eternal voice of God is passing by,  ­[page 91:]

And the red winds are withering in the sky!

“What though in worlds which sightless* Cycles run

Link’d to a little system, and one sun

Where all my love is folly and the crowd

Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud,

The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean wrath —

(Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?)

What though in worlds which own a single sun

The sands of Time grow dimmer as they run,

Yet thine is my resplendency, so given

To bear my secrets through the upper heaven:

Leave tenantless thy chrystal home, and fly,

With all thy train, athwart the moony sky —

Apart — like fire-flies in Sicilian night,

And wing to other worlds another light;

Divulge the secrets of thy embassy

To the proud orbs that twinkle — and so be

To ev’ry heart a barrier and a ban

Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man.”  ­[page 92:]

 

Up rose the maiden in the yellow night,

The single-mooned eve — on earth we plight

Our faith to one love — and one moon adore —

The birth place of young Beauty had no more.

As sprang that yellow star from downy hours

Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers,

And bent o’er sheeny mountain, and dim plain

Her way — but left not yet her Therasæan[[]] reign.

 

­ ­ [page 95:]

AL AARAAF.

———

 

PART SECOND.

 

High on a mountain of enamell’d head —

Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed

Of giant pasturage lying at his ease,

Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees

With many a mutter’d “hope to be forgiven”

What time the moon is quadrated in heaven —

Of rosy head that, towering far away

Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray

Of sunken suns at eve, at noon of night,

While the moon danc’d with the fair stranger light —

Uprear’d upon such height arose a pile

Of gorgeous columns on th’ unburthen’d air,

Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile ­[page 96:]

Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,

And nursled the young mountain in its lair:

Of molten stars* their pavement, such as fall

Through 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 his dusky wing:

But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen

The dimness of this world: that greyish green

That Nature loves the best for Beauty’s grave

Lurk’d in each cornice, round each architrave —

And ev’ry sculptur’d cherub thereabout

That, from his marble dwelling peered out

Seem’d earthly in the shallow of his niche —

Achaian statues in a world so rich?  ­[page 97:]

Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis

From Balbec, and thy [[the]] stilly, clear abyss

Too beautiful Gomorrah! O[[!]] the wave*

Is now upon thee — but too late to save! —

 

Sound loves to revel near a summer night:

Witness the murmur of the grey twilight

That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco,

Of many a wild star-gazer long ago —

That stealeth ever on the ear of him

Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim,

And sees the darkness coming as a cloud —

Is not its form — its voice — most palpable and loud?

 

But what is this? — it cometh — and it brings

A music with it — ‘tis the rush of wings —   ­[page 98:]

A pause  — and then a sweeping, falling strain,

And Nesace is in her halls again:

From the wild energy of wanton haste

Her cheek was flushing, and her lips apart;

And zone that clung around her gentle waist

Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart:

Within the centre of that hall to breathe

She paus’d and panted, Zanthe! all beneath —

The fairy light that kiss’d her golden hair,

And long’d to rest, yet could but sparkle there.

 

† [[*]]Young flowers were whispering in melody,

To happy flowers that night — and tree to tree;

Fountains were gushing music as they fell

In many a star-lit grove, or moon-lit dell;

Yet silence came upon material things —

Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings —

And sound alone that from the spirit sprang

Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang.

 

“Neath blue-bell or streamer —

Or tufted wild spray  ­[page 99:]

That keeps, from the dreamer,

The moonbeam away*

Bright beings! that ponder,

With half-closing eyes,

On the stars which your wonder

Hath drawn from the skies,

Till they glance thro’ the shade, and

Come down to your brow

Like —— eyes of the maiden

Who calls on you now

Arise! from your dreaming

In violet bowers,

To duty beseeming

These star-litten hours —

And shake from your tresses

Encumber’d with dew

The breath of those kisses

That cumber them too —

(O! how, without you, Love!

could angels be blest)?  ­[page 100:]

Those kisses of true love

That lull’d ye to rest:

Up! — shake from your wing

Each hindering thing:

The dew of the night —

It would weigh down your flight;

And true love caresses —

O! leave them apart,

They are light on the tresses,

But hang on the heart.

 

Ligeia! Ligeia!

My beautiful one!

Whose harshest idea

Will to melody run,

O! is it thy will

On the breezes to toss?

Or, capriciously still,

Like the lone Albatross,*

Incumbent on night

(As she on the air)

To keep watch with delight

On the harmony there? ­[page 101:]

Ligeia! whatever

Thy image may be,

No magic shall sever

Thy music from thee:

Thou hast bound many eyes

In a dreamy sleep —

But the strains still arise

Which thy vigilance keep —

The sound of the rain

Which leaps down to the flower,

And dances again

In the rhythm of the shower —

* The murmur that springs

From the growing of grass

Are the music of things —

But are modell’d alas! —

Away, then my dearest,

O! hie thee away,

To springs that lie clearest

Beneath the moon ray —

To lone lake that smiles, ­[page 102:]

In its dream of deep rest,

At the many star-isles

That enjewel its breast —

Where wild flowers, creeping,

Have mingled their shade,

On its margin is sleeping

Full many a maid —

Some have left the cool glade, and

Have slept with the bee*

Arouse them my maiden,

On moorland and lea —

Go! breathe on their slumber,

All softly in ear,

The musical number

They slumber’d to hear —

For what can awaken

An angel so soon,

Whose sleep hath been taken

Beneath the cold moon,  ­[page 103:]

As the spell which no slumber

Of witchery may test,

The rythmical number

Which lull’d him to rest?”

 

Spirits in wing, and angels to the view,

A thousand seraphs burst th’ Empyrean thro’,

Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight —

Seraphs in all but “Knowledge,” the keen light

That fell, refracted, thro’ thy bounds, afar

O! Death! from eye of God upon that star:

Sweet was that error — sweeter still that death —

Sweet was that error — ev’n with us the breath

Of Science dims the mirror of our joy —

To them ‘t were the Simoom, and would destroy —

For what (to them) availeth it to know

That Truth is Falsehood — or that Bliss is Woe?

Sweet was their death — with them to die was rife

With the last ecstacy of satiate life —

Beyond that death no immortality —

But sleep that pondereth and is not “to be” —

And there — oh! may my weary spirit dwell — [hell!*

Apart from heaven’s eternity — and yet how far from   ­[page 104:]

What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim,

Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn?

But two: they fell: for Heaven no grace imparts

To those who hear not for their beating hearts.

A maiden angel and her seraph lover —

O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over)

Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known?

Unguided Love hath fallen — ‘mid “tears of perfect moan:”*

He was a goodly spirit — he who fell:

A wanderer by mossy-mantled well —

A gazer on the lights that shine above —

A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:

What wonder? For each star is eye-like there,

And looks so sweetly down on beauty’s hair —   ­[page 105:]

And they, and ev’ry mossy spring were holy

To his love haunted heart and melancholy.

The night had found (to him a night of wo)

Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo —

Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky,

And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie.

Here sate he with his love — his dark eye bent

With eagle gaze along the firmament:

Now turn’d it upon her — but ever then

It trembled to one constant star again.

“Ianthe, dearest, see! how dim that ray!

How lovely ’tis to look so far away!

She seem’d not thus upon that autumn eve

I left her gorgeous halls — nor mourn’d to leave:

That eve — that eve — I should remember well —

The sun ray dropp’d, in Lemnos, with a spell

On th’ ‘Arabesq’ carving of a gilded hall

Wherein I sate, and on the drapried wall —

And on my eye lids — O! the heavy light!

How drowsily it weigh’d them into night!

On flowers, before, and mist, and love, they ran

With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan:

But O! that light! — I slumber’d — death, the while,

Stole o’er my senses in that lovely isle ­[page 106:]

So softly that no single, silken hair

Awoke that slept — or knew that it was there.

 

The last spot of earth’s orb I trod upon

Was a proud temple call’d the Parthenon*

More beauty clung around her column’d wall

Than ev’n thy glowing bosom beats withal,

And when old Time my wing did disenthral

Thence sprang I — as the eagle from his tower

And years I left behind me in an hour.

What time upon her airy bounds I hung

One half the the [[sic ]] garden of her globe was flung

Unrolling as a chart unto my view —

Tenantless cities of the desert too!

Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then,

And half I wished to be again of men.

 

’ [[”]]My Angelo! and why of them to be?

A brighter dwelling place is here for thee —

And greener fields than in yon world above,

And women’s loveliness — and passionate love.  ­[page 107:]

“But, list, Ianthe! when the air so soft

Fail’d, as my pennon’d* spirit leapt aloft,

Perhaps my brain grew dizzy — but the world

I left so late was into chaos hurl’d —

Sprang from her station, on the winds apart,

And roll’d, a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart.

Methought, my sweet one, then I ceas’d to soar,

And fell — not swiftly as I rose before,

But with a downward, tremulous motion thro’

Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto!

Nor long the measure of my falling hours,

For neared of all stars was thine to ours —

Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth,

A red Dædalion on the timid earth!

“We came — and to thy earth — but not to us

Be given our lady’s bidding to discuss:

We came, my love; around, above, below,

Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go,

Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod

She grants to us, as granted by her God —

But, Angelo, than thine grey Time unfurl’d

Never his fairy wing o’er fairier world!  ­[page 108:]

Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes

Alone could see the phantom in the skies,

When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be

Headlong thitherward o’er the starry sea —

But when its glory swell’d upon the sky,

As glowing beauty’s bust beneath man’s eye,

We paus’d before the heritage of men,

And thy star trembled — as doth beauty then!”

Thus, in discourse, the lovers whiled away

The night that waned and waned and brought no day.

They fell: for heaven to them no hope imparts

Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 86:]

*  On Santa Maura — olim Deucadia.

  Sappho

  This flower is much noticed by Lewehoeck and Tournefort. The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 87:]

*  Clytia — The Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ a better-known term — the turnsol which continually towards the sun, covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewy clouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heat of the day. — B. de. St. Pierre.

  There is cultivated in the king’s garden, at Paris, a species of serpentine aloes without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odor of the vanilla, during the time of its expansion, which is very short. It does not blow till towards the month of July — you then perceive it gradually open its petals — expand them — fade, and die —.St. Pierre.  

  There is found, in the Rhone, a beautiful lily, of the Valisnerian kind. Its stem will stretch to the length of three or four feet  — thus preserving its head above the water in the swellings of the river.

§  The Hyacinth.

||  It is a fiction of the Indians, that Cupid was first seen floating in one of these down the river Ganges — and that he still loves the cradle of his childhood.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 88:]

*  And golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints. — Rev. St. John.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 89:]

*  The Humanitarians held that God was to be understood as having a really human form. — Vide Clarke’s Sermons, vol. 1, page 26, fol. edit.

The drift of Milton’s argument, leads him to employ language which would appear, at first sight, to verge upon their doctrine; but it will be seen immediately, that he guards himself against the charge of having adopted one of the most ignorant errors of the dark ages of the church. — Dr. Summers’ [[Sumner’s]] Notes on Milton’s Christian Doctrine.

This opinion, in spite of many testimonies to the contrary, could never have been very general. Andeus, a Syrian of Mesopotamia, was condemned for the opinion, as heretical. He lived in the beginning of the fourth century. His disciples were called Anthropmorphites. — Vide Du Pin.

Among Milton’s poems are these lines:

Dicite sacrorum præsides nemorum Deæ, &c.

Quis ille primus cujus ex imagine

Natura solers finxit humanum genus?

Eternus, incorruptus, æquævus polo

Unusque et universus exemplar Dei. — And afterwards,

Non cui profundum Cæcitas lumen dedit

Dircæus augur vidit hunc alto sinu, &c. 

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 90:]

*  Seltsamen Tochter Jovis

Seinem Schosskinde

Der Phantasie. — Goethe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 91:]

*  Sightless — too small to be seen. — Legge.

  I have often noticed a peculiar movement of the fire-fly.  They will collect in a body, and fly off, from a common centre, into innumerable radii.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 92:]

  Therasæ, or Therasea, the island mentioned by Seneca, which, in a moment, arose from the sea to the eyes of astonished mariners.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 96:]

*  Some star which, from the ruin’d roof

Of shak’d Olympus, by mischance, did fall — Milton.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 97:]

*  “Oh! The wave” — Ula Degusi is the Turkish appellation; but, on its own shores, it is called Bahar Loth, or Almotanah. There were, undoubtedly, more than two cities engluphed in the “dead sea.” In the valley of Siddim were five — Adrah, Zeboin, Zoar, Sodom, and Gomorrah. Stephen, of Byzantium, mentions eight, and Strabo, thirteeen, (engulphed) — but the last is out of all reason.

It is said, (Tacitus, Strabo, Josephus, Daniel, of St. Saba, Nau, Maundrell, Troilo, D’Arvieux) that, after an excessive drought, the vestiges of columns, walls, &c. are seen above the surface. At any season, such remains may be discoverd by looking down into the transparent lake, and at such distances as would argue the existence of many settlements in the space now usurped by the “Asphaltites.”

  Eyraco — Chaldea.

  I have often thought I could distinctly hear the sound of the darkness as it stole over the horizon.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 98:]

*  Fairies use flowers for their charactery — Merry Wives of Windsor.   [[William Shakespeare]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 99:]

*  In Scripture is this passage — “The sun shall not harm thee by day, nor the moon by night.” It is, perhaps, not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has the effect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposed to its rays, to which circumstance the passage evidently alludes.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 100:]

*  The Albatross is said to sleep on the wing.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 101:]

*  I met with this idea in an old English tale, which I am now unable to obtain, and quote from memory: — “The verie essence, and, as it were, springe-heade, and origine of all musiche, is the verie pleasannte sounde which the trees of the forest do make when they growe.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 102:]

*  The wild bee will not sleep in the shade if there be moonlight.

The rhyme in this verse, as in one about sixty lines before, has an appearance of affectation. It is, however, imitated from Sir W. Scott, or rather from Claud Halcro — in whose mouth I admired its effect:

O!  were there an island,

Tho’ ever so wild,

Where woman might smile, and

No man be beguil’d, &c.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 103:]

*  With the Arabians there is a medium between Heaven and Hell, where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be 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,

Luis Ponce de Leon.

Sorrow is not excluded from “Al Aaraaf,” but it is that sorrow which the living love to cherish for the dead, and which, in some minds, resembles the delirium of opium. The passionate excitement of love and the buoyancy of spirit attendant upon intoxication, are its less holy pleasures — the price of which, to those souls who make choice of “Al Aaraaf” as their residence after life, is final death and annihilation.  

[[†]]  There be tears of perfect moan

Wept for thee in Helicon. — Milton.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 106:]

*  It was entire in 1687 — the most elevated spot in Athens.

  Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows

Than have the white breasts of the queen of love. — Marlowe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 107:]

*  Pennon — for pinion — Milton.


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Notes:

Throughout this text, Poe gives us footnotes, all of which have been included here. In the original, these footnotes fall at the bottom of each page. Since there cannot, effectively, be such pages here, the footnotes have been placed at the appropriate spot in the text where a page break would fall in the original. These footnotes are shown in a smaller font from the rest of the text, preceeded by a horizontal line and followed by three blank lines.

There is some inconsistency, in the original, between the use of square brackets and parentheses, both of which appear throughout and have been presented here as they were printed in 1829.

In the original, parts I and II have separate half-title pages, which have not been reproduced here. Also, page 105 is misnumbered as 150.


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[S:1 - POEMS, 1831 (fac, 1936)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Al Aaraaf (Text-E)