Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “To Helen,” “Irene,” and “Sonnet — To Science” (reprints), Casket, May 1831, 6:239-240


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[page 239, column 2, continued:]

We extract the following poetry from a small 18mo. volume of poems, by EDGAR A. POE, a part of which was published in a former edition. The author is, we believe, a member of the U. S. Corps of Cadets, as the volume is dedicated to that body.

Helen, thy beauty is to me

Like those Nicean barks of yore,

That gently, o’er a perfum’d sea,

The weary way-worn wanderer bore

To his own native shore.

 

On desperate seas long wont to roam,

Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,

Thy Naiad airs have brought me home

To the beauty of fair Greece,

And the grandeur of old Rome.

 

Lo! in that little window-niche

How statue-like I see thee stand!

The folded scroll within thy hand —

A Psyche from the regions which

Are Holy land!

————

IRENE.

’Tis now (so sings the soaring moon)

Midnight in the sweet month of June,

When winged visions love to lie

Lazily upon beauty’s eye;

Or worse — upon her brow to dance

In panoply of old romance,

Till thoughts and locks are left, alas!

A ne’er-to-be untangled mass. [page 240:]

 

An influence dewy, drowsy, dim,

Is dripping from that golden rim;

Gray towers are mouldering into rest,

Wrapping the fog around their breast:

Looking like Lethe, see! the lake

A conscious slumber seems to take,

And would not for the world awake:

The rosemary sleeps upon the grave —

The lily lolls upon the wave —

And [[a]] million bright pines to and fro,

Are rocking lullabies as they go,

To the lone oak that reels with bliss,

Nodding above the dim abyss.

 

All beauty sleeps: and lo! where lies,

With casement open to the skies,

Irene, with her destinies!

Thus hums the moon within her ear,

“O, lady sweet! how camest thou here?

Strange are thine eyelids — strange thy dress,

And strange thy glorious length of tress!

Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,

A wonder to our desert trees!

Some gentle wind hath thought it right

To ope [[open]] thy window to the night,

And wanton airs from the tree top,

Laughingly thro’ the lattice drop,

And wave this crimson canopy,

Like a banner o’er thy dreaming eye!

Lady, awake! lady, awake!

For the holy Jesus’ sake!

For strangely — fearfully in this hall,

My tinted shadows rise and fall!”

 

The lady sleeps: the dead all sleep —

At least as long as Love doth weep:

Entranc’d [[,]] the spirit loves to lie

As long as — tears on Memory’s eye:

But when a week or two go by,

And the light laughter chokes the sigh,

Indignant from the tomb doth take

Its way to some remember’d lake,

Where oft — in life — with friends — it went

To bathe in the pure element,

And there, from the untrodden grass,

Wreathing for its transparent brow

Those flowers that say (ah! hear them now)

To the night winds as they pass,

“Ai! ai! alas! alas!”

Pores for a moment, ere it go,

On the clear waters there that flow,

Then sinks within (weigh’d down by wo)

Th’ uncertain, shadowy heaven below.

  * * * * * *  

The lady sleeps: oh! may her sleep

As it is lasting so be deep —

No icy worms about her creep.

I pray to God that she may lie

Forever with as calm an eye,

That chamber chang’d for one more holy —

That bed for one more melancholy.

 

Far in the forest, dim and old,

For her may some tall vault unfold,

Against whose sounding door she hath thrown,

In childhood, many an idle stone —

Some tomb, which oft hath flung its black

And vampire-winged pannels back,

Flutt’ring triumphant o’er the palls

Of her old family funerals.

Science! meet daughter of old Time thou art.

Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes!

Why prey’st thou thus upon the poet’s heart,

Vulture! whose wings are dull realities!

How should he love thee, or how deem thee wise,

Who would’st not leave him in his wandering, [column 2:]

To seek for treasure in the jewell’d skies,

Albeit he soar with an undaunted wing?

Hast thou not dragg’d Diana from her car,

And driv’n the Hamadryad from the wood

To seek a shelter in some happier star?

The gentle Naiad from her fountain flood?

The elfin from the green grass? and from me

The summer dream beneath the shrubbery?

 


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Notes:

Although the brief introductory note might be presumed to be by one of the editors of The Casket, Mabbott (Poems, 1969, 1:542) notes that this item was reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post of May 21, 1831, and attributes it to Poe’s friend Lambert A. Wilmer. Mabbott further notes that the Casket for May was issued at the end of the month.


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[S:2 - Casket, 1831] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Sonnet — To Helen, Irene, and Sonnet — To Science (reprints)