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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Israfel," Richmond Examiner proof sheets, about September 1849


In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
    "Whose heart-strings are a lute;"
None sing so wildly well
As the angel Israfel,
And the giddy stars, (so legends tell)
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
    Of his voice, all mute.

Tottering above
    In her highest noon,
    The enamoured Moon
Blushes with love,
    While, to listen, the red levin
    (With the rapid Pleiads, even,
    Which were seven,)
    Pauses in Heaven.

And they say, (the starry choir
    And the other listening things)
That Israfeli's fire
Is owing to that lyre
    By which he sits and sings —
The trembling living wire
Of those unusual strings.

But the skies that angel trod,
    Where deep thoughts are a duty —
Where Love's a grown-up god —
    Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
    Which we worship in a star.

Therefore, thou art not wrong,
    Israfeli, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong,
    Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstacies above
    With thy burning measures suit —
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love,
    With the fervor of thy lute —
    Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
    Is a world of sweets and sours;
    Our flowers are merely — flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
    Is the sunshine of ours.
If I could dwell
Where Israfel
    Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
    A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
    From my lyre within the sky.


   * And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God's creatures. — KORAN.


Whitty prints the footnote mark as a numeric 1, but this appears to be a mere matter of form. An asterisk has been used here as a more typical indicator for a footnote.

[S:1 - RAOP, 1845 (fac, 1941)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Israfel (F)