Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Tamerlane” (Text-03), “Wilmer” manuscript collection, about 1828


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[[Tamerlane]]

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Gurgled in my pleas’d ear the crush

Of empires, with the captive’s prayer

The hum of suitors & the tone

Of flatt’ry ‘round a sov’reign’s throne.

6

The storm had ceas’d & I awoke —

Its spirit cradled me to sleep,

And as it pass’d me by there broke

Strange light upon me, tho’ it were

My soul in mystery to steep:

For I was not as I had been —

The child of Nature, without care,

Or thought save of the passing scene.

7

My passions, from that hapless hour

Usurp’d a tyranny which men

Have deem’d since I have reach’d to power

My innate nature — be it so:

But, father, there liv’d one who then,

Then, in my boyhood, when their fire

Burn’d with a still intenser glow

(For passion must with youth expire)

Ev’n then who deem’d this iron heart

In woman’s weakness had a part.

8

I have no words, alas! to tell

The loveliness of loving well!

Nor would I now attempt to trace

The more than beauty of a face

Which, ev’n to this impassion’d mind,

Leaves not its memory behind.

In spring of life have ye ne’er dwelt

Some object of delight upon

With steadfast eye, till ye had felt

The earth reel, & the vision gone?

So have I held to Memory’s eye

One object, and but one, until

[[. . .]]

11

Yes! she was worthy of all love —

Such as I taught her from the time

My spirit with the tempest strove

When, on the mountain peak alone,

Ambition lent it a new tone,

And bade it first to dream of crime.

There were no holier thoughts than thine.

I lov’d thee as an angel might,

With ray of the all-living light

Which blazes upon Edis’ shrine —

It is not surely sin to name

With such as mine that mystic flame.

I had no being but in thee —

The world, with all its train of bright

And happy beauty — (for to me

All was an undefin’d delight.)

The world — its joy — its share of pain

Unheeded then — its bodied forms

Of varied being which contain

The bodiless spirits of the storms,

The sunshine, & the calm — th’ ideal

And fleeting vanitites of dreams

Feafully beautiful — the real

Nothings of mid-day waking life —

Of an enchanted life, which seems,

Now as I look back, the strife

Of an ill demon with a power

Which left me in an evil hour —

All that I felt, or saw, or thought,

Crowding confusedly became

(With thine unearthly beauty fraught —)

Thou — & the nothing of a name.

12

The passionate spirit which hath known

And deeply felt the silent tone

Of its own self-supremancy —

Which knows (believe! for now on me

Truth flashes thro’ Eternity,

There is a power in the high spirit

To know the fate it will inherit)

The soul which feels such power will still

Find Pride the ruler of its will.

13

Yes! I was proud & ye who know

The magic of that meaning word

So oft perverted, will bestow

Your scorn perhaps when ye have heard

That the proud spirit had been broken,

The proud heart burst in agony

At one upbraiding word or token

Of her, that’s heart idolatry!

I was ambitious — have ye known

The fiery pssion? Ye have not —

A cottager, I mark’d a throne

Of half the world as all my own

And murmur’d at such lowly lot;

But it had pass’d me as a dream

Which, of light step, flies with the dew

(That kindling thought) — did not the beam

Of Beauty, which did guide it thro’

The live-long summer day, oppress

My mind with double loveliness!

14

We walk’d together on the crown

Of a high mountain which look’d down

Afar from its proud natural towers

Of rock & forest on the hills;

The dwindled hills, wence, amid bowers

Her magic hand had rear’d around

Gush’d shoutingly a thousand rills,

Encircling with a glitt’ring bound

Of diamond sunshine & sweet spray

Two mossy huts of the Taglay.

15

I spoke to her of power and pride,

But mystically, in such guise,

That she might deem it nought beside

The moment’s converse; in her eyes

I read, perhaps too carelessly,

A mingled feeling with my own —

The flush on her bright cheek to me

Seem’d to become a queenly throne

Too well that I should let it be

A light in the dark wild alone.

16

There, in that hour, a thought came o’er

My mind it had not known before —

To leave her while we both were young:

To follow my high fate among

The strife of nations, & redeem

The idle words which, as a dream,

Now sounded to her heedless ear —

I held no doubt, I knew no fear

Of peril in my wild career —

To gain an empire & throw down

As nuptial dowry a queen’s crown

The undying hope which now oppress’d

A spirit ne’er to be at rest.

17

Who that had known the silent thought

Of a young peasant’s bosom then

Had deem’d him, in compassion, aught

But one whom Phantasy had thrown

Her mantle over? among men

Lion ambition is chain’d down,

And crouches to a keeper’s hand —

Not so in deserts where the grand

The wild, the terrible conspire

With their own breath to fan his fire.

18

Look ‘round thee now on Samarcand!

Is she not queen of earth? her pride

Above all cities? in her hand

Their destinies? in all beside

Of glory which the world hath known

Stands she not nobly & alone?

And who her sov’reign? Timur — he

Whom the astonish’d people saw

Striding o’er empires haughtily

A diadem’d outlaw!

More than the Zinghis in his fame —

And now what has he? even a name.

19

The sound of revelry to night

Comes o’er me, with the mingled voice

Of many with a breast as light

As if ‘twere not their parting hour

From one in whom they did rejoice —

As in a leader, haply; Power

Its venom secretly imparts —

And I have naught with human hearts.

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Notes:

This manuscript survives only as a substantial fragment.


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[S:1 - MS, 1828] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Tamerlane [Text-03]