Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Tamerlane” (Text-C), ­Tamerlane, Tamerlane and Minor Poems­ (1829), pp. 43-54


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[page 43:]

TAMERLANE.

—————

 

1

 

Kind solace in a dying hour! —

Such, father, is not (now) my theme —

I will not madly deem that power

Of Earth may shrive me of the sin

Unearthly pride hath revell’d in —

I have no time to dote or dream:

You call it hope — that fire of fire!

It is but agony of desire:

If I can hope — Oh God! I can —

Its fount is holier — more divine —

I would not call thee fool, old man,

But such is not a gift of thine.

 

2

 

Know thou the secret of a spirit

Bow’d from its wild pride into shame.

O! yearning heart! I did inherit

Thy withering portion with the fame, [page 44:]

The searing glory which hath shone

Amid the jewels of my throne,

Halo of Hell! and with a pain

Not Hell shall make me fear again —

O! craving heart, for the lost flowers

And sunshine of my summer hours!

Th’ undying voice of that dead time,

With its interminable chime,

Rings, in the spirit of a spell,

Upon thy emptiness — a knell.

 

3

 

I have not always been as now:

­ The fever’d diadem on my brow

I claim’d and won usurpingly ——

Hath not the same fierce heirdom given

Rome to the Caesar — this to me?

The heritage of a kingly mind,

And a proud spirit which hath striven

Triumphantly with human kind.

 

4

 

On mountain soil I first drew life:

The mists of the Taglay have shed [page 45:]

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.

 

5

 

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,

Appeared to my half-closing eye

The pageantry of monarchy,

And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar

Came hurriedly upon me, telling

Of human battle, where my voice,

My own voice, silly child! — was swelling

(O! how my spirit would rejoice,

And leap within me at the cry)

The battle-cry of Victory!

 

6

 

The rain came down upon my head

Unshelter’d — and the heavy wind [page 46:]

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’s throne.

 

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 boy-hood — when their fire

Burn’d with a still intenser glow,

(For passion must, with youth, expire)

E’en then who knew this iron heart

In woman’s weakness had a part.

 

8

 

I have no words — alas! — to tell

The loveliness of loving well! [page 47:]

Nor would I now attempt to trace

The more than beauty of a face

Whose lineaments, upon my mind,

Are —— shadows on th’ unstable wind:

Thus I remember having dwelt

Some page of early lore upon,

With loitering eye, till I have felt

The letters — with their meaning — melt

To fantasies — with none.

 

9

 

O! she was worthy of all love!

Love — as in infancy was mine —

‘Twas such as angel minds above

Might envy; her young heart the shrine

On which my ev’ry hope and thought

Were incense — then a goodly gift,

For they were childish — and upright —

Pure —— as her young example taught:

Why did I leave it, and, adrift,

Trust to the fire within, for light?

 

10

 

We grew in age — and love — together —

Roaming the forest, and the wild; [page 48:]

My breast her shield in wintry weather —

And, when the friendly sunshine smil’d,

And she would mark the opening skies,

I saw no Heaven — but in her eyes.

 

11

 

­ 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!

 

12

 

Yet more than worthy of the love

My spirit struggled with, and strove,

When, on the mountain peak, alone,

Ambition lent it a new tone —

I had no being — but in thee:

The world, and all it did contain [page 49:]

In the earth — the air — the sea —

Its joy — its little lot of pain

That was new pleasure —— the ideal,

Dim, vanities of dreams by night —

And dimmer nothings which were real —

(Shadows — and a more shadowy light!)

Parted upon their misty wings,

And, so, confusedly, became

Thine image and — a name — a name!

Two separate — yet most intimate things.

 

13

 

I was ambitious — have you known

The passion, father? You 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, just like any other dream,

Upon the vapor of the dew

My own had past, did not the beam

Of Beauty which did while it thro’

The minute — the hour — the day — oppress

My mind with double loveliness. [page 50:]

 

14

 

We walk’d together on the crown

Of a high mountain which look’d down

Afar from its proud natural towers

Of rock and forest, on the hills —

The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers

And shouting with a thousand rills.

 

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

Light in the wilderness alone.

 

16

 

I wrapp’d myself in grandeur then,

And donn’d a visionary crown ——

Yet it was not that Fantasy

Had thrown her mantle over me — [page 51:]

But that, among the rabble — 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.

 

17

 

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 and alone?

Falling — her veriest stepping-stone

Shall form the pedestal of a throne —

And who her sovereign? Timour — he

Whom the astonished people saw

Striding o’er empires haughtily

A diadem’d outlaw —

 

18

 

O! human love! thou spirit given,

On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!

Which fall’st into the soul like rain

Upon the Siroc wither’d plain, [page 52:]

And failing in thy power to bless

But leav’st the heart a wilderness!

Idea! which bindest life around

With music of so strange a sound

And beauty of so wild a birth —

Farewell! for I have won the Earth!

 

19

 

When Hope, the eagle that tower’d, could see

No cliff beyond him in the sky,

His pinions were bent droopingly —

And homeward turn’d his soften’d eye.

 

20

 

‘Twas sunset: when the sun will part

There comes a sullenness of heart

To him who still would look upon

The glory of the summer sun.

That soul will hate the ev’ning mist

So often lovely, and will list

To the sound of the coming darkness (known

To those whose spirits harken) as one

Who, in a dream of night, would fly

But cannot from a danger nigh. [page 53:]

 

21

 

What tho’ the moon — the white moon

Shed all the splendor of her noon,

Her smile is chilly — and her beam,

In that time of dreariness, will seem

(So like you gather in your breath)

A portrait taken after death.

And boyhood is a summer sun

Whose waning is the dreariest one —

For all we live to know is known

And all we seek to keep hath flown —

Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall

With the noon-day beauty — which is all.

 

22

 

I reach’d my home — my home no more —

For all had flown who made it so —

I pass’d from out its mossy door,

And, tho’ my tread was soft and low,

A voice came from the threshold stone

Of one whom I had earlier known —

O! I defy thee, Hell, to show

On beds of fire that burn below,

A humbler heart — a deeper wo — [page 54:]

 

23

 

­ 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 thro’ 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 unpolluted things,

Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven

Above with trelliced rays from Heaven

No mote may shun — no tiniest fly

The light’ning of his eagle eye —

How was it that Ambition crept,

Unseen, amid the revels there,

Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt

In the tangles of Love’s very hair?


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - ATMP, 1829 (fac, 1933)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Tamerlane (Text-C)