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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Tamerlane" (D), Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, 1829, with a manuscript change, pp. 43-54





[[This version has the changes applied]]

[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 towering Eagle-Hope 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?





[[This version gives the text as originally printed,
with indications for Poe's changes]]

[page 43:]


TAMERLANE.
 
———————

[[. . . .]

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<<
<When towering Eagle-Hope 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:]

[[. . . .]]









Notes:

Noted by the first line of stanza 19, in angle brackets ("<...>"), is Poe's own annotation from a copy of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829) that he presented to John Neal. In subsequent versions of "Tamerlane," Poe choose not to use the revised line.







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