Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Tamerlane” (Text-F), ­Poems­ (1831), pp. 111-124


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­ [page 111:]

TAMERLANE.

—————

 

I.

 

Kind solace in a dying hour!

Such, father, is not (now) my theme:

I will not madly think 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 (O 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.

 

II.

 

Hear thou the secret of a spirit

Bow’d from its wild pride into shame. ­[page 112:]

O yearning heart! (I did inherit

Thy withering portion with the fame,

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!

The undying voice of that dead time,

With its interminable chime

Rings in the spirit of a spell,

Upon thy emptiness, — a knell.

Despair, the fabled vampire-bat,

Hath long upon my bosom sat,

And I would rave, but that he flings

A calm from his unearthly wings.

 

III.

 

I have not always been as now:

The fever’d diadem on my brow,

I claim’d and won usurpingly —

Hath not the same heirdom given

Rome to the Cæsar — this to me? ­[page 113:]

The heritage of a kingly mind

And a proud spirit which hath striven

Triumphantly with human kind.

 

IV.

 

On mountain soil I first drew life —

The mists of the Taglay have shed

Nightly their dews upon my head,

And I believe the winged strife

And tumult of the headlong air

Hath nestled in my very hair.

 

V.

 

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,

Appear’d 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, ­[page 114:]

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.

 

VI.

 

The rain came down upon my head,

Unshelter’d, and the heavy wind

Was giant-like — 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 suitors, and the tone

Of flattery, round a sovereign’s throne.

 

VII.

 

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: ­[page 115:]

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 knew that as infinite

My soul — so was the weakness in it.

 

­ VIII.

 

For in those days it was my lot

To haunt of the wide world a spot

The which I could not love the less.

So lovely was the loneliness

Of a wild lake with black rock bound,

And the sultan-like pines that tower’d around!

But when the night had thrown her pall

Upon that spot as upon all,

And the black wind murmur’d by,

In a dirge of melody;

My infant spirit would awake

To the terror of that lone lake.

Yet that terror was not fright —

But a tremulous delight —

A feeling not the jewell’d mine ­[page 116:]

Could ever bribe me to define,

Nor love, Ada! tho’ it were thine.

How could I from that water bring

Solace to my imagining?

My solitary soul — how make

An Eden of that dim lake?

 

IX.

 

But then a gentler, calmer spell,

like moonlight on my spirit fell,

And O! I have no words to tell

The loveliness of loving well!

I will not now attempt to trace

The more than beauty of a face

Whose lineaments upon my mind

Are shadows on the unstable wind.

I well remember having dwelt,

Pages of early lore upon,

With loitering eye till I have felt

The letters with their meaning melt

To fantasies with — none.

 

X.

 

Was she not worthy of all love?

Love as in infancy was mine — ­[page 117:]

‘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?

 

XI.

 

We grew in age and love together,

Roaming the forest and the wild,

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.

 

XII.

 

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 lean upon her gentle breast, ­[page 118:]

And pour my spirit out in tears,

There was no need to speak the rest,

No need to quiet any fears

Of hers — who ask’d no reason why,

But turn’d on me her quiet eye.

 

XIII.

 

I had no being but in thee:

The world and all it did contain,

In the earth — the air — the sea,

Of pleasure or of pain —

The good, the bad, 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.

 

XIV.

 

We walk’d together on the crown

Of a high mountain which look’d down ­[page 119:]

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.

 

XV.

 

I spoke to her of power and pride,

But mystically, in such guise

That she might deem it nought beside

The moments’ converse — in her eyes

I read — perhaps too carelessly —

A mingled feeling with my own —

The flush upon her cheek to me,

Seem’d fitted for a queenly throne,

Too well that I should let it be,

Light in the wilderness alone.

 

XVI.

 

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,

But that among the rabble men, ­[page 120:]

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 its fire.

  * * * * *  

 

XVII.

 

Say, holy father, breathes there yet

A rebel or a Bajazet?

How now! why tremble, man of gloom,

As if my words were the Simoom!

Why do the people bow the knee,

To the young Tamerlane — to me!

 

XVIII.

 

O human love! thou spirit given

On earth of all we hope in Heaven!

Which fallest into the soul like rain

Upon the Syroc-wither’d plain,

And failing in thy power to bless,

But leavest the heart a wilderness!

Idea which bindest life around,

With music of so strange a sound, ­[page 121:]

And beauty of so wild a birth —

Farewell! for I have won the earth.

 

XIX.

 

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.

 

XX.

 

  * * * * * *  

‘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 evening 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 122:]

 

XXI.

 

What tho’ the moon — the white moon —

Shed all the beauty 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.

 

  * * * * * *  

 

XXII.

 

I reach’d my home — what home? above,

My home — my hope — my early love,

Lonely, like me, the desert rose,

Bow’d down with its own glory grows.

 

XXIII.

 

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: ­[page 123:]

I do believe that Eblis hath

A snare in every human path —

Else how when in the holy grove,

I wander’d of the idol, Love,

Who daily scents his snowy wings

With incense of burnt offerings,

From the most undefiled things;

Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven

Above with trelliced rays from Heaven,

No mote may shun — no tiniest fly

The lightning of his eagle eye —

How was it that Ambition crept,

Unseen amid the revels there,

Till growing bold, he laugh’d and leapt

In the tangles of Loves [Love’s] very hair?

 

­ XXIV.

 

If my peace hath flown away

In a night — or in a day —

In a vision — or in none —

Is it, therefore, the less gone?

I was standing ‘mid the roar

Of a wind-beaten shore, ­[page 124:]

And I held within my hand

Some particles of sand —

How bright! and yet to creep

Thro’ my fingers to the deep!

My early hopes? no — they

Went gloriously away,

Like lightning from the sky —

Why in the battle did not I?


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - POEMS, 1831 (fac, 1936)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Tamerlane (Text-F)