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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Ulalume: A Ballad" (B), Home Journal (New York), January 1, 1848, p. 4, col. 1





EPICUREANISM OF LANGUAGE.
——
    [We do not know how many readers we have who will enjoy as we do, the following exquisitely piquant and skilful exercise of rarity and niceness of language. It is a poem which we find in the American Review, full of beauty and oddity of sentiment and versification, but a curiosity, (and a delicious one, we think,) in its philologic flavor. Who is the author?]

ULALUME: A BALLAD.
——
The skies they were ashen and sober; 
    The leaves they were crisped and sere — 
    The leaves they were withering and sere; 
It was night in the lonesome October 
    Of my most immemorial year; 
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, 
    In the misty mid region of Weir — 
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber, 
    In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic, 
    Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul — 
    Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul. 
These were days when my heart was volcanic 
    As the scoriac rivers that roll — 
    As the lavas that restlessly roll 
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek 
    In the ultimate climes of the pole — 
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek 
    In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
    But our thoughts they were palsied and sere —
    Our memories were treacherous and sere —
For we knew not the month was October,
    And we marked not the night of the year —
    (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber —
    (Though once we had journeyed down here) —
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
    Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
    And star-dials pointed to morn —
    As the star-dials hinted of morn —
At the end of our path a liquescent
    And nebulous lustre was born.
Out of which a miraculous crescent
    Arose with a duplicate horn —
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
    Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said — "She is warmer than Dian:
    She rolls through an ether of sighs —
    She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
    These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
    To point us the path to the skies —
    To the Lethean peace of the skies —
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
    To shine on us with her bright eyes —
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
    With Love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
    Said — "Sadly this star I mistrust —
    Her pallor I strangely mistrust: —
Oh, hasten! — oh, let us not linger!
    Oh, fly! — let us fly! — for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
    Wings till they trailed in the dust —
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
    Plumes till they trailed in the dust —
    Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied — "This is nothing but dreaming :
    Let us on by this tremulous light !
    Let us bathe in this crystalline light !
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
    With Hope and in Beauty to-night: —
    See! — it flickers up the sky through the night !
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
    And be sure it will lead us aright —
We safely may trust to a gleaming
    That cannot but guide us aright,
    Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
    And tempted her out of her gloom —
    And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
    And were stopped by the door of a tomb —
    By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said — "What is written, sweet sister,
    On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied — "Ulalume — Ulalume —
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
    As the leaves that were crisped and sere —
    As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried — "It was surely October
    On this very night of last year
    That I journeyed — I journeyed down here —
    That I brought a dread burden down here —
    On this night of all nights in the year,
    Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —
    This misty mid region of Weir —
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
    In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

Said we, then — the two, then —" Ah, can it
    Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —
    The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —
To bar up our way and to ban it
    From the secret that lies in these wolds —
    From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
    From the limbo of lunary souls —
This sinfully scintillant planet
    From the Hell of the planetary souls ?"









Notes:

The introductory note is by Poe's friend, N. P. Willis. Poe wrote to Willis on December 8, 1847, saying "I send you an 'American Review' — the number jsut issued — in which is a ballad by myself, but published anonymously. It is called 'Ulalume' — the page is turned down. I do not care to be known as its author just now; but I would take it as a great favor if you would copy it in the H. J., with a word of inquiry as to who wrote it: — provided always that you think the poem worth the room it would occupy in your paper — a matter about which I am by no means sure." On April 20, 1849, asking for a reprint of another poem, Poe tells Willis, "I have not forgotten how a 'good word in season' from you made 'The Raven,' and made 'Ulalume,' (which, by-the-way, people have done me the honor of attributing to you)."







 
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