Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. James H. Whitty), “Poe's Revision of Other's Poetry,” The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, pp. 209-211


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[page 209, continued:]

VII POE’S REVISION OF OTHERS’ POETRY

The F. W. Thomas Recollections of E. A. Poe states that the poetry written in part, and revised by Poe for others in his lifetime, if known and collected, would make a respectable volume. Mrs. Shew is the only contemporary of Poe’s, who has given any hint of collaboration with Poe in the making of any poetry. But Mrs. Shew had no poetical ambitions, or, perhaps, like Chivers and the others, she might have claimed “The Bells “ as her own production.

The letters of Poe to Mrs. Whitman, at least, show that she sought his criticisms and corrections of her poetry. It remains a question, however, as to how many of her poems besides “To Arcturus” Poe revised. There is also little way to find out now what literary aid Poe rendered Mrs. Ellet, Mrs. Osgood, and the balance of the literary coterie who surrounded and flattered him in order to obtain his favors.

The most persistent of the female poets who followed Poe about and endeavored by her arts to gain his assistance to help her mount the pinnacles of Parnassus was Mrs. Lewis. Her baptismal name was “Sarah Anna,” but she adopted [page 210:] that of “Estelle” as more æsesthetic. Poe wrote an enigma to her as “Sarah Anna,” but afterwards, to please her, called her “Stella.”

There remains a note of Poe’s, and his corrections of some poetry of “Stella’s,” which forms a striking illustration of literary labors performed by Poe, into which the general reader has had little insight. In returning Mrs. Lewis a manuscript copy of her lines entitled “The Prisoner of Perote,” Poe wrote her as follows: —

“DEAR MRS. LEWIS,

Upon the whole I think this the most spirited poem you have written. If I were you, I would retain all the prose prefix. You will observe that I have taken the liberty of making some suggestions in the body of the poem the force of which, I think, would be much increased by the introduction of an occasional short line, for example: —

Hurtled by the blast.

Sadly fell his eye.

Heard her shrieks of wo.

As now they flock to Rome.

And to Palestine.

Woke him from his dream.

And God will guide thy bark.

And the sun will shine.

Is a throne to me.

Pours a Paradise.

Sheds its holy light.

Will I cling to thee.

These short lines should be indented — as for instance: —

So, to cheer thy desolation,

Will I cling to thee.”

The alterations shown in the following poem are Poe’s and although evidently made hastily they make an improvement in the verses. [page 211:]

THE PRISONER OF PEROTÉ

In the Prison of Peroté

Silently the Warrior sate,

His eye bent sadly downward,

Like one stricken sore by Fate;

Broken visions of his Glory

Before his Spirit passed, Quick before his spirit passed

Like clouds across the Heaven Athwart the summer

Driven onward by the Blast. Heaven.

The booming of the Cannon,

And the clash of blade and spear —

“Death — death, unto the Tyrant!”

Still were ringing in his ear.

Much he sorrowed for the people,

For whose weal he fain would die —

On the Tablets of the Future,

Sadly bent his mental eye fell his eye

There he saw his weeping country

Close beleaguered’ by the foe;

He saw her chained and blooding; faint and bleeding

He heard her shrieks of Wo;

From the East and from the Westward

There beheld the Pilgrims come

To ponder o’er her Ruins, To muse upon her ivied ruins

As now they flock to Rome;

. . . . . . . . . . .

Well he weighed the fate of Nations,

Their glory and their shame,

The fleetness of all Power,

The emptiness of Fame;

The wasting wrecks of Empires

That choke Time’s rapid stream, Choking Time’s

Till Beauty gentle whispers impatient stream

Woke him from his dream. —

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - JHW11, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poe's Revision of Other's Poetry (ed. J. H. Whitty, 1911)