Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Song,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 65-67 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 65:]

(“I saw thee on thy bridal day”)

This poem follows “Tamerlane” immediately in the volume of 1827, and I think it, too, concerns Elmira Royster. In the Literary Era, August 1901, Edward M. Alfriend wrote of her:

She told me that when Poe left Richmond, before her marriage to Mr. Shelton, she and Poe were engaged to be married; that her father intercepted their letters, and both she and Poe became convinced that each had forgotten the other, and that she, urged by her father, and in a spirit of spite, determined to marry Mr. Shelton; that Poe returned to Richmond on the day of the night of her marriage, came to her home while the wedding party was going on, not knowing of her marriage, ... and asked her to dance with him; — she then told him of her marriage, and he was so grief stricken that he left the house at once, and she did not dance again that evening; but Poe remained long enough for each to tell the other of the intercepted letters and for each to learn of the other's love and loyalty.

This story is not strictly true, for the Sheltons were not married until December 6, 1828, when Poe was not in Richmond. But I do not think Alfriend invented it. He was the last editor, in 1864, of the Southern Literary Messenger, and he and his father, Thomas M. Alfriend, knew Poe, the Allans, and the Sheltons socially. The father was a regular visitor at the Shelton home. It is my conjecture that the party was to celebrate Elmira Royster's engagement — and that later the lady's memory was confused, or perhaps (in her character of “Annabel Lee”) she made the story more romantic. She was demonstrably inconsistent in her statements about the poet. There is a reference to the hero seeing his beloved on her bridal day in W. H. Poe's story “The Pirate”; “ ‘Miss Rose is to be married in half an hour!’ ... a wealthy suitor had been ... accepted ... an interview ... was impossible, but if I would stand in the passage I might see her as she passed to the room.” (See Allen and Mabbott, Poe's Brother [1926], p. 58.)


(A) Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), p. 25; (B) Wilmer manuscript, 1828, on the recto of “To the River —”; (C) Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829), p. 61; (D) John Neal's presentation copy of Al Aaraaf ... [page 66:] with manuscript change in line 4; (E) Herring copy of Al Aaraaf ... changed in line 7 in 1845; (F) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 90; (G) Broadway Journal, September 20, 1845 (2:166); (H) Works (1850), II, 110.

The text given is F, verbally identical with E, G, and H. I saw the Wilmer manuscript (B), described by Stedman and Woodberry, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1894-95), X, 230, in the collection of Oliver Barrett in Chicago. The copy of Al Aaraaf Poe presented to John Neal (D) was cut down in rebinding, and Poe's abortive change is damaged. The volume was shown me in 1966 by a Boston bookseller.

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 66:]


Title:  To — — (A); In an Album. To — (B)

1  thy / the (A)

4  Beside this line in D, Poe wrote As heedless [as (?)] probably as a substitution for the beginning of the line.

5  a / the (A)

5-8  Not in B, where Poe wrote 4 lines omitted see last page but the page is now lost.

6  Of young passion free (A)

7  aching / chain’d (A); fetter’d (C)

8  could / might (A)

9  perhaps / I ween (A)

13  thee / misprinted the (A)

[page 67:]


Title  The 1827 title read “To — —.” The blanks probably stand for “Elmira Royster.” The lines may also have been written later in another lady's album, as the title “In an Album” suggests.

1  The opening line and some of the rest of the poem were found by Whitty to be very similar to a poem in the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post of July 15, 1826, by John Lofland, the “Milford Bard,” who reprinted it in his volume, The Harp of Delaware (1828), pp. 27-28. Of the original text Mr. Bunford Samuel sent me a copy, which is used here. The firm of Ellis and Allan owned a file of the Post for 1826, and Poe may well have had in mind the opening that follows:


I saw her on the bridal day

In blushing beauty blest.

Smiles o’er her lips were seen to play

Like gilded gleams at dawn of day,

The fairest of the guest ...

And now a tear stole from her eye,

And mingled with her softer sigh;

Now wish’d it not, now wish’d it here,

And blush’d to think the hour so near.

2  Compare Poe's tale “The Assignation”: “Why should the lady blush! ... what other possible reason could there have been for her so blushing?”

4  Compare Paradise Lost, XII, 646: “The world was all before them.” Nelson Adkins in Notes and Queries (London), July 21, 1934, p. 67, compares also the opening of a poem by Fitz-Greene Halleck in The Croakers (1819), “To * * * * *”:

The world is bright before thee,

Its summer flowers are thine;

Its calm blue sky is o’er thee,

Thy bosom pleasure's shrine.





[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Song)