Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Fragment of a Campaign Song,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 340-342 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 340, continued:]


This is all that survives of a song written impromptu by Poe during the presidential campaign early in 1844, Its authenticity is beyond doubt, although the verses were long preserved only in the memory of Poe's friend Gabriel Harrison.(1) Harrison gave at least two accounts of his meetings with Poe, differing only in slight details. The first was in a letter to the Brooklyn Eagle, November 18 [[17]], 1875 (quoted in part by Phillips, II, 926), the second in an interview published in the New York Times Saturday Review of March 4, 1899 (quoted in part by Woodberry, Life, II, 422).

In the Eagle alone it is mentioned that the song was to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but only in the Times are recorded any of the words Poe composed. What follows is based primarily on the later source.

Gabriel Harrison is known chiefly as an artist and actor, but in 1843 he quit the stage for a while and opened a “tea store” at 568 Broadway, on the southeast corner of Prince Street. There on a chilly evening he saw “a small man with a large head looking [page 341:] in rather wistfully at some beautiful plugs of tobacco [Harrison] had displayed ... He entered and asked the price,” but, Harrison continues,

made no move to buy, and started to leave ... I was struck by ... his manner, by his voice and by his fine articulation ... so I offered the man a piece of tobacco. He accepted, thanked me and departed. Two or three weeks afterwards he came in again. At the time I happened to be in the throes of composing a campaign song for the White Eagle Club, a political organization of which I was President ... I began to explain the matter to him ... “Let me have your pencil,” he said ... In about fifteen minutes ... I saw written a song of five stanzas with chorus ... I can remember only a few lines, which ran thus: [Our text is given] ... I was delighted, and wanted to pay him something for his trouble, but the only thing he would accept was a bag of my best coffee ... I said that I should like to know his name ... “Certainly,” he answered with a faint smile, “Thaddeus K. Perley, at your service.”

On a later occasion, Fitz-Greene Halleck met and recognized Poe at the store, and an explanation ensued. Soon afterward, Poe moved to New York. About 1846, Poe and Harrison saw a good deal of each other, and after Poe's death the actor became a good friend of Mrs. Clemm.

In the Brooklyn source the surname Poe used is printed as “Peasley,” but this has no point, and Thaddeus Perley seems to be mildly jocular. In the Gospels the Apostle Thaddeus is referred to by varied names, and the subtitle of Horne Tooke's grammatical work, Epea Pteroenta, to which Poe referred with respect on occasion, is “The Diversions of Purley,” from the place where it was composed. Poe's verses for the marching club were a diversion.


(A) New York Times Saturday Review, March 4, 1899, p. 144, in Gabriel Harrison's “Song which Poe wrote in 1844”; (B) Woodberry, Life (1909), II, 422; (C) The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Killis Campbell (1917), p. 141. The text used is A; the title is Campbell's, given in C.

[page 342, continued:]


1-4  Poe almost surely echoed the opening lines of a once widely known poem, “The Gray Forest Eagle” by Alfred B. Street: “With storm-daring pinion and sun-gazing eye, / The gray forest eagle is king of the sky.” This was first published in the Knickerbocker for November 1841 and was included in Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America (1842). Street lived at Albany and was for many years State Librarian of New York.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 340:]

1  Harrison was born on March 25, 1818, and died on December 15, 1902, according to his obituary in the New York Dramatic Mirror of December 27, 1902.





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