Text: Mariner J. Kent, “Poe’s Last Poem,” Southern Bivouac, vol. 2, no. 5, October 1886, pp. 298-300


[page 298:]

Lilith MS


THE story of “Lilitha, Princess of Ghouls,” is quickly told. In telling it I shall do away with further discussion regarding the authorship of the poem.

In the spring of 1882 I was on the staff of a morning newspaper in New York City. Associated with me was Professor Fairfield, an able and clever man of letters. Together we hunted up the lost, or expunged, verse of the poem “Ulalume.” It is not true that the verse was “cut off the closing stanza when Poe republished it in the Home Journal,” as the poem in its entirety can be found in the files of that paper at the date January 1, 1848.

One day the professor, who was an admirer of Poe and his works, handed me the manuscript of a poem entitled, “A “Wine Ballad.” A fac simile of two verses of the poem, in the original hand-writing, adorn this article. The last stanza given was left out of the recently reprinted versions of “Lilitha.” The stanza should have followed the lines, [column 2:]

“Come make thy bridal bed

With a soul like mine.”

I read the poem the professor had handed me and exclaimed, “It is Poe’s!” “Do you think the world would so believe?” queried the professor, in reply. I answered in the affirmative, and went about my accustomed duties.

The suggestion conveyed in the ambiguous reply of the professor lingered in my mind, and, after some weeks had passed, I determined to test the genuineness of the poem, the manuscript of which I had kept in my possession, by submitting it to the test of publicity and criticism. I am free to confess that my determination did not proceed from any settled conviction that “Lilitha” was written by Poe, but rather from the novelty of the experiment. To have published the poem as Poe’s without substantiation would have been futile. It was necessary to embalm it in romance. The memory of Richard Realf was still green, and his name was used to herald the newly [page 299:] discovered “Lilitha.” I do not really think that Realf ever “pored over old books and the musty flies of literary journals “ in search of lost treasures, or sought for those of Poe. The recovered stanza of “Ulalume,” and a forgotten sonnet by Poe, which I had brought to light, served as an introduction to “Lilitha.” Preceding the poem as originally published in the Sunday Gazette, of Washington, D. C, in the summer of 1882, was this announcement:

The knowledge which led to the recovery of the last verse of “Ulalume,” and the neglected sonnet, one overlooked and the other unremembered, was obtained from that chief of song and love, Richard Realf, who came to New York in 1856, before the old Bohemian days had faded, aud was admitted into the charmed circle of the contemporaries of Poe. At that time he was an earnest student, and delighted to pore over old books and the musty files of literary journals. But, beyond his knowledge of Poe and his works thus attained, Realf became possessor of an unpublished poem by Poe, written but a few months after the production of “Ulalume.” It was not an idiosyncracy born of Realf’s esoteric nature that led him to bury one of the last poems that Poe wrote — for Realf revered the memory of Poe — but because of the peculiar history attached to the poem. Its publication [column 2:] and substantiation would have brought scandal upon those Realf had loved. The poem, now given in print for the first time, came from the hands of Poe by a pathway of intrigues, and through the jungles of grave infidelities. Realf did not betray the trust reposed in him, but on the day of his melancholy death, even more sad and touching than that of Poe, the poem, together with the data before referred to, came into the possession of the writer of this article.

G. S. Fairfield MS

In the very clever attempt to prove that “Lilitha” was Poe’s last poem, published in the April number of this magazine, the responsibility for whatever was written, beyond the quotation above given, rests upon the writer of that article. It is to be regretted that he was compelled to rely upon his memory, or perhaps merely upon his imagination, for his facts.

My experiment in placing “Lilitha” before the public was a failure, and the poem attracted but little attention. The seed sown, however, took root and blossomed later on. Little heed was paid to the recovered verse of “Ulalume,” which was a real thing. It [page 300:] is worthy of preservation, and I produce it here:


“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 specter of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls —

This sinfully scintillant planet

From the Hell of the planetary souls!”

The question of the authorship of “Lilitha” is now reached in this article, and is fully answered [column 2:] by the communication from Professor Fairfield. It will be noticed that the handwriting is the same in the letter as that shown by the fac simile.

I am a self-convicted literary impostor, yet I have a desire to applaud the editors and readers who pronounced “Lilitha” an imitation of Poe, and a longing to commiserate those who believed it to be genuine; not because of the acumen displayed, or of the credulity exhibited, since in either case it was a matter of opinion rather than of judgment, but simply because my humble pie must be eaten in company with the latter.

Mariner J. Kent.





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