Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. Killis Campbell), “The Sleeper,” The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Ginn and Company, 1917, pp. 63-67


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[page 63:]

THE SLEEPER

At midnight, in the month of June,

I stand beneath the mystic moon.

An opiate vapour, dewy, dim,

Exhales from out her golden rim,

5

And, softly dripping, drop by drop,

Upon the quiet mountain top,

Steals drowsily and musically

Into the universal valley.

The rosemary nods upon the grave;

10

The lily lolls upon the wave;

Wrapping the fog about its breast,

The ruin moulders into rest;

Looking like Lethe, see! the lake [page 64:]

A conscious slumber seems to take,

15

And would not, for the world, awake.

All Beauty sleeps! — and lo! where lies

Irene, with her Destinies!

Oh, lady bright! can it be right —

This window open to the night? [page 65:]

20

The wanton airs, from the tree-top,

Laughingly through the lattice drop —

The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,

Flit through thy chamber in and out,

And wave the curtain canopy

25

So fitfully — so fearfully —

Above the closed and fringéd lid

’Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,

That, o’er the floor and down the wall,

Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!

30

Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?

Why and what art thou dreaming here?

Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,

A wonder to these garden trees!

Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!

35

Strange, above all, thy length of tress,

And this all solemn silentness! [page 66:]

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,

Which is enduring, so be deep!

Heaven have her in its sacred keep!

40

This chamber changed for one more holy,

This bed for one more melancholy,

I pray to God that she may lie

Forever with unopened eye,

While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

45

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,

As it is lasting, so be deep!

Soft may the worms about her creep! [page 67:]

Far in the forest, dim and old,

For her may some tall vault unfold —

50

Some vault that oft hath flung its black

And wingéd pannels fluttering back,

Triumphant, o’er the crested palls,

Of her grand family funerals —

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,

55

Against whose portal she hath thrown,

In childhood, many an idle stone —

Some tomb from out whose sounding door

She ne’er shall force an echo more,

Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!

60

It was the dead who groaned within.

(1831)

The text of Irene, inasmuch as it differs widely from the later versions of The Sleeper, is given here in its entirety, the edition of 1831 being followed. The variants of S. L. M. from 1831 are given in brackets at the end. The variants for all other texts are given at the foot of the page.

 


[[Text of 1831]]

IRENE

’T is now (so sings the soaring moon)

Midnight in the sweet month of June,

When winged visions love to lie

Lazily upon beauty’s eye,

5

Or worse — upon her brow to dance

In panoply of old romance,

Till thoughts and locks are left, alas!

A ne’er-to-be untangled mass.

An influence dewy, drowsy, dim,

10

Is dripping from that golden rim;

Grey towers are mouldering into rest,

Wrapping the fog around their breast:

Looking like Lethe, see! the lake [page 64:]

A conscious slumber seems to take,

15

And would not for the world awake:

The rosemary sleeps upon the grave —

The lily lolls upon the wave —

And [[a]] million bright pines to and fro,

Are rocking lullabies as they go,

20

To the lone oak that reels with bliss,

Nodding above the dim abyss.

All beauty sleeps: and lo! where lies

With casement open to the skies,

Irene, with her destinies!

25

Thus hums the moon within her ear,

O lady sweet! how camest thou here?

“Strange are thine eyelids — strange thy dress!

“And strange thy glorious length of tress!

“Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,

30

“A wonder to our desert trees!

Some gentle wind hath thought it right

To open thy window to the night, [page 65:]

And wanton airs from the tree-top,

“Laughingly thro’ the lattice drop,

35

“And wave this crimson canopy,

Like a banner o’er thy dreaming eye!

Lady, awake! lady awake!

For the holy Jesus’ sake!

For strangely — fearfully in this hall

40

My tinted shadows rise and fall!

The lady sleeps: the dead all sleep —

At least as long as Love doth weep:

Entranc’d, the spirit loves to lie

As long as — tears on Memory’s eye:

45

But when a week or two go by,

And the light laughter chokes the sigh,

Indignant from the tomb doth take

Its way to some remember’d lake, [page 66:]

Where oft — in life — with friends — it went

50

To bathe in the pure element,

And there, from the untrodden grass,

Wreathing for its transparent brow

Those flowers that say (ah hear them now!)

To the night-winds as they pass,

55

Ai! ai! alas! — alas!

Pores for a moment, ere it go,

On the clear waters there that flow,

Then sinks within (weigh’d down by wo)

Th’ uncertain, shadowy heaven below.

· · · · · ·  

60

The lady sleeps: oh! may her sleep

As it is lasting so be deep —

No icy worms about her creep:

I pray to God that she may lie

Forever with as calm an eye,

65

That chamber chang’d for one more holy —

That bed for one more melancholy. [page 67:]

Far in the forest, dim and old,

For her may some tall vault unfold,

Against whose sounding door she hath thrown,

70

In childhood, many an idle stone —

Some tomb, which oft hath flung its black

And vampyre-winged pannels back,

Flutt’ring triumphant o’er the palls

Of her old family funerals.

 


[[Variants]]

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 63:]

[1, 2 For these two lines, S. L. M. reads:

I stand beneath the soaring moon

At midnight in the month of June.

3-8 Omitted in S. L. M.

10 that: yon (S. L. M.).]

Title Irene (1831, S. L. M.).

11 fog: mist (P. P. A.).

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 64:]

[18 bright pines: cedars (S.L.M.).

20 reels with bliss: nodding hangs (S.L.M.).

21 Above yon cataract of Serangs. (S. L. M.)

25 For this line, S. L. M. substitutes the following:

And hark the sounds so low yet clear,

(Like music of another sphere)

Which steal within the slumberer’s ear,

Or so appear — or so appear!]

16 After this line, all texts save that of the Lorimer Graham copy insert a line: With casement open to the skies (1831, S. L. M., P. P. A.), Her casement open to the skies (S. M., B.J., 1845).

17 with: and (P. P. A.).

19 window: lattice (P. P. A., S. M.).

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 65:]

[35 After this line, S. L. M. inserts the line:

So fitfully, so fearfully.

36 Like: As (S. L. M.).

36 After this line, S. L. M. inserts the following:

That o’er the floor, and down the wall,

Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall —

Then, for thine own all radiant sake.

37 Lady, awake! awake awake! (S. L. M.).

38-59 Omitted in S. L. M.]

20, 21 Omitted in P.P.A. and S.M.

33 these: our (P. P. A.).

35 Stranger thy glorious length of tress (P. P. A.).

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

39 For this line, P. P.A. substitutes line 47.

40 chamber: bed, being (P. P. A.).

41 bed: room (P.P.A.).

43 unopened: unclosé (P. P. A.).

44 Omitted in P.P.A.; pale: dim (S. M., B.J., 1845).

47 For this line, P. P. A. substitutes line 39.

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 67:]

[72 vampyre-winged: vampire-wing-like (S. L. M.).]

49 vault: tomb (P. P. A.).

50 vault: tomb (P. P. A.).

51 wingéd: winglike (P. P. A.).

57 tomb: vault (P. P. A.).

59 Thrilling: Nor thrill (P. P. A.).

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - KCP, 1917] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Sleeper (ed. K. Campbell, 1917)