Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. Killis Campbell), “Notes (Part 01),” The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Ginn and Company, 1917, pp. 147-203


[page 147:]



(1827; Yankee, December, 1829 (in part); 1829; 1831; 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

Date of Composition. Tamerlane is the first of the poems in 1827, and it is also given the initial position in the group of “Poems Written in Youth” in the collective edition of 1845; but whether or not it is the earliest of Poe's poems it is impossible to say. Poe claims in the preface of 1827 that “the greater part” of the poems published in that edition “were written in the year 1821-2.” It is barely possible that Tamerlane was originally conceived as early as this — when Poe was a child of twelve or thirteen — but that it had reached at that time a stage approximating that in which we first find it is highly improbable. Poe was notoriously reckless in his citation of dates, and he took delight in mystifying his public. In the light of all the circumstances now known to us, it seems unlikely that the poem was written before 1826.

Text. The text of Tamerlane followed in the present edition (save for sundry corrections pointed out in the notes) is that of 1845. This text is based on that of 1829, from which it differs verbally in only one line (57). The text of 1831 is also based on 1829, but departs from it in the omission of some forty lines, in the addition of about fifty lines, and in the introduction of numerous verbal changes. Among the added passages in 1831 are imperfect drafts of A Dream within a Dream and The Lake: To —— , both published as separate items in 1827 and 1829. The text of 1827 is much fuller than the later versions and for this reason has been reproduced in the footnotes of the present edition in its entirety. A manuscript copy of the poem once in the possession of l. A. Wilmer (see Stedman and Woodberry, X, pp. 199-208) represents a stage intermediate between the texts of 1827 and 1829. [page 148:]

Sources. The plot of the poem follows in broad outline the life-story of the famous Tartar warrior, Tamerlane, and on this is grafted a fanciful love story. Just how Poe's attention was first drawn to the subject we have no way of telling. While at school in London, he had probably come to know something of the part played by Tamerlane in history; and either then or after his return to Richmond in 1820, he may also have become acquainted with some of the literary versions of the Tamerlane story, which included, besides Marlowe's Tamburlaine, plays by Nicholas Rowe and Monk Lewis; though it is plain that he owed nothing to them, save, possibly, the mere suggestion of his theme. It may be, too, that he had seen some one of these plays presented on the stage. Rowe's play was acted in London annually down to the year 1815 (see Sir Sidney Lee's article on Rowe in the Dictionary of National Biography); and a piece entitled Timour the Tartar (probably based on Monk Lewis's melodrama) was acted in Baltimore as late as 1829 (see the Baltimore Gazette of November 7, 1829).

The love story which Poe weaves into his plot appears to be a reflection of his own love affair with Miss Sarah Elmira Royster, of Richmond. Miss Royster has herself given a brief account of her relations with the poet in some reminiscences furnished Mr. J. H. Ingram and published by him in Appleton's Journal, May, 1878 (new series, IV, pp. 428-429). According to this account she first became closely associated with the poet in 1824 or early in 1825, and he was a frequent visitor at her home during the year 1825. Before he left for the University of Virginia in February, 1826, she became engaged to him. But the poet's letters to her from Charlottesville were intercepted by her father, who was opposed to the marriage; and before Poe's return to Richmond in December, 1826, she had engaged herself to another suitor, Mr. A. B. Shelton, whom she subsequently married. The date of her marriage is uncertain, but she associates it with her seventeenth year, or 1827. She died in 1888, at the age of seventy-eight years. Poe perhaps refers to her disloyalty to him also in several other poems, especially in Song (“I saw thee on thy bridal day”), and in Bridal Ballad, and perhaps also in To One in Paradise. See also the notes on To Sarah and Ballad among the Poems Attributed to Poe.

For the model of his poem in matters of style and mood and structure, Poe went to Byron. Stedman has called attention to the parallelism with Byron's Giaour, of which he declares Tamerlane is a “manifest adumbration” (see Stedman and Woodberry, X, p. xx); and there is an equally obvious parallelism with Manfred, especially with Act III. It [page 149:] should be added that the parallelism with The Giaour is closest with the second half of that poem ((ll. 917 f.). The general subject of Poe's indebtedness to Byron — an indebtedness that is discoverable on nearly every page of the volume of 1827 — has been discussed above, in the Introduction (pp. xliv-xlv).

That Poe was aware of the imperfections of his poem — its feebleness, its obscurity, its bareness and brokenness of style, and its utter want of originality — may be taken for granted. In the preface of 1827 he confesses that the poem has “many faults”; and in a note in 1845 (p. 55) he refers to Tamerlane along with other early poems as “the crude compositions of my earliest boyhood.” The text of 1827 is clearer and more coherent than the later versions, but it is at the same time more diffuse and more halting in its rhythm.

Poe's notes, which appeared only in the text of 1827, are reprinted in the present edition along with the editor's notes, obvious errors in spelling and punctuation being corrected.

1 (1827) “I have sent for thee, holy friar. Of the history of Tamerlane little is known; and with that little I have taken the full liberty of a poet. — That he was descended from the family of Zinghis Khan is more than probable — but he is vulgarly supposed to have been the son of a shepherd, and to have raised himself to the throne by his own address. He died in the year 1405, in the time of Pope Innocent VII.

“How I shall account for giving him ‘a friar’ as a death-bed confessor, I cannot exactly determine. He wanted some one to listen to his tale — and why not a friar? It does not pass the bounds of possibility — quite sufficient for my purpose — and I have at least good authority on my side for such innovations.” — POE.

[The punctuation of the poet's comments is both inconsistent and inaccurate. In the foregoing paragraph, for instance, Poe placed a comma after “friar” and a dash after “confessor”; and in quoting from his text the line on which his comment is made, he omitted the comma before “holy.” Such errors are so frequent as to make it seem superfluous to call attention to all of them.]

1-12 Cf. Byron's Manfred, III, i, ll. 66-78:

Old man! there is no power in holy men,

Nor charm in prayer, nor purifying form

Of penitence, nor outward look, nor fast,

Nor agony — nor, greater than all these,

The innate tortures of that deep despair,

Which is remorse without the fear of hell, [page 150:]

But all in all sufficient to itself

Would make a hell of heaven — can exorcise

From out the unbounded spirit the quick sense

Of its own sins, wrongs, sufferance, and revenge

Upon itself; there is no future pang

Can deal that justice on the self-condemn’d

He deals on his own soul.

Cf. also The Giaour, ll. 389 f.

2 The line furnishes one of many examples of the poet's abuse of the dash. The present editor has retained, however, in his basal text, the pointing of his originals except 1) where it was obviously incorrect, or 2) where it had the effect of obscuring the poet's meaning, or 3) where it was plainly at variance with present-day usage.

5 revell’d. Poe pretty consistently abbreviates the -ed where it is not syllabic, even though (as here) he ran no risk of being mispronounced.

7 (1827) A lame line. The defect is remedied in later editions (see line 2) by the insertion of “now” after “not.”

9 If I can hope — oh, God! I can. Apparently to be construed as ironica1. In 1845 “oh” is spelled with a capital and is without a comma before the vocative which follows.

12 such. The reference is faulty, the antecedent being the idea contained in line 9. The corresponding passage in the text of 1827 is perfectly clear.

18 jewels. Spelled with a capital in the original.

21, 22 The note of regret occasioned by the recollection of a happy youth sounds almost constantly throughout Poe's earlier verses. It is possible that it is entirely conventional and insincere, but it is difficult not to believe that it genuinely reflects the poet's feelings. Poe's life in London and perhaps for some time after his return to Richmond must have been comparatively happy or, at least, happy in comparison with the year (1826) spent at college in Charlottesville, or the half-year that intervened between his leaving Charlottesville and the publication of his poems.

25 (1827) hatred. An obvious misprint for “hated.” Other false spellings that appear in the text of 1827 are “shown” for “shone” (1. 26), “crash” for “crush” (1. 66), “sleep” for “steep” (1. 74), “lovliness” (ll. 89, 138), “can'st” and “would'st” (1. 103), “dwell” for “dwelt” (1. 152), “wore” for “were” (1. 190), “to” for “too” (1. 351), “vallies” (1. 357), “lisp” for “list” (1. 371), “trancient” (1. 390).

39 (1827) “The mists of the Taglay have shed, &c. The mountains of Belur Taglay are a branch of the Imaus, in the southern part of [page 151:] Independent Tartary. — They are celebrated for the singular wildness and beauty of their valleys.” — POE.

[In the original, “the Taglay” is printed in italics, “Imaus” is spelled “Immaus,” “valleys” is spelled “vallies,” and a comma is inserted after “wildness.”]

41 So late from Heaven — that dew — it fell. An extremely broken line, which finds nothing corresponding to it in 1827.

57 Rendered me mad and deaf and blind. The only line in which the 1845 text of Tamerlane presents a different reading from that of 1829. The text of 1829 reads: “Was giantlike — so thou my mind!”

59 I have substituted a comma for the dash with which this line ends in 1845.

59, 60 Improperly indented in 1845.

72, 73 (1827) there broke Strange light upon me. In several of his earlier pieces Poe adverts to a supernatural revelation that had been granted him; see also line 123, and, in particular, Dreams, ll. 19 f., and Stanzas, ll. 6 f.

75, 76 Possibly an echo of a passage in Moore's The Loves of the Angels, ll. 122-124 (a poem which served as a partial source of Al Aaraaf):

’T is not in words to tell the power,

The despotism, that from that hour

Passion held o’er me.

81-85 Cf. Wordsworth's poetic account of his “obstinate questioning Of sense and outward things” in his Intimations of ll. 142-148, and see, also, his prose comment on the Intimations: “Many times when going to school have I grasped at wall or a tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality.” See also in this connection the notes on Stanzas.

88, 89 ’T was such as angel minds above Might envy. Cf. ll. 21-22:

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me.

93 example. In 1827 (1. 117) erroneously printed “examples.”

94-97 (1827) See the note on lines 81-85 (1845), the corresponding lines to these. The parallel with Wordsworth is even closer here than there.

97 In 1845 a comma is wrongly inserted after “forest.” [page 152:]

102-107 (1827) The sentence is badly involved. The object of “name” (102) appears to be “empire” (104), “can'st” and “would'st” (103) being correlative. “Heav’n” (107) is appositive to “what” (107). The idea expressed in the passage suggests that developed more fully i ll. 25-32.

103 The text of 1845 has a comma after “sunshine.”

109 (1827) The line is corrupt, “was” having fallen out before “worthy.” See line 144 (1827).

111 Both in his poems and in his tales, Poe makes a good deal of the eyes. See, for the poems, To the River —— , l. 14; Al Aaraaf, Part II, I.78 ll. 6-8, 20, 21; To M.L.S——, l. 12; the second To ll. 37-47; A Valentine, ll. 1-2; For Annie, l. 102; Annabel Lee, l. 36.

116 I had no being — but in thee. Cf. Byron's The Dream, l. 51:

He had no breath, no being, but in hers.

118 In the earth — the air — the sea. Poe's references to nature are infrequent and are almost invariably either vague or perfunctory (see the notes on Evening Star). The corresponding passage in the text of 1827 (ll. 166-167) is less comprehensive, but more picturesque. See, for other passages in Tamerlane in which nature plays a part, lines 139-143, 253-255, and 318-321 (text of 1827 in each instance).

120-127 The passage is obscure, but apparently the poet means to say that in his idealizing he was confronted by the image of his love, on the one hand, and his dreams of glory — a name — (in which his love was to share), on the other. This interpretation is supported by the text of 1827 (ll. 167-178).

121 Dim, vanities. Both sense and meter seem to favor the omission of the comma, but it is retained in each of the editions in which the words occur (1829, 1831, 1845), and is at least a possible reading.

123 a more shadowy light! See the note on lines 72-73 (1827).

133 But, just like any other dream. An uncommonly pedestrian line, even for Poe's earliest period.

136-143 (1827) Cf. Stanzas, ll. 17-25, and the introductory note on that poem.

139 f. Cf., for a similar situation, Al Aaraaf, Part II, ll. 191 f.

149 I have substituted a comma for the dash with which this line ends in 1845.

151, 152 (1827) “no purer thought Dwelt in a seraph's breast than thine. I must beg the reader's pardon for making Tamerlane, a Tartar of the fourteenth century, speak in the same language as a Boston [page 153:] gentleman of the nineteenth: but of the Tartar mythology we have little information.” — POE.

[Poe corrects in his note the misspelling “dwell” (for “dwelt”) which appears in the text of 1827, but prints “seraphs” in italics.]

153 (1827) st ill. Probably the archaic use in the sense of “ever,” as in Dreams, l. 7.

156 (1827) “Which blazes upon Edis’ shrine. A deity presiding over virtuous love, upon whose imaginary altar a sacred fire was continually blazing.” — POE.

165 round. Spelled “‘round” in 1845.

191 f. Cf. the opening lines of Byron's Monody on the Death of the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan:

When the last sunshine of expiring day

In summer's twilight weeps itself away,

Who hath not felt the softness of the hour

Sink on the heart, as dew along the flower?

With a pure feeling which absorbs and awes

While Nature makes that melancholy pause,

Her breathing moment on the bridge where Time

Of light and darkness forms an arch sublime,

Who hath not shared that calm so still and deep,

The voiceless thought which would not speak but weep.

194 (1827) Professor Harrison (I, p. 68) calls attention to the parallel with Cardinal Newman's well-known line in his Lead, Kindly Light: “Pride ruled my will,” etc.

197 See Poe's note, below, on lines 372-373 of the 1827 edition.

201 What tho’ the moon — the white moon. The word “white” must be given the time of two syllables. Poe was fond of the prolonged monosyllable; see, for other examples, The Haunted Palace, l. 12 (“time”), l. 40 (“old”); Lenore (text of 1843), l. 58 (“gold”). I have inserted a necessary dash at the end of this line.

202 noon. See the note on Al Aaraaf, Part II, l. 9.

203 Her smile is chilly. The moon is spoken of as cold or as unsympathetic also in Dreams, l. 25, Evening Star, ll. 5 f., and Al Aaraaf, Part II, l. 151. — Cf. Lowell's comment on the coldness — the “chilly polish” — of the moon, especially on winter nights, in A Good Word for Winter (Riverside edition, III, p. 289).

209 The comma at the end of this line is omitted in 1845.

210 I have substituted a period for the dash with which this line ends in 1845. [page 154:]

213-215 Possibly an echo of Don Juan, Canto III, stanza lii, ll. 1-4:

He entered in the house — his home no more,

For without hearts there is no home; — and felt

The solitude of passing his own door

Without a welcome.

229 Eblis. See Sale's note (“Preliminary Discourse” on the Koran, Philadelphia, 1856, p. 52): “The devil, whom Mohammed named Eblis, for his despair, was once one of those angels who are nearest to God's presence, called Azazil, and fell, according to the doctrine of the Koran (chap. ii), for refusing to pay homage to Adam at the command of God.”

243 Cf. Lycidas, l. 69:

Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair:

and Lovelace's To Althea, ll. 1-8:

When love with unconfined wings

Hovers within my gates, —

And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair

And fettered to her eye

The birds that wanton in the air,

Know no such liberty.

The edition of 1831 appends to the poem an imperfect draft of A Dream within a Dream.

258-260 (1827) “who hardly will conceive That any should become ‘great,’ born In their own sphere. Although Tamerlane speaks this, it is not the less true. It is a matter of the greatest difficulty to make the generality of mankind believe that one with whom they are upon terms of intimacy, shall be called, in the world, a ‘great man.’ The reason is evident. There are few great men. Their actions are consequently viewed by the mass of the people thro’ the medium of distance. — The prominent parts of their character are alone noted; and those properties which are minute and common to every one, not being observed, seem to have no connection with a great character.

“Who ever read the private memorials, correspondence, &c, which have become so common in our time, without wondering that ‘great men’ should act and think ‘so abominably’?” — POE. [page 155:]

[In 1827 the word “born,” in the second line of the poet's comment, is erroneously repeated, and the restrictive clauses in the fourth and ninth lines are set off by commas.]

Whitty (pp. 285-286) cites this passage in support of the authenticity of the lines entitled The Great Man (printed in his edition of the poems, p. 143).

279 (1827) “Her own Alexis, who should plight, &c. That Tamerlane acquir’d his renown under a feigned name is not entirely a fiction.” — POE.

The names “Alexis” and “Ada” (1. 286, 1827) appeared only in the earliest text of Tamerlane. Alexis (variant “Alexius”) was the name adopted by a line of Byzantine emperors in the time of the Crusades, and also of several emperors of Trebizond in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.

304, 306, 307, 310, 316 (1827) All either lame or cacophonous lines. This section seems to have been less carefully revised than any other in the poem.

310-314 (1827) One of the most explicit references to God and his relation to the universe to be found in Poe's writings. See on Poe's religious beliefs, the introductory note on Hymn.

327 (1827) “Look ‘round thee now on Samarcand. I believe it was after the battle of Angora that Tamerlane made Samarcand his residence. It became for a time the seat of learning and the arts.” — POE.

[In the original, “Angora” is spelled “Angoria.”]

333 (1827) “And who her sov’reign? Timur, &c. He was called Timur Bek as well as Tamerlane.” — POE.

337 (1827) “The Zinghis’ yet re-echoing fame. The conquests of Tamerlane far exceeded those of Zinghis Khan. He boasted to have two thirds of the world at his command.” — POE.

339 (1827) The sound of revelry by night. Cf. Byron's famous line, “There was a sound of revelry by night” (Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza xxi, l. 1). The line does not appear in any subsequent edition.

371 (1827) lisp. Evidently a typographical error for “list.”

372, 373 (1827) “the sound of the coming darkness [known To those whose spirits hark’n]. I have often fancied that I could distinctly hear the sound of the darkness, as it steals over the horizon — a foolish fancy perhaps, but not more unintelligible than to see music —

“The mind the music breathing from her face.” — POE. [page 156:]

[See, for a similar comment, the note on Al Aaraaf, Part II, l. 47. — In quoting from his text Poe erroneously capitalizes “the” and substitutes marks of parenthesis for the brackets. — The passage quoted by Poe in elucidation of his comment is from Byron's The Bride ofAbydos, Canto I, stanza vi, l. 22.]

389 (1827) “Let life, then, as the day-flow’r, fall. There is a flow’r (I have never known its botanic name), vulgarly called the day flower. It blooms beautifully in the day-light, but withers towards evening, and by night its leaves appear totally shrivelled and dead. I have forgotten, however, to mention in the text, that it lives again in the morning. If it will not flourish in Tartary, I must be forgiven for carrying it thither.” — POE.

The day-flower is also alluded to by Moore, in Evenings ll. 444-446:

And delicate as those day-flow’rs,

Which, while they last, make up, in light

And sweetness, what they want in hours.

The botanical name of the species is Commelina.

SONG (21)

(1827; 1829; Broadway Journal, September 20, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: Broadway Journal)

The poem apparently refers to the marriage of Miss Royster. Whether or not Poe was actually present at the wedding has not been established; but it has been held that he was in Richmond on the day of the marriage, and that he actually appeared, unexpectedly to all, at the home of Miss Royster while the wedding party was in progress (see E. M. Alfriend in the Literary Era, VIII, p. 489).

The text follows the Broadway Journal (which is identical with 1845) except in the punctuation of the initial line, which in the original is followed by a dash.

1 Cf. a line from Mrs. Osgood's drama Elfrida, — “I saw her on her bridal day, my liege,” — quoted by Poe in a review of her poems (Harrison, XIII, p. 109). Whitty (p. 271) cites a similar line, “I saw her on the bridal day,” from a poem printed in the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post for 1826. [page 157:]



(TEXT: 1827)

One of four poems published only in the volume of 1827. It was omitted in later editions — partly, we may imagine, because of its personal nature, partly because of its evident crudities. The poet's harping on his disappointed ambitions and his unhappy lot points to 1826 or 1827 as the year of composition.

The text of the poem as published in 1827 is imperfect both in the phrasing and in the pointing (see the notes on lines 2, 13, 14, 16, 25, 27). It has been corrected in the present edition with the aid of a manuscript of the poem, of which the present editor has courteously been permitted to avail himself by its owner, Mr. J. P. Morgan, of New York City.

2 In 1827 a comma is erroneously placed after “awak’ning.”

7 still. With the meaning of “ever” (which is the reading of the Morgan MS.).

9-18 The passage refers perhaps to the time of Poe's love-making with Miss Royster, but more probably to the period preceding his estrangement from Mr. Allan.

13 In the interest of clearness, I have inserted a comma after “revell’d.”

14 In 1827 a comma is erroneously placed after “light.”

16 In climes of mine imagining. In the text of 1827, this is misprinted “Inclines of my imaginary.” The present reading is that of the Morgan MS. of the poem.

17, 18 with beings that have been Of mine own thought. Cf. the 1827 text of A Dream wi ll. 6-7:

... and waking thought

Of beings that have been.

Both passages are perhaps echoes of Byron's ll. 19-21:

The mind can make

Substance, and people planets of its own

With beings brighter than have been. [page 158:]

Cf. also the similar passage from Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza xiv, II.1-3:

Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,

Till he had peopled them with beings bright

As their own beams.

19-26 This experience of the poet — which he interprets to be a sort of divine revelation of the gift of genius — is dwelt on in Stanzas, and is mentioned also in Tamerlane, l. 73. See in this connection Professor Woodberry's comments on the poet's dreaming faculty and on the significance of this mood (Life of Poe, I, pp. 43-44).

23, 24 See Tamerlane, l. 203, and the note thereon.

25 In the original the comma is omitted after “was.”

27 I have been happy, tho’ [but] in a dream. The word “but” was omitted in 1827, but is inserted here on the authority of the Morgan MS.

29 coloring. Spelled “colouring” in 1827. In the Lorimer Graham copy of 1845, however, Poe deletes the u in several similar spellings.


(1827; 1829; Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, July, 1839)

(TEXT: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine)

Spirits of the Dead is the earliest of a group of seven poems in which Poe deals with the realm of departed spirits (see for others of this group the introductory note on The City in the Sea). Here the situation is apparently that of the abode of the wicked after death.

The poem was evidently suggested by Byron's well-known incantation at the end of the first scene of the initial act of Manfred, from which several passages are paraphrased (see the notes on lines 1-2, 11 f., 15-16, 19-20, 23-26). Byron's incantation is said to have reference to Lady Byron and to have been written shortly after his “last fruitless attempt at reconciliation” with her. It is possible that Spirits of the Dead was inspired, similarly, by Poe's resentment against Miss Royster.

A manuscript version of the poem — not, however, in Poe's handwriting, though obviously authentic — is described by Stedman and Woodberry (X, p. 226). The text followed here is that of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, save for the following corrections in punctuation: the substitution of a colon for a dash at the end of line 4, the omission of a comma after line 12, the substitution of a comma and [page 159:] a semicolon respectively after lines i g and 20, the insertion of a comma after line 24, and the omission of a dash after line 28.

The poem is omitted in 1831 and in 1845, but for what reason it is difficult to surmise. No other poem in the edition of 1827 possesses larger merit. “Such imaginings,” says Professor Woodberry (I, p. 45), in commenting on lines 12-21, “might well portend in poetry a genius as original as was Blake's in art.”

1, 2 Cf. Manfred, I, i, ll. 205-206:

By a power to thee unknown,

Thou canst never be alone.

The parallel is even closer with the 1827 version of the lines:

Thy soul shall find itself alone —

Alone of all on earth — unknown.

5, 6 that solitude Which is not loneliness. Cf. Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza xc, l. 2: “In solitude, where we are least alone”; and see the discussion of the proverb “Never less alone than when alone,” in Modern Language Notes, XXIV, pp. 54 f., 123, 226; XXV, pp. 28 f., 96; XXVI, p. 232; the New York Nation, XCVI, p. 256, — where parallels are cited from Shakespeare, Browne, Milton, Cowley, Rogers, and others, and the saying is traced as far back as Cicero. To the parallels adduced in these articles should be added Wordsworth's “Solitude to her Is blithe society” (Characteristics of a Child Three Years Old, ll. 12-13).

5-10 Cf. ll. 31-38.

11 i. See M ll. 228-229:

And to thee shall Night deny

All the quiet of her sky.

15, 16 Cf. ll. 203-204.

17 fever. The text of 1827 has “ferver.” The same mistake appears in the 1827 version of Stanzas, l. 10.

19, 20 A close paraphrase of Byron's lines from his incantation in Manfred (I, ii, ll. 204-205):

There are shades which will not vanish,

There are thoughts thou canst not banish.

22 dew-drop. Perhaps a misprint for “dew-drops” (the reading adopted by Stedman and Woodberry and by Harrison), though both 1829 and Burton's retain the reading here adopted. [page 160:]

23 A similar situation is found in The City in the Sea, ll. 38 f., and in The Valley of Unrest, ll. 11 f.

23-26 Cf. Manfred ll. 199-203:

[When] the silent leaves are still

In the shadow of the hill,

Shall my soul be upon thine

With a power and with a sign.

24 mist. The reading of 1827, “wish,” is plainly a typographical error. 26 a symbol and a token. The same collocation appears in Stanzas, l. 24.



(TEXT: 1827)

Evening Star is noteworthy as being one of the few poems in which Poe deals with nature. Other poems in which nature plays a part are Tamerlane (especially lines 166 f. and 31 of. of the edition of 1827), The Lake: To ——, To the River ——, Al Aaraaf, Politian (scene iv, II. 45-50), and the later To Helen. In each of these, except possibly the last, the treatment is mainly conventional; and it is almost invariably abstract, the moon, the stars, the heavens, the sea, and the wind being the objects most frequently mentioned. The only flowers that are referred to specifically more than once are the lily (mentioned five times), the rose (mentioned four times), the violet (mentioned three times), and the hyacinth and ivy (each mentioned twice); and the only birds that are mentioned more than once are the eagle, the albatross, and the condor (the first mentioned four times, and the other two twice).

The impulse to the writing of the poem came, apparently, from one of Moore's Irish Melodies, “While Gazing on the Moon's Light,” the first stanza of which Poe parallels fairly closely in lines 5-23. Moore's poem begins as follows:

While gazing on the moon's light,

A moment from her smile I turn’d,

To look at orbs, that, more bright,

In lone and distant glory burn’d.

But too far

Each proud star, [page 161:]

For me to feel its warming flame;

Much more dear

That mild sphere,

Which near our planet smiling came.

5 cold moon. See the note on Tamerlane, l. 203.

11 I have substituted a period for the dash which 1827 erroneously places at the end of the line.

22 Followed by a comma in 1827.


(1827; Yankee, December, 1829 (in part); 1829; 1831 (appended to Tamerlane); Flag of Our Union, March 31, 1849)

(TEXT: Flag of Our Union)

In its earliest form, this poem is entitled Imitation, — in acknowledgment, perhaps, of its indebtedness to Byron (see the notes on lines 6, 7, 9-10). In 1829, it bears the title To — — — (though to whom it was addressed is unknown). The excerpt printed by John Neal in the Yankee comprises only lines 13-26 (of the 1829 text). The 1831 version, which comprises the same lines as the excerpt in the Yankee, is appended to Tamerlane. The poem was first given its present title in 1849, in the text published in the Flag of Our Union. Poe also contemplated republishing the poem in the fall of 1849, and the proofs made for that purpose still exist (see Whitty, p. ix). This version, which is entitled To —— , exhibits two slight variations from the text adopted here (see the notes on lines 1 and 4). A manuscript copy of the last fifteen lines of the poem, sent Mrs. Richmond in 1849 and entitled For Annie, also exists; see the facsimile reproduction printed in the London Bookman, January, 1909, p. 190.

The date of composition is uncertain: the poem was perhaps written several years before it was first published (see the note on lines 11-14). But whether written then or later, it is probable that it was revised to some extent after the poet left the Allan home in 1827 (see lines 11-20 of the 1827 text).

In the course of its several republishings, the poem underwent sweeping changes, no line of the original version being preserved unaltered in the final text. Because of the radical departure made from the two earliest versions of the poem — the texts of 1827 and 1829 — these [page 162:] two versions have been reproduced in their entirety in the footnotes of the present edition.

The lyric is manifestly autobiographical, especially in its earlier forms. In Imitation the poet harps anew on his youthful pride, on his dream habit, and on his disappointed ambitions. In the text of 1829 he writes in much the same vein, though there is connoted now something of desperation, and of defiance as well.

1 the. The Examiner proof sheets (see Whitty, p. 123) substitute “thy”; but this clashes with “you” in the next line, and hence is perhaps a printer's error.

3 In the original a dash stands at the end of this line.

4 who. Here again the Examiner text, which substitutes “to” for “who,” has an inferior reading. The retention of the comma before “to” in this version tends to confirm the suspicion that this reading is due to typographical error.

6 (1827) waking thought. Byron has the same locution in The Dream, l. 7:

They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts.

7 (1827) Of beings that have been. Cf. Byron's The Dream, l. 21:

With beings brighter than have been, etc.

See also Poe's Dreams, ll. 17-18.

8 (1827) hath. Apparently an error for “had.” Cf. the corresponding line (11) in the text of 1829.

9, 10 (1827) Cf. M ll. 212-213:

Though thou seest me not pass by,

Thou shalt feel me with thine eye.

11 a dream within a dream. Cf. Coleridge's Recollections of Love, l. 22:

A dream remembered in a dream.

[[first printing:]]

The phrase first appeared in Poe's poem in 1849.

[[second printing:]]

And see also the article of Professor Thomas Ollive Mabbott in Notes and Queries, CXLIX, p. 159 (August 29, 1925), in which several other parallels are cited. The phrase first appeared in Poe's poem in 1849.

[[first printing]]

11-14 (1827) The poet did not entirely relinquish the hope of succeeding to all or a part of Mr. Allan's fortune until after the latter's death in 1834, when it was found that he had left him nothing. But Allan must have made it reasonably clear by 1827 or earlier that he did not intend to make Poe his heir; see his letter of November 1, 1824, to W. H. Poe (p. xiv, above) and Mrs. Weiss, p. 29.

[[second printing]]

11-14 (1827) The poet did not entirely relinquish the hope of succeeding to all or a part of Mr. Allan's fortune until after the latter's death in 1834, when it was found that he had left him nothing. But Allan must have made it reasonably clear by 1827 or earlier that he did not intend to make Poe his heir; see his letter of November 1, 1824, to W. H. Poe (p. xiv, above) and Mrs. Weiss, p. 29. See also the Valentine Letters, pp. 55 f. and passim.

[[resume first printing]]

[page 163:]

13 surf-tormented. In 1829 Poe used the phrase “weatherbeaten”; which gave way in 1831 to “wind-beaten”; and this, in turn, was discarded for the present reading.

13-26 (1829) The Yankee and 1831 reproduce only this segment of the poem.

15 Cf. Politian, III, l. 41:

The sands of Time are changed to golden grains.

18 (1827) sight. A typographical error for “sigh.”

26 (1829) The poet more than once contemplated suicide. See the note on The Lake: To —— , ll. 19-23.



(TEXT: 1827)

This poem gives us Poe's fullest deliverance on a mysterious experience of his youth to which he several times alludes in his earlier verses; namely, the enjoyment, under the influence of solitude and communion with nature, of some mystical and highly exalted mood, which renders him insensible, for the time being, to the realities of the material world, and which he interprets as a token of divine favor of some sort — a revelation to him of secrets that are ordinarily denied to mortals. This experience is akin to that which Wordsworth records of himself in his note on the Intimations of ll. 142 f., and is hinted at in the passage from Byron used as motto for the present poem. See also Wordsworth's Tintern ll. 41 f.; Tennyson's The ll. 229-239, and In M ll. 33-48; Lowell's Letters, ed. Norton, I, p. 140; and the passage quoted below from Dickens's Oliver Twist; and for further analogues and a general discussion of similar “trance experiences,” cf. the article on “Mysticism,” by A. S. Pringle-Pattison in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

The poem is one of the most broken and incoherent that Poe wrote, and is correspondingly difficult of interpretation. It may have been written several years before publication, though it was probably not composed before 1823, since Byron's The Island, from which its motto is taken, was published in that year. [page 164:]

Title. In 1827 the poem is without title. The title adopted here was first used by Stedman and Woodberry (X, p. 122).

Motto. From Byron's The Island, Canto ll. 13-16.

1 In youth have I known one. The reference is to the poet himself. See the initial lines of The Lake: To ——, and compare Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto III, stanza iii, l. 1:

In my youth's summer I did sing of One.

2 In secret. The phrase is without punctuation in the original.

5 forth. Made to rhyme with “Earth.” In his earlier verses Poe has few inexact rhymes; though in his later work he not infrequently adopted a cockney rhyme for the sake of its ludicrous or fantastic effect.

6 A passionate light. Cf. Dreams, ll. 19 f., and Tamerlane, l. 73 (1827) and 123 (1845); and see the general note, above. — such for his spirit was fit. The inversion is awkward. As a rule Poe was admirably direct in his word-order. “Few things have greater tendency than inversion,” he writes in one of his Marginalia (Harrison, XVI, p. 154), “to render verse feeble and ineffective. In most cases where a line is spoken of as ‘forcible,’ the force may be referred to directness of expression.”

7 In the original the dash is placed after “knew.”

9-16 The poet offers several alternative explanations of the “passionate light” of the opening stanza. Perhaps, he says, it was merely the influence of the moon (ll. 9-10), — though he believes it to possess a much deeper significance than anything of which even the ancients have written; or, again, it is possibly “the unembodied essence of a thought” with its “quickening spell” — a thought such as may come to one suddenly and unexpectedly while contemplating some simple and familiar object.

10 fever. Ingram's correction for “ferver” of the origina1. Shepherd (in his reprint of Tamerlane, p. 14) holds that we cannot be sure that “ferver” was not an error for “fervor”; but the sense calls for “fever,” and the spelling “ferver” also lends support to it. The error came about, in all likelihood, in the printing — under the influence, perhaps, of “fervor” in line 8. A similar mistake was made in the 1827 version of Spirits of the Dead, l. 17.

11 that wild light. The “passionate light” of line 6.

14 The comma after “more” was omitted in 1827.

17-25 Cf. Tamerlane (1827), ll. 140-143, the motto from Byron, and the general note above. See also Childe Harold, Canto IV, stanza xxiii: [page 165:]

But ever and anon of griefs subdued

There comes a token like a scorpion's sting,

Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;

And slight withal may be the things which bring

Back on the heart the weight which it would fling

Aside for ever: it may be a sound —

A tone of music — summer's eve — or spring —

A flower — the wind — the ocean — which shall wound,

Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.

And note the following passage from Oliver Twist (chap. xxx):

The boy stirred and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known; as a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, or even the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never were in this life, which vanish like a breath, and which some brief memory of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened, for no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall them.

20 that object. Inclosed in parentheses in 1827. The dash following “object” has been inserted by the present editor.

24 A period is placed at the end of the line in 1827.

24-32 The poet, having endeavored in the second and third stanzas to account for the mystic experience which he mentions in the first stanza, now endeavors to explain its significance. This experience he interprets as symbolic of conditions supramundane and as an evidence of the interposition on the part of the Deity in behalf of one who, in virtue of the depth of his passion, might otherwise fall away from faith and godliness.

27, 29 The present editor has inserted a comma at the end of each of these lines.

28 Drawn by their heart's passion. It was for the same reason that Angelo (in Al Aaraaf, Part ll. 176-177) failed to attain to heaven. See also Tamerlane ll. 102 f.:

’Tis not to thee that I should name —

.... .....

The magic empire of a flame

Which ev’n upon this perilous brink

Hath fix’d my soul, tho’ unforgiv’n

By what it lost for passion — Heav’n. [page 166:]

A DREAM (30)

(1827; 1829; Broadway Journal, August 16, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: Broadway Journal)

This poem was evidently written in the spring or summer of 1827, after Poe had run away from the home of his foster-father in Richmond. The third and fourth lines of a stanza originally prefixed to the poem (see the footnotes, p. 30, above) make specific reference to the poet's state of mind at this time.

In 1827 the poem is without title. The text of the Broadway Journal — which is followed in the present edition — is identical with that of 1845.

2 (1827) My spirit spurn’d contro This confession of the poet falls in very well with Mr. Allan's description of the youthful Poe in his letter to William Henry Poe of November 1, 1824 (see the Introduction, p. xiv).

3, 4 But a waking dream of life and light Hath left me brokenhearted. Perhaps Poe meant that his Richmond friends should find in these lines some evidence of relenting on his part. Ingram has suggested (p. 45) that Poe may have had a similar purpose in view when he adopted as the motto of the 1827 volume a couplet from Cowper ( ll. 444-445):

Young heads are giddy, and young hearts are warm,

And make mistakes for manhood to reform.

16 To be scanned, apparently, as a trimeter, “day-star” being given the time of two iambs.



(TEXT: 1827)

Probably written in 1827 after Poe had left Richmond (see especially the last two stanzas). The poem is without title in 1827, and is marred by a number of errors in punctuation.

1 The original has a dash after “day.” Other errors in punctuation — corrected in the present edition — occur in lines 3 (the insertion of a [page 167:] comma after “pride”), 5 (the omission of all pointing after “ween”), 6 (the omission of the comma after “long”), 12 (the omission of the comma after “still”), 13 (the use of a dash after “day”), 14 (the use of a dash after “see” and the omission of the comma after “seen”), 15 (the omission of the comma after “power”), 21 (the omission of the comma after “alloy”), 22 (the use of a dash after “flutter’d”).

2 My sear’d and blighted heart. Cf. Politian, IV, l. 28: “My seared and blighted name.”

5 Of power! said I? This echoing of the emphatic word from the preceding stanza suggests the melodious repetition with which Coleridge begins the second and the fourth stanzas of his Youth and Age; there can be no actual connection between the two poems, however, since Youth and Age (though begun in 1823) was not published until 1828.

10, 11 A reference, perhaps, to Poe's fear that another would succeed to the position that he had held in the Allan household (see also A Dream within a Dream, ll. 11-14, text of 1827).

23 An essence — powerful to destroy. Cf. Byron's Manfred, I, i, l. 233:

An essence which hath strength to kill.


(1827; 1829; 1831 (incorporated in Tamerlane); Missionary Memorial for 1846 (published in 1845); 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

The tone of these lines and the hint of suicide (in line 19) would indicate that this poem was written shortly before publication — perhaps in the spring of 1827.

The text of 1845 was left unchanged in the Lorimer Graham copy of that edition, and evidently represents Poe's latest revision (see the variants for lines 1, 9, 10, 12, 18). The Missionary Memorial (a New York annual), although it bears the date 1846 on its title-page, was published in the fall of 1845. Its preface is dated “October, 1845,” and it was noticed in the New Mirror of November 22, 1845. Poe read his last proofs on the volume of 1845 about the middle of October (see Harrison, XIII, p. 31). A manuscript copy of the poem, representing a stage midway between 1827 and 1829, is described by Stedman and Woodberry, X, p. 226. [page 168:]

Ingram (p. 49) expresses the opinion that The Lake is the best of the pieces contained in the volume of 1827; and Woodberry (I, p. 44) observes that it shares with Spirits of the Dead the distinction of being the only pieces in the volume that have Poe's “peculiar touch.” It is one of the few poems in which Poe makes anything of nature (see the notes on Evening Star).

Title. The subtitle was first added in 1829. In both 1829 and 1845 a dash separates title and subtitle.

1 (1827) In youth's spring it was my lot. Compare Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza iii, l. 1:

In my youth's summer I did sing of One.

5 a wild lake. It is unlikely that Poe had in mind any particular lake. There is no lake near Richmond that answers to the description that he gives. Professor Kent suggests (Harrison, VII, p. xii) that he perhaps had reference to some lake in the hills of Scotland or in Switzerland. The poet was in Scotland in the fall of 1815, but it is reasonably certain that he was never on the Continent (see the Sewanee Review, April, 1912 (pp. 204-205)).

5 f. The situation here and in the concluding stanza suggests the scene in Manfred (I, ii, ll. 1 f.), in which the hero of that poem is represented as meditating suicide.

10 I have substituted a comma for the dash with which the line ends in 1845.

11 I have inserted a comma after “ah” and a dash after “then.” 18, 19 Cf. Manfred, I, ii, l. 103:

Such would have been for me a fitting tomb.

19-23 Poe, if we may believe his own statements, did actually attempt suicide on one occasion in the fall of 1848; see his letter of November 16, 1848, to Mrs. Richmond (Letters, p. 313); and see also a letter of September 11, 1835, to J. P. Kennedy (Letters, p. 17).

21 In 1845 this line is followed by a dash.

23 dim lake. Cf. Moore's lyric beginning, “I wish I was by that dim lake,” of which Poe says in his Poetic Principle: “In the compass of the English language I can call to mind no poem more profoundly — more weirdly imaginative, in the best sense.” [page 169:]


(1829; Saturday Evening Post, September 11, 1830; Philadelphia Casket, October, 1830; 1831; Southern Literary Messenger, May, 1836; Graham's Magazine, June, 1841; Broadway Journal, July 2, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

Probably composed in the spring or summer of 1829. The changes made in the poem were comparatively few. The variations exhibited by the Saturday Evening Post and by the Casket (which merely copies the text of the Post) can hardly be chargeable to the poet, and it may be that the poem was printed by them without his authorization. The Casket of May, 1831, copied three of Poe's early poems, including this, from the edition of 1831, making acknowledgment to that volume.

The sonnet is Poe's protest against the “subtleties which would make poetry a study — not a passion,” a remonstrance against the confounding of poetry with metaphysics. He touches again on this theme in Al Aaraaf, Part II, ll. 163-164:

Ev’n with us the breath

Of Science dims the mirror of our joy;

and he dwells on the subject in his Letter to B—— (see the Appendix of this volume). Here, after complaining of Wordsworth's insistence on the metaphysical in poetry, he expresses the conviction that “learning has little to do with the imagination,” and cites as an illustration Coleridge, who, he holds, “goes wrong by reason of his very profundity.” He then proceeds, with Coleridge's famous differentiation between poetry and science in mind, to formulate a definition of poetry to square with these opinions.

“A poem,” he says, echoing in part Coleridge's famous statement (Biographia Literaria, chap, xiv), “in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definitiveness.” [page 170:]

Poe's theorizing on the subject was, doubtless, prompted by his reading of Coleridge; but the immediate impulse to the writing of this sonnet seems to have come from Keats, whose Lamia it echoes in its closing lines (see Bronson's American Poems, p. 566). Cf. with lines 914 the opening lines of Lamia:

Upon a time, before the faery broods

Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,

Before King Oberon's bright diadem,

Sceptre, and mantle, clasp’d with dewy gem,

Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns

From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip’d lawns;

and see also ll. 229-238:

Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold philosophy?

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:

We know her woof, her texture: she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.

Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,

Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,

Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine —

Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made

The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.

The relation of poetry to science had also been discussed by Leigh Hunt in his review of Keats's volume of 1820 (reprinted in the Astor Edition of Keats, pp. 617 f.) and by Macaulay in his essay on Milton. See also Moore's The Loves of the Angels (ll. 547 f., 658 f.), Wordsworth's A Poet's Epitaph (ll. 18-20) and his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Emerson's Forbearance, Aldrich's Realism, and Sidney Lanier's The English Novel (pp. 27 f.).

8 he. Graham's, by a misprint, has “be.”

9 In 1845 this line is followed by an interrogation point.

11 some happier star. A reference apparently to Al Aaraaf, which Poe represents as being the birthplace of the idea of Beauty.

12 Naiad. The reading “Nais” in the Post and the Casket is doubtless traceable to typographical error. The variant readings exhibited by these two texts in lines 2, 3, 11, 12, 13 are probably to be explained in the same way. [page 171:]


(Yankee, December, 1829 (in part); 1829; 1831; Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843 (in part); 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

Date of Composition. Al Aaraaf was probably begun while Poe was in the army (1827-1829); apparently it had been completed by May, 1829, when it was submitted to William Wirt for his criticism (see the fragment of an unpublished letter of Wirt's to Poe, of date May 11, 1829, now preserved in the “Griswold Papers” in the Boston Public Library). In the Broadway Journal of November 22, 1845, Poe avers that he wrote the poem when he was only ten years old; and in a letter to John Neal published in the Boston Yankee in December, 1829, he declares that most of the volume of 1829, in which Al Aaraaf is the leading poem, was written before he was fifteen, that is, before 1824. But aside from the circumstantial evidence that tells so strongly against these statements, there is the evidence of the poem itself, which is a much maturer performance than anything in the volume of 1827. It would be difficult to believe that the Poe who composed the halting verses of 1827 could have written the song of Nesace in the second part of Al Aaraaf. Partial confutation of Poe's statement is also had from one of his footnotes, the excerpt from Sumner's comments on Milton's Christian Doctrine (see the note on Part I, l. 105, below): Sumner's edition of the Christian Doctrine did not appear until 1825.

[[first printing]]

Text. The excerpts of the poem published in the Yankee (comprising lines 126-132 of Part I, and 1 5-39 of Part II) in December, 1829, differ but little from the corresponding passage in 1829 (published towards the end of December). The only noteworthy variation of later texts is seen in 1831, which expands the first fifteen lines into twenty-nine. The excerpts printed in the Saturday Museum in 1843 include the following lines: Part I, 66-67, 70-79, 82-101, 126-129; Part II, 20-21, 24-27, 52-59, 68-135 (see Stedman and Woodberry, X, p. 217). The text of the poems published in the Saturday Museum I have not seen. For the variants exhibited by that periodical I have relied on Stedman and Woodberry.

[[second printing]]

Text. The excerpts of the poem published in the Yankee (comprising lines 126-132 of Part I, and 1 5-39 of Part II) in December, 1829, differ but little from the corresponding passage in 1829 (published towards the end of December). The only noteworthy variation of later texts is seen in 1831, which expands the first fifteen lines into twenty-nine. The excerpts printed in the Saturday Museum in 1843 include the following lines: Part I, 66-67, 70-79, 82-101, 126-129; Part II, 20-21, 24-27, 52-59, 68-135 (see Stedman and Woodberry, X, p. 217). The variants exhibited by the Saturday Museum are here reproduced by the kind permission of Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons from Poe's Works, edited by Stedman and Woodberry (New York, 1914).

[[resume first printing]]

The text followed in the present edition is that of 1845 (except for slight revisions noted below).

Meaning and Worth. The title of the poem is drawn from the Koran, Al Aaraaf being the name which the Mohammedans give to the realm [page 172:] of departed spirits intermediate between heaven and hell. Poe probably used Sale's translation, with his “Preliminary Discourse” which was subsequently to furnish him with material for his Israfe1. In a footnote on chapter seven of the Koran (entitled Al Arâf), Sale describes Al Aaraaf as “a sort of purgatory for those who, though they deserve not to be sent to hell, yet have not merits sufficient to gain them immediate admittance into paradise, and will be tantalized here for a certain time (?) with a bare view of the felicity of that place.” And in his “Preliminary Discourse” on the Koran he has this, further, to say:

The Mohammedan writers greatly differ as to the persons who are to be found on al Araf. Some imagine it to be a sort of limbo, for the patriarchs and prophets, or for the martyrs and those who have been most eminent for sanctity, among whom they say there will be also angels in the form of men. Others place here such whose good and evil works are so equal that they exactly counterpoise each other and therefore deserve neither reward nor punishment; and these, they say, will on the last day be admitted into paradise, after they shall have performed an act of adoration, which will be imputed to them as a merit, and will make the scale of their good works to overbalance. Others suppose this intermediate space will be a receptacle for those who have gone to war, without their parents’ leave, and therein suffered martyrdom; being excluded paradise for their disobedience, and escaping hell because they are martyrs. The breadth of this partition wall cannot be supposed to be exceeding great, since not only those who shall stand thereon will hold conference with the inhabitants both of paradise and hell, but the blessed and the damned themselves will also be able to talk to one another. — “Preliminary Discourse” on the Koran, Philadelphia, 1856, p. 68.

Poe's conception of Al Aaraaf, it will be observed (see especially his note on Part II, l. 173), is not entirely in accord with any of these views, but it is nearest to that given by Sale in his footnote; it is probable that so much of it, at least, as concerns the presence of sorrow in Al Aaraaf and the fate of those who inhabit it — the part, indeed, which is most significant for Poe's conception — is an independent elaboration of Sale's note, made by the poet in the interest of his story.

Original with Poe, too, no doubt, is the identification of Al Aaraaf with the star discovered by the Swedish astronomer, Tycho Brahe; see the first of Poe's explanatory notes, below.

The poet represents this star as peopled partly by the spirits of certain mortals who, in accordance with the Mohammedan tradition, were not good enough for heaven, but were too good for hell, and partly by certain angels who had dwelt from the beginning in Al [page 173:] Aaraaf and are devotees of some of the nobler passions, as love and beauty, but who are without the supreme knowledge possessed by the angels in heaven.

The central idea of the poem seems to be the divineness of beauty — a happy anticipation of Lanier's doctrine of the “holiness of beauty.” There is also the subsidiary idea (more specifically dealt with in the Sonnet — To Science) that knowledge may incapacitate one for the full appreciation of beauty. And in the story with which the poem concludes, the idea is developed that love may sometimes blind one to the beautiful in its diviner aspects.

Al Aaraaf is the most formless and the most fragmentary of all of Poe's poems. The concluding episode, in particular, is imperfectly fused with the rest, and the poem as a whole is loosely knit together and without any well-defined middle or end. Evidently the poet became entangled in the maze of ideas and images that his fancy had conjured up, and found it difficult to contrive a way out. The contrast with his later work in the matter of structural unity and in directness and lucidity is marked.

Because of its obscurity the poem has scarcely received justice at the hands of the critics and commentators on Poe, most of whom have either ignored it altogether or have dwelt on its imperfections to the exclusion of all else. Stoddard, for example (I, p. 34), speaks of it as “a boy's poem, ambitious but uninteresting”; Stedman (in the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe, X, p. xx) describes it as “unintelligible”; and Professor Kent (the Harrison edition of Poe, VII, p. xvii) queries whether it is not, possibly, “a mere exercise in metrical manipulation, with no higher purpose than beauty of sound,” or perhaps a “huge hoax,” in which the poet challenges “the wits to vain attempts at solving that which has no solution.” But that the poem, in spite of its many defects, is not without real merit will be apparent on a careful examination of it. The idea at base is essentially poetic, some of the descriptive passages are genuinely picturesque, and the lyrical passages are melodious throughout, the apostrophe to Ligeia in the second half of the poem being one of the most musical things that Poe ever wrote. The poem marked a notable advance over anything the poet had previously done, and proved, once and for all, as Professor Woodberry has justly observed (I, p. 64), that its “author had a poetic faculty.”

Sources. For the basic idea of his poem and for most of his materials Poe relied on his own invention; in so far as he borrowed from others, his chief indebtednesses were to Sale and to Milton and [page 174:] to Moore. From Sale he borrowed the idea of his setting in its larger aspects; from Milton he took the suggestion of much of the imagery in the second half of the poem; and Moore furnished him with the catalogue of flowers near the beginning of his poem and with the model for the story of Angelo and Ianthe, with which the poem concludes. Paradise Lost was the chief of Milton's poems on which he drew (see the notes on Part I, l. 115; Part II, ll. 1-39); and Lalla Rookh and The Loves of the Angels were the chief among Moore's poems (see the notes on ll. 48, 55 f., 66, 78, 1 ll. 1 59 f., 182-264). There are also echoes of Byron (see the notes on Part I, ll. 98-99 and Part II, ll. 68 f.), and perhaps also of Keats (see Part I, ll. 124-125) and of Marlowe (see Part I, ll. 64-65).

For a careful and accurate analysis of the poem, see an article by Professor W. B. Cairns, “Some Notes on Poe's ‘Al Aaraaf,’” in Modern Philology for May, 1915 (XIII, pp. 35-44); see also Woodberry, I, pp. 60-65, and J. P. Fruit's The Mind and Art of Poe's Poetry, pp. 23-32.

As a motto Poe prefixed to the poem in 1829 a line from Milton's Comus (1. 122),

What has night to do with sleep?

and after this came a “dedication” from the lyric A Song of Sack (1. 36), which Poe attributes to Cleveland,

Who drinks the deepest? — here's to him.

In 1831 the second of these lines was omitted, and both lines were omitted in 1845.

The notes with which Poe decked out his poem appear in all three editions (1829, 1831, 1845), in each of them being printed at the bottom of the page. In the present edition they have been printed along with the editor's notes.

Title. On the title Poe has this note in the editions of 1829 and 1831 : “A star was discovered by Tycho Brahe which burst forth, in a moment, with a splendor surpassing that of Jupiter — then gradually faded away and became invisible to the naked eye.” The same note appears in the edition of 1845, but it is there changed so as to read as follows: “A star was discovered by Tycho Brahe which appeared suddenly in the heavens — attained, in a few days, a brilliancy surpassing that of Jupiter — then as suddenly disappeared, and has never been seen since.” In 1831 (p. 83) the title is erroneously spelled “Al Araaf.” [page 175:]

I, 1-15 Instead of these lines, 1831 has a passage of twenty-nine lines (see the footnotes to the text); but in 1845 Poe returned to the text of 1829.

I, 9 The comma before “like” does not appear in 1845.

I, 16 Nesace. To be accented, as the scansion establishes, as a trisyllable and with the stress on the first and last syllables. The name was perhaps derived from “Nausikaa” (a Latin form of which is Nausicae); or perhaps it was coined, as my friend and colleague, Professor R. H. Griffith, has suggested to me, out of the word “Seneca” (see the second note on Part I, l. 158).

I, 17 lolling. A favorite word with Poe; see the note on The Sleeper, l. 10.

I, 20, 21 (1831) Compare Shelley's ode To a Skylark, l. 90:

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

I, 22-25 (1831) See Poe's note on Part II, l. 173.

I, 26 an anchor’d realm. Not this earth, but Al Aaraaf, which is now anchored to the earth. See Part 1, ll. 30 f., 143, 158; also Part II, l. 242, where it is stated that Al Aaraaf is the “nearest of all stars” to the earth.

I, 29 quadruple light. In line 18 Al Aaraaf is described as being “near four bright suns.”

I, 30 yon lovely Earth. The reference is to Al Aaraaf.

I, 31, 34 In accordance with the custom of his day, Poe placed a comma before the parenthesis, and omitted the comma after it.

I, 43, 44 ... of lilies such as rear’d the head On the fair Capo Deucato. The reference is to the scented lilies which are said to grow in Leucadia and especially about the cliffs from which Sappho is alleged to have thrown herself into the sea. There is an account, to which Poe was probably indebted, in Moore's Evenings in Greece, ll. 131 f., 147 f. (see the note on line 44).

I, 44 On the fair Capo Deucato. “On Santa Maura — olim Deucadia.” — POE.

Poe's note was apparently suggested by one of Moore's notes on Evenings in Greece (touching the passage, referred to in the preceding note, in which he mentions Leucadia): “Now Santa Maura — the island from whose cliffs Sappho leaped into the sea.”

Deucadia is the modern Leucas. In a school edition of Fénelon's Télémaque (ed. Le Brun, Philadelphia, Barrington & Haswell, no date) I find in the glossary (p. 413) Leucate described as “cap de l’Epire, nomme” aujourd’hui, il Capo Ducato.” [page 176:]

I, 47 Of her who lov’d a morta 1. “Sappho.” — POE.

I, 48 The Sephalica, budding with young bees. Suggested by a passage in Lalla Rookh, “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan ll. 155-159:

... the still sound

Of falling waters, lulling as the song

Of Indian bees at sunset, when they throng

Around the fragrant Nilica, and deep

In its blue blossoms hum themselves to sleep.

In a footnote Moore quotes Sir W. Jones to the effect that the Nilica is the same as the Sephalica.

I, 50 And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam’d. “This flower is much noticed by Lewenhoeck and Tournefort. The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.” (POE.) See lines 55 f., and the note thereon, for Poe's indebtedness here to Moore.

The poet is apparently playing upon the tradition of the asphodel (see line 53). Milton relates a similar tradition of the amaranth, which Poe may also have had in mind; see Paradise Lost, III, ll. 353-357:

Immortal amarant, a flower which once

In Paradise, fast by the Tree of Life,

Began to bloom, but, soon for Man's offence

To Heaven removed where first it grew, there grows

And flowers aloft, shading the Fount of Life.

I, 50-56 In a review of the poems of William W. Lord, in the Broadway Journal for May 24, 1845, Poe quotes these lines (perhaps from memory) in a form slightly different from that which appears here (see Harrison, XII, p. 156).

I, 55 f. Cf. Lalla Rookh, “The Fire-Worshippers,” Part 1,, ll. 46-49:

Ev’n as those bees of Trebizond,

Which, from the sunniest flowers that glad

With their pure smile the gardens round,

Draw venom forth that drives men mad!

Moore quotes against this from Tournefort (Voyage into the Levant (London, 1791), III, pp. 66f.): “There is a kind of Rhododendros about Trebizond, whose flowers the bee feeds upon, and the honey thence drives people mad.”

I, 57 The comma after “hour” does not appear in the original.

I, 64, 65 See the note on Part II, l. 217, for a possible indebtedness here to Marlowe. [page 177:]

I, 66 Nyctanthes. Cf. Lalla Rookh, “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan,” Part II, ll. 441-443:

... the sweet night-flower,

When darkness brings its weeping glories out,

And spreads its sighs like frankincense about.

Moore explains in a footnote that the night-flower is the “sorrowful nyctanthes.” He mentions the Nyctanthes again in a footnote on “The Fire-Worshippers” (introduction to Part IV). — In the original the comma is omitted after “Nyctanthes.”

I, 68 “Clytia — The Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ a better-known term, the turnsol — which turns continually towards the sun, covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewy clouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heat of the day. — B. de St. Pierre.” — POE.

[[I,]] 70 “There is cultivated in the king's garden at Paris, a species of serpentine aloes without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odour of the vanilla, during the time of its expansion, which is very short. It does not glow till towards the month of July — you then perceive it gradually open its petals — expand them — fade and die. — St. Pierre.” — POE.

I, 74 “There is found, in the Rhone, a beautiful lily of the Valisnerian kind. Its stem will stretch to the length of three or four feet — thus preserving its head above water in the swellings of the river.” (POE.)

— Valisnerian. Poe's spelling of “Vallisnerian.” I, 76 “The Hyacinth.” — POE.

“Zante” is the Italian name for Greek Zacynthus, which is said to have had its origin in Hyacinthus. See the introductory note on Sonnet — To Zante. See also the note below on Part II, ll. 57-58.

I, 77 Later utilized by the poet as the concluding line of his Sonnet — To Zante. See the note on that line for Professor Woodberry's suggestion as to an indebtedness to Chateaubriand.

I, 78 “It is a fiction of the Indians, that Cupid was first seen floating in one of these down the river Ganges — and that he still loves the cradle of his childhood.” (POE.) Cf. Lalla Rookh, “The Light of the Haram,” ll. 587-592:

He little knew how well the boy

Can float upon a goblet's streams,

Lighting them with his smile of joy: —

As bards have seen him in their dreams,

Down the blue Ganges laughing glide

Upon a rosy lotus wreath; — [page 178:]

upon which Moore has this note: “The Indians feign that Cupid was first seen floating down the Ganges on the Nymphaea Nelumbo. — See Pennant.’‘

I, 81 “And golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. — Rev. St. John.” (POE.) In 1829 Poe adds after “St. John” the reference “5, 8.” Cf. Longfellow's Evangeline, ll. 1031-1033:

The manifold flowers of the garden

Poured out their souls in odors, that were their prayers and confessions

Unto the night.

I, 89 thy barrier and thy bar. The point beyond which the star Al Aaraaf cannot go in its approach to God and heaven.

I, 91 f. Apparently the reference is to the expulsion from heaven of Lucifer and his angels, because of their presumption in opposing God and his decrees (Paradise Lost, Books I, V, VI). But see also the note on line 94.

I, 92 Poe erroneously inserted a comma after “pride” and omitted the comma after “throne.”

I, 94 To be carriers of fire. Here there appears to be contamination, for the nonce, with the myth of Prometheus.

I, 98, 99 who livest — that we know — In Eternity — we feel. Cf. Byron's Manfred, III, iv, ll. 125-126:

Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel;

Thou never shalt possess me, that I know.

I, 100, 101 As Professor Cairns has suggested (Modern Philology, XIII, p. 38), this is only a “rhetorical question.”

I, 103 The original is without pointing after “messenger.”

I, 105 A model of their own.

“The Humanitarians held that God was to be understood as having really a human form. — Vide Clarke's Sermons, vo1. i, page 26, fo1. edit.

“The drift of Milton's argument leads him to employ language which would appear, at first sight, to verge upon their doctrine; but it will be seen immediately, that he guards himself against the charge of having adopted one of the most ignorant errors of the dark ages of the church. — Dr. Sumner's Notes on Milton's Christian Doctrine.

“This opinion, in spite of many testimonies to the contrary, could never have been very genera1. Andeus, a Syrian of Mesopotamia, was condemned for the opinion, as heretica1. He lived in the beginning of the fourth century. His disciples were called Anthropomorphites. — Vide Du Pin. [page 179:]

“Among Milton's minor poems are these lines: —

“Dicite, sacrorum presides nemorum Deae, &c.

Quis ille primus cujus ex imagine

Natura solers finxit humanum genus,

Eternus, incorruptus, aequaevus polo,

Unusque et universus, exemplar Dei ? — And afterwards,

Non, cui profundum Caecitas lumen dedit,

Dircaeus augur vidit hunc alto sinu, &c.” — POE.

[The second of the foregoing passages quoted by Poe is to be found in one of Sumner's notes on the second chapter of The Christian Doctrine. The first of these passages also is taken from the same note, Sumner giving there the reference, which Poe copies from him, to Clarke's Sermons. Poe later used the first three paragraphs of this note in an article, “A Few Words about Brainard,” in Graham's Magazine, February, 1842 (see Harrison, XI, p. 21, note).

The passage from Milton is from his De Idea Platonica Quemadmodum Aristotele ll. 1, 7-10, 25-26. These lines are rendered by Cowper as follows:

Ye sister powers, who o’er the sacred groves

Preside ...

... inform us who is He,

That great original by nature chosen

To be the archetype of human kind,

Unchangeable, immortal, with the poles

Themselves coeval, one, yet everywhere,

An image of the god who gave him being?

.... .... ....

Never the Theban seer, whose blindness proved

His best illumination, him beheld

In secret vision.

I have taken the liberty of correcting the punctuation in the passage quoted from Milton and also of correcting the spelling of “Anthropomorphites” (printed in all these texts “Anthropmorphites”). Two other misspellings (“Summers’” for “Sumner's” in 1831, and “angur” for “augur” (last line) in 1829 and 1831) Poe corrected in 1845.]

I, 106 oh. Spelled with a capital in 1845.

I, 114 By winged Fantasy. As a footnote to this line Poe quotes the following from Goethe's Meine Göttin (1780):

Seltsamen Tochter Jovis,

Seinem Schosskinde,

Der Phantasie. [page 180:]

[In the original the commas are omitted after the first and second lines.] Poe used the passage later as the motto of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Philadelphia, 1840.

I, 115 embassy. Message. Probably suggested by Paradise Lost, Book III, l. 658.

I, 116 See lines 142, 147, below, and Part II, l. 159. I, 118-121 Cf. Moore's The Loves of the Angels (text of 1823), ll. 1656 f.:

Often, when from the Almighty brow

A lustre came too bright to bear,

And all the seraph ranks would bow

Their heads beneath their wings, nor dare

To look upon the effulgence there.

See also Loves of the Angles, ll. 932 f. (first cited in this connection by Professor Cairns, Modern Philology, XIII, p. 42, note):

Exhausted, breathless, as she said

These burning words, her languid head

Upon the altar's steps she cast,

As if that brain-throb were its last —

Till, startled by the breathing, nigh,

Of lips, that echoed back her sigh,

Sudden her brow again she rais’d.

I, 118 This line and the initial lines of most of the verse-paragraphs in the second part of the poem are without indentation in 1845.

I, 122-124 In Spirits of the Dead, l. 23, the breeze is spoken of as the “breath of God.”

I, 124, 125 An echo, perhaps, of Keats's Endymion, II, l. 675:

Silence was music from the holy spheres.

I, 125 Here the poet has inadvertently fallen into a line of six stresses.

I, 126, 127 Used by Poe as the motto of his Silence. A Fable, in the version published in the Baltimore Book for 1838.

I, 127 “Silence.” A favorite theme with Poe. See the introductory note on Sonnet — Silence. — the merest word of all. Byron, in a passage in Manfred (III, i, ll. 9-11), holds philosophy to be the “merest word”:

If that I did not know philosophy

To be of all our vanities the motliest,

The merest word that ever fooled the ear. [page 181:]

I, 128 All Nature speaks. ll. 60-61, and also Part II, l. 124, with Poe's note. Shelley writes in Prometheus Unbound (W, i, l. 257) of “The music of the living grass and air”; and Huxley in a passage in his essay on “Protoplasm” suggests that “the wonderful noonday silence of a tropical forest is, after all, due only to the dullness of our hearing; and could our ears catch the murmur of these tiny Maelstroms, as they whirl in the innumerable myriads of living cells which constitute each tree, we should be stunned, as with the roar of a great city.” Cf. also Mrs. Osgood's lines in An Exhortation:

Canst hear the fragrant grass grow up to God,

With low, perpetual chant of praise and prayer.

I, 128, 129 In a letter to John Neal (December 29, 1829) sent with a copy of the volume of 1829 shortly after its appearance (see Woodberry, I, p. 369), Poe expresses the opinion that these two lines are the “best lines for sound” in all that volume.

I, 133 “Sightless — too small to be seen. — Legge.” — POE.

I, 134 one sun. Al Aaraaf is represented in line 18 as being “Near four bright suns.” Like the earth, however, it knew only one moon; see line 154.

134, 135 In 1845 a comma is inserted after “system” and after “folly.”

I, 135 f. Cf. the closing lines of Sonnet — Silence for a similar idea. Poe is pursuing his notion that man has erred in conceiving of God as anthropomorphic and in picturing him and his attributes in terms of the material universe.

137, 138 In 1845 the dash which now ends line 138 was placed at the end of line 137.

I, 145 like fire-flies in Sicilian night. “I have often noticed a peculiar movement of the fire-flies; — they will collect in a body and fly off, from a common centre, into innumerable radii.” — POE.

[The texts of 1829 and 1831 have “fire-fly” instead of “fireflies.”]

I, 150 the guilt of man. Just what Poe means is not entirely clear; apparently he has reference, in part, to the error of man in conceiving of God as anthropomorphic (see the note on line 105) and hence of conceiving of his attributes in terms of the material universe (see lines 135 f.), but mainly to his error in ignoring the fact that the Deity reveals himself in beauty as well as in power, love, etc. — what I take to be the central theme of the poem. [page 182:]

I, 158 but left not yet her Therasæan reign. That is, she did not leave Al Aaraaf at once to execute the commission which has been given her: before setting out, she must first collect her bands of angels. In Part II, l. 51, we learn of her return to her temple (which she had left before the beginning of the story — see Part I, l. 27). The attempt to collect together her angels furnishes the basis for the action of Part II. Poe manages the transition from the first to the second part rather clumsily. — Therasæan. “Therasæa, or Therasea, the island mentioned by Seneca, which, in a moment, arose from the sea to the eyes of astonished mariners.” — POE.

[The passage to which Poe refers is to be found in Seneca's Qæcestionum Naturalium Libri Septem, VI, § xxi.]

II, 1-39 This passage is in several ways reminiscent of Paradise Lost. The opening line appears to have been suggested by the initial line of Book II of Paradise Lost. The lines immediately following resemble, both in content and in style, Milton's famous simile applied to Satan on first beholding the wonders of the terrestrial world (Paradise Lost, III, ll. 542f.). The general description of Nesace's palace, with its gorgeous columns (ll. 11 f.),. was probably suggested by Milton's account of the building of Pandemonium (P ll. 710 f.); and the “window of one circular diamond,” through which a “meteor chain” of light was admitted from the throne of God (ll. 24 f.), may well have been suggested originally by the golden stairway which Milton represents as let down on occasion from the environs of heaven to the roof of the world, or by the aperture through which this stairway passed (Par ll. 501 f.). See, for further particulars, the notes on these several passages.

II, 1 High on a mountain of enamell’d head. Cf. Paradise Lost, II, l. 1: “High on a throne of royal state,” etc.

[[II,]] 5 The comma with which this line closes has been inserted by the present editor.

II, 9 noon of night. Cf. Tamerlane, l. 202; Dreams, l. 24; Evening Star, l. 2; Israfel, l. 9.

II, 11 f. Suggested, probably, by Paradise Lost, I, ll. 710L; see also the note below on lines 31 f. and the note a ll. 1-39.

II, 16 Poe, in a footnote, quotes the following from Milton's ode On the Death of a Fair Infant Dyin ll. 43-44:

Some star which, from the ruin’d roof

Of shak’d Olympus, by mischance, did fall. [page 183:]

[He takes certain liberties with his text, substituting “did” for “didst” in the second line, and also changing slightly the spelling and the punctuation. See on the general subject of “Poe's Quotations, Book-titles, and Footnotes,” the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe, IV, pp. 289-294.]

Poe might also have cited in this connection Milton's “bright sea ... Of jasper, or of liquid pearl” (Paradi ll. 518-519), which occurs in a passage already mentioned (note on lines 1-39), and another famous passage in the ll. 362-364) describing the floor of heaven:

Now in loose garlands, thick thrown off, the bright

Pavement, that like a sea of jasper shone,

Impurpled with celestial roses, smiled.

II, 20 linked light. Neal, in a curious note on the excerpt containing this line in the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette (December, 1829), objected to this collocation. “The idea of linked light,” he says, “is beautiful; but, the moment you read it aloud, the beauty is gone. To say link-ed light would be queer enough, notwithstanding Moore's ‘wreath-ed shell’; but to say link’d-light would spoil the rhythm.” Poe must have chuckled over Neal's comment.

The idea underlying Poe's image was perhaps suggested by Milton; cf. Parad ll. 1004 f.:

Another world

Hung o’er my realm, linked in a golden chain

To that side Heaven from whence your legions fell.

II, 22 f. The “window of one circular diamond,” through which light was admitted from the throne of God, was probably suggested by the stairway which Milton describes in Paradise Lost ll. 503 f.) as leading from the throne of God down to the gate of heaven and thence to this earth and the Garden of Eden.

II, 31 f. Cf. the following passage in Milton's description of Pandemonium (Para ll. 713 f.):

Built like a temple, where pilasters round

Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid

With golden architrave; nor did there want

Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven.

The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon

Nor great Alcairo such magnificence

Equalled in all their glories. [page 184:]

II, 35 Achaian. Spelled “Archaian” in 1829 and in the Yankee.

II, 36 “Voltaire, in speaking of Persepolis, says, ‘Je connois bien l’admiration qu’inspirent ces ruines — mais un palais éngé au pied d’une chaine des rochers stériles — peut-il être un chef d’œuvre des arts!’” — POE.

[In 1829 Poe adds: “Voila les argumens de M. Voltaire.” In 1845 stériles is spelled sterils. The entire note is omitted in 1831. ]

II, 36, 37 Tadmor, Persepolis, Balbec. The ruins of Balbec are briefly described in Lalla Rookh in “Paradise and the Peri” (ll. 383-387). Mention is also made, near the beginning of “Paradise and the Peri” (in a note on line 58), of the ruins of Persepolis. Poe brings all these names into juxtaposition in a passage in his MS. Found in a Bottle (Harrison, II, p. 13): “fallen columns at Balbec, and Tadmor, and Persepolis.”

II, 38 “ ‘O, the wave —’ Ula Deguisi is the Turkish appellation; but, on its own shores, it is called Bahar Loth, or Almotanah. There were undoubtedly more than two cities engulphed in the ‘dead sea.’ In the valley of Siddim were five — Adrah, Zeboin, Zoar, Sodom, and Gomorrah. Stephen of Byzantium mentions eight, and Strabo thirteen (engulphed), — but the last is out of all reason.

“It is said (Tacitus, Strabo, Josephus, Daniel of St. Saba, Nau, Maundrell, Troilo, D’Arvieux) that after an excessive drought, the vestiges of columns, walls, &c, are seen above the surface. At any season, such remains may be discovered by looking down into the transparent lake, and at such distances as would argue the existence of many settlements in the space now usurped by the ‘Asphaltites.’ ” — POE.

[I have altered Poe's punctuation to accord with present-day usage, and have also revised the spelling and the pointing of the phrase quoted at the beginning of the poet's comment so as to make it accord with the text from which it is drawn.]

II, 39 After this line, the Yankee introduces four lines that do not appear elsewhere; see the variorum footnotes.

II, 42 “Eyraco — Chaldea.” — POE.

II, 42, 43 Cf. The Coliseum, ll. 15-16:

O charms more potent than the rapt Chaldee

Ever drew down from out the quiet stars!

II, 47 “I have often thought I could distinctly hear the sound of the darkness as it stole over the horizon.” — POE. [page 185:]

[Poe has a similar note on ll. 372-373 (1827).]

II, 51 And Nesace is in her halls again. That is, she has returned from the point at which we first saw her at the opening of the poem — her “shrine of f ll. 26 f.). She has not as yet started on her journey to “the proud orbs that twinkle,” to execute God's command; she must first arouse her train of spirits (now asleep), who are to accompany her (see Part I, l. 158).

II, 54 zone. Girdle.

II, 57, 58 The passage is not clear. “Zanthe” appears to be the object of “beneath” and in apposition with “light.” See, in this connection, a letter of Poe's to John Neal (Harrison, VII, p. 260) in which he states that in his description of Nesace's temple he has “supposed many of the lost sculptures of this world to have flown (in spirit) to Al Aaraaf.” But see, also, Part I, l. 76, where Zante is one of Nesace's fairy attendants, a spirit representing the hyacinth.

II, 60 “Fairies use flowers for their charactery. — Merry Wives of Windsor.” — POE.

[The quotation is from Merry Wives, V, v, l. 70.]

II, 60 f. The passage is vaguely suggestive of the immortal scene in the fourth book of Paradise Lost (ll. 598 f.) describing the coming in of Evening in Paradise.

II, 65, 66 The commas after “waterfalls,” “alone,” and “sprang” have been inserted by the present editor.

II, 67 charm. Used in its etymological sense (Latin carmen) of “song.” Milton employs the word in the same sense in Paradise Lost, IV, l. 642, in a passage following the one just referred to as having possibly influenced lines 60 f.

II, 68 f. Stoddard (I, pp. 31-32) notes that this lyric resembles in its movement the “Song of the Soldiers” in Byron's The Deformed Transformed, I, ii, beginning:

The black bands came over

The Alps and the snow.

The resemblance seems to me to be closer still to another of Byron's lyrics, in the same poem, — the Stranger's incantation (I, i), beginning:

Beautiful shadow

Of Thetis's boy!

Who sleeps in the meadow

Whose grass grows o’er Troy. [page 186:]

Except for the first line this has quite the same movement as Poe's poem and has, besides, much of its silver quality. Byron adopted the same measure, also, in the first of the Stranger's incantations in The Deformed Transformed, which appears to have influenced a later passage of Poe's lyric (see the note, below, on lines 80-83).

II, 70 from the dreamer. In 1845 the phrase is set off by commas.

II, 71 “In Scripture is this passage — ‘The sun shall not harm thee by day, nor the moon by night.’ It is perhaps not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has the effect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposed to its rays, to which circumstance the passage evidently alludes.” — POE.

[The scriptural passage quoted is Psalms cxxi, 6. The Authorized Version reads “smite” instead of “harm,” as quoted by Poe.]

II, 72, 74 Cf. Byron's lines (Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza xiv, ll. 1-3):

Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,

Till he had peopled them with beings bright

As their own beams.

II, 76 shade, and. See, on this grotesque ending, Poe's note as to the endi ll. 140-141, below.

II, 80-83 Cf. the first of the Stranger's incantations (ll. 1-4) in Byron's The Deformed Transformed:

Shadows of beauty!

Shadows of power!

Rise to your duty —

This is the hour!

II, 82 That is, to accompany her on her journey to other worlds, in accordance with God's command to divulge to them the secrets of her “embassy” and to warn them against the error into which man had fal ll. 147 f.).

II, 84, 85 The commas after “tresses” and “dew” do not appear in the original editions, although the passage is clearly parenthetic.

II, 86, 87 In anticipation of the idea developed in the story of Ianthe and Angelo (ll. 173 f.), who fell because of the intensity of their love for each other. See also line 99, below.

II, 87 The dash which ended this line in 1845 has been transposed to follow line 89.

II, 88, 89 In Israfel we are told that in heaven Love is a “grownup God.” [page 187:]

II, 100 In 1845 the quotation marks introducing this line and line 112 are omitted. — Ligeia. Happily characterized by Professor Woodberry (I, p. 62) as “the personified harmony of nature.” The name was appropriately taken from that of one of the Sirens (sometimes spelled “Ligea” — as in Comus, l. 880). It is to be pronounced with a soft g, and rhymes with “idea.” Poe used the name again as the title of one of the best of his stories.

II, 107 “The albatross is said to sleep on the wing.” — POE.

See Lalla Rookh, “The Fire-Worshippers,” Part II, ll. 203-206:

Oft the sleeping albatross

Struck the wild ruins with her wing,

And from her cloud-rocked slumbering


and Moore's note on the passage: “These birds sleep in the air.” Shelley has the same idea in his Lines written in the Bay of Lerici, ii. 4-6:

And like an albatross asleep,

Balanced on her wings of light,

Hovered in the purple night.

II, 117 dreamy. The word has the time of three syllables (see the note on Tamerlane, l. 201). In the text published in the Saturday Museum, “deep” is inserted before “dreamy.”

II, 119 I have substituted a colon for the dash with which this line closes in 1845.

II, 124 “I met with this idea in an old English tale, which I am now unable to obtain and quote from memory: — ‘The verie essence and, as it were, springeheade and origine of all musiche is the verie pleasaunte sounde which the trees of the forest do make when they growe.’” — POE.

[I do not know the source of Poe's quotation: perhaps his reference to another source than himself is fictitious; but it is possible that he had in mind a passage in Sale's “Preliminary Discourse” (p. 71) on the Koran, describing the sensual enjoyments of the Mohammedan paradise (a passage which subsequently furnished him the motto of his Israfel). This passage runs as follows (the words bearing upon the present situation being put in italics):

Lest any of the senses should want their proper delight, we are told the ear will there be entertained, not only with the ravishing songs of the angel Israfil, who has the most melodious voice of all God's creatures, [page 188:] and of the daughters of paradise; but even the trees themselves will celebrate the divine praises with a harmony exceeding whatever mortals have heard; to which will be joined the sound of the bells hanging on the trees, which will be put in motion by the wind proceeding from the throne of God, so often as the blessed wish for music]

II, 127 are modell’d. That is (to borrow the words of Professor J. P. Fruit, The Mind and Art of Poe's Poetry, p. 28), “are to be regarded as but earthly imitations of their divine prototypes.” Professor Fruit cites in this connection parallel passages from Plato's Gorgias and Phado.

II, 128 The comma after “then” is omitted in 1845.

II, 134 star-isles. Cf. Byron's The Island, Canto II, stanza xi, ll.13-15:

The sea-spread net, the lightly-launched canoe,

Which stemmed the studded archipelago,

O’er whose blue bosom rose the starry isles;

and The Siege of Corinth, xi, ll. 3-5:

Blue roll the waters, blue the sky

Spreads like an ocean hung on high,

Bespangled with those isles of light.

See also Campbell's The Pleasures of H ll. 206-207:

Thy seraph eye shall count the starry train,

Like distant isles embosom’d in the main.

II, 140, 141 “The wild bee will not sleep in the shade if there be moonlight.

“The rhyme in this verse, as in one about sixty lines before, has an appearance of affectation. It is, however, imitated from Sir W. Scott, or rather from Claud Halcro — in whose mouth I admired its effect:

“‘ O! were there an island,

Tho’ ever so wild

Where woman might smile, and

No man be beguil’d, &c.’ ” — POE.

See the note on line 76, above.

[The lines quoted from Scott are from the twelfth chapter of The Pirate.]

II, 142 The comma after “them” is omitted in 1845.

II, 151 cold moon. See the note on Tamerlane, l. 203. [page 189:]

II, 158 I have substituted a comma for the dash with which this line ends in 1845.

II, 159 f. Poe seems to say that the inhabitants of Al Aaraaf possessed all the attributes of the angels of heaven except knowledge (cf. also Part I, l. 116); supreme knowledge was denied those who chose Al Aaraaf. Its keen light was transmitted to them only indirectly, imperfectly. It was well for them, however, continues the poet (ll. 162 f.) that they did not possess the knowledge of the angels; since such knowledge, in Al Aaraaf, would have meant annihilation to those that possessed it. So likewise with us (on earth), adds Poe, even “the breath” of knowledge “dims the mirror of our joy.”

Poe develops much the same idea in his Sonnet — To Science, which both in 1829 and in 1831 served as a sort of motto for Al Aaraaf, being influenced there, as I have endeavored to show in the notes, by Keats. The idea here may have been suggested to him by a passage in the preface to Moore's The Loves of the Angels (text ll. 664 f. of that poem:

... that wish to know,

Sad, fatal zeal, so sure of woe;

Which, though from Heaven all pure it came,

Yet stained, misused, brought sin and shame

On her, on me, on all below!

II, 162 The reference is to the death that admitted to Al Aaraaf (instead of to heaven or hell), not to the death (with its consequent annihilation) that followed upon the indulgence in the “less holy pleasures” of Al Aaraaf.

II, 168 The reference is still (as in line 162) to the death which admitted into Al Aaraaf, not the ultimate death of erring ones in Al Aaraaf.

II, 170-173 On Poe's religious views, see the notes on Hymn.

II, 173 “With the Arabians there is a medium between Heaven and Hell, where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be characteristic of heavenly enjoyment.

“ ‘Un no rompido sueno —

Un dia puro — allegre — libre

Quiera —

Libre de amor — de zelo —

De odio — de esperanza — de rezelo.’ — Luis Ponce de Leon. [page 190:]

“Sorrow is not excluded from ‘Al Aaraaf,’ but it is that sorrow which the living love to cherish for the dead, and which, in some minds, resembles the delirium of opium. The passionate excitement of Love and the buoyancy of spirit attendant upon intoxication are its less holy pleasures — the price of which, to those souls who make choice of ‘Al Aaraaf’ as their residence after life, is final death and annihilation.” — POE.

See the introductory note, above, containing Sale's comments on Al Aaraaf.

[The quotation from Luis Ponce de Leon is to be found in his Poesias, “Libro primero” (ed. R. Fernandez, Madrid, 1790), p. 2, where it reads as follows (Poe, as usual, garbling his text):

Un no rompido sueno,

Un dia puro, alegre, libre quiero:

[then follow eleven lines which Poe skips]

Libre de amor, de zelo,

De odio, de esperanzas, de rezelo.

(An uninterrupted sleep, a day pure, joyful, free, seek [ye] — free from love, from zeal, from hate, from hope, from jealousy.)]

II, 174 This line clearly introduces a new stage in the story, and hence has been indented in the present edition.

II, 176 they fell. That is, Angelo and Ianthe, inasmuch as their passionate love for each other rendered them deaf to Nesace's summons, are condemned to death and annihilation (see Poe's note on line 173, above).

II, 176, 177 Repeated with slight variations in the last two lines of the poem.

II, 178 A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover. Ianthe, apparently, was native to Al Aaraaf; Angelo (the seraph-lover) had dwelt before death on this earth.

II, 180 See lines 86-87, above.

II, 181 'mid “tears of perfect moan.”

“There be tears of perfect moan

Wept for thee in Helicon. — Milton.” — POE.

[The lines are from Milton's An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester (ll. 55-56). Poe substitutes “There” for’”Here” in the first line.] [page 191:]

II, 181-264 The episode of Ianthe and Angelo is introduced, evidently, to exemplify one of the central truths which the poet wishes to teach; namely, that even so worthy a passion as love may hinder one's appreciation of the beautiful.

The model for his story Poe found in the “First Angel's Story” in Moore's The Loves of the Angels (1823). The analogy between the two is obvious, both in the setting in time and place and in the narrative which Angelo tells of his death and his passage thereafter to Al Aaraaf.

The situation which Poe depicts in his dialogue between the angel lovers was a favorite one with him; see, for instance, his Eiros and Charmion and his Colloquy of Monos and Una.

II, 191 See ll. 139 f., and the note thereon. A similar situation appears in Moore's The Loves o ll. 21 f., 167 f.

II, 204 An unusually clumsy line. Poe wrote John Neal in 1829 that much correcting of the meter of Al Aaraaf remained to be done (see Woodberry, I, p. 369).

II, 210 f. Perhaps a reminiscence of The Loves o ll. 496 f:

Can you forget how gradual stole

The fresh-awakened breath of soul

Throughout her perfect form?

II, 215 A full stop has been substituted for the dash with which this line closes in 1845. — the Parthenon. “It was entire in 1687 — the most elevated spot in Athens.” — POE. II, 217

“Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows

Than have the white breasts of the Queen of Love.

Marlowe” — POE.

[The passage is from Doctor Faustus, I, ll. 126-127. Poe follows the text of the edition of 1616. The second of the two lines is echoed, apparently, in lines 64-65 of Part I of Al Aaraaf.]

II, 221-224 The passage is Miltonic; cf. Paradise Lost, III, 418 f.,543

II, 226 See also lines 243 f., below. This note of regret finds its counterpart in The Loves of the ll. 167 f.

II, 228 A comma has been substituted for the dash with which this line ends in the original.

II, 229 yon world above. That is, this earth; see line 238. below.

II, 232 pennon’d. “Pennon — for pinion. — Milton.’” — POE. [page 192:]

[Poe has reference, probably, to Paradise Lost, II, l. 933.]

II, 237 I have inserted a comma after “soar.”

II, 237-239 So with Satan in his journey up from the gates of hell to the rim of the world (Paradise Lost, II, 927 f.). It is in his account of Satan's journey that Milton uses the word “pennons” (meaning “pinions”), touched on in the preceding note.

II, 244 Dædalion. Poe's misspelling of the adjective “Dædalian,” used here as a substantive. The word is derived from Dædalus, and has reference to the fabled flight of Daedalus with Icarus to the earth, and possibly also, in the present instance, to the gifts of Daedalus as artificer. (See Gayley's Classic Myths, p. 256.)

II, 245 thy Earth. That is, this world; Ianthe, apparently, had dwelt always in Al Aaraaf (as did the houris in Aidenn).

II, 253-256 In quoting these lines in 1848 in his essay, The Rationale of Verse (Harrison, XIV, p. 235), Poe altered line 255 to read: “When first the phantom's course was found to be”; and in the next line substituted “hitherward” for “thitherward.”

II, 257 its glory. That is, of this world, “the heritage of men.”

II, 260 thy star trembled — as doth Beauty then. That is, the earth trembled (at the sight of Al Aaraaf) as does Beauty when “beneath man's eye” (1. 257).

II, 262 The night that waned and waned and brought no day. Cf. Byron's Darkness, l. 6:

Morn came and went — and came, and brought no day.

II, 263, 264 Repeated, with slight changes, from lines 176-177, above.


(1829; 1831; Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; Broadway Journal, August 30, 1845; 1845 )

(TEXT: 1845)

Romance in its later and final forms closely approximates the form in which it was first published (1829). But in the edition of 1831 the poem is much enlarged, being more than trebled in length. The added passages are largely personal in nature — a fact which probably explains their omission in subsequent editions. Among the omitted passages is one containing the earliest known allusion to Poe's fondness for drink; [page 193:] see line 20 (text of 1831). The date of composition is uncertain, but both diction and mood point to a period shortly after the publication of the volume of 1827.

The impulse to the writing of the poem came, perhaps, from Byron's ode To Romance, in which the English poet, unlike his American disciple, professed to abjure romance and to swear allegiance thenceforward to truth.

In a letter to John Neal (see Woodberry, I, p. 369) Poe expresses the opinion that Romance is the “best thing” in every respect except “sound” in the volume of 1829, and then adds — in a strain of extravagant self-praise such as was unusual with him — that he was “certain” that the five lines beginning the second stanza (“Of late, eternal Condor years,” etc.) had “never been surpassed.”

7, 8 The present editor has substituted a comma for a dash at the end of line 7 and has inserted a comma at the end of line 8.

11 Condor years. Cf. the phrase “Condor wings” in The Conqueror Worm, l. 15.

14 According to Whitty (p. 268), this line was revised, in a copy of 1829 presented to his cousin, Miss Herring, so as to read, “I have time for no idle cares.”

21 Cf. Israfel, ll. 16-22.

34 (1831) between. To be accented on the first syllable; as, also, in Al Aaraaf, Part I, l. 68. Cf. Wordsworth's She was a Phantom of Delight, l. 24:

A Traveller between life and death.

47 (1831) Gone are the glory and the gloom. Possibly an echo of Wordsworth's Ode on Intimations of Immortality, ll. 56-57:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream? —

though Moore has the same collocation in The Loves of the Angels ll. 1180-1181:

Or, if they did, their gloom was gone,

Their darkness put a glory on!

58-66 (1831) For another early passage in which the poet testifies to his faith in himself, see the letter to Neal of December 29, 1829 (quoted in part above and reprinted in its entirety by Harrison, VII, pp. 259-260). [page 194:]

TO —— (51)

(1829; Broadway Journal, September 20, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: Broadway Journal)

These lines refer, perhaps, to Miss Royster and her rejection of the poet (see the account given above in the introductory note on Tamerlane). The fact that Poe placed the poem, in the edition of 1829, immediately after the lines entitled Song (beginning “I saw thee on thy bridal day”), which are also thought to refer to Miss Royster, tends to support this theory.

1-3 That is, the bowers appear (in his dreams) to be vocal, to be the medium or instrument of the bird's appeal to the ear. The conceit is a daring one. But cf. Lanier's Sunrise, ll. 54-57:

My gossip, the owl, — is it thou

That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,

As I pass to the beach, art stirred?

Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?

also his The Dying Words of Stone ll. 5-6:

And so the Day, about to yield his breath,

Utters the stars unto the listening Night;

and Symphony, l. 97:

As if a rose might somehow be a throat.

3, 4 all thy melody Of lip-begotten words. That is, all thy melody is that of lip-begotten words — is utterly ungenuine.

4, 8 In 1845 a dash appears at the end of each of these lines.

5 The comma after “enshrined” has been inserted by the present editor.

11, 12 Perhaps an allusion to a theory Poe may have held, that Mr. Shelton's wealth gave him some advantage over the poet in the eyes of Miss Royster; though Miss Royster declared in later years that the opposition to her marriage was solely because of her youth (Appleton's Magazine, new series, IV, p. 429). At the time of his death, in 1844, Mr. Shelton was worth about fifty thousand dollars, as is indicated by the fact that his wife, as executrix, was required to give bond of a [page 195:] hundred thousand dollars. (The will of A. B. Shelton, filed August 5, 1844, is preserved in the Henrico County clerk's office at Richmond, Virginia. Among other interesting items in this will is the following clause: “If my wife shall marry again then immediately upon the happening of that event I do hereby revoke and annul the appointment aforesaid of her as my executrix.”)

TO THE RIVER —— (51)

(1829; Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, August, 1839; Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; Broadway Journal, September 6, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

One of the few pieces in the edition of 1829 which appear to be entirely impersona1. The lines were evidently written as a mere jeu d’esprit, perhaps under the influence of Byron's Stanzas to the Po (1824). The second stanza of Byron's poem —

What if thy deep and ample stream should be

A mirror of my heart, where she may read

The thousand thoughts I now betray to thee,

Wild as thy wave, and headlong as thy speed! —

finds a fairly close parallel in Poe's second stanza.

A manuscript version of the poem, bearing the title “In an Album” (see Whitty, p. 278), and said to antedate the first publication of the poem (1829), is described in the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe, X, p. 230. It exhibits two variant readings not elsewhere found: “Thy pretty self” for “Her worshipper” in line 10, and “lightly” for “deeply” in line 12.

There is no means of determining the date of the poem other than that furnished by the date of first publication.

3 emblem. For Poe's use of symbolism see an article by Federico Olivero, “Symbolism in Poe's Poetry,” in the Westminster Review for August, 1913 (CLXXX, pp. 201-207).

6 Alberto's daughter. Evidently a conventional lady-love.

7-14 Cf. the less elaborate — but no less audacious — conceit in the preceding poem (ll. 1-3); and note the parallel with Byron's Stanzas to the Po pointed out above. [page 196:]

TO —— (52)

(1829; 1850)

(TEXT: 1850)

In its earliest printed version (1829), this poem is entitled To M——. Who “M——” was, is not known. She was not the poet's early Baltimore sweetheart, Mary Devereaux, since the love affair with her belongs to a period subsequent to his dismissal from West Point (see the account of Augustus Van Cleef in Harper's Monthly, LXXVIII, pp. 634 f., and an article by the present editor in the Dial of February 17, 1916). It is barely possible that the lady referred to is Mrs. Clemm, whose given name was Maria; but the allusions in lines 6 and 20 are against this supposition.

The text of 1829 is both fuller and clearer than that of Griswold's edition, adopted here. The poem was not included in 1845, presumably because of its personal nature; but why it was excluded from 1831 is not clear.

Griswold based his text on a manuscript of the poem left among Poe's effects (see the facsimile by Woodberry, II, opposite page 328). Another manuscript, bearing the title “Alone” and almost undecipherable (see Woodberry, II, p. 412), is preserved among the Wilmer MSS. This version approximates the text of 1829 (see Stedman and Woodberry, X, pp. 193-194).

The mention of the poet's age in line 13 (text of 1829) is probably to be interpreted as conventional, but lines 4 and 8 virtually establish the date of the poem as later than the spring of 1827.

3, 4 A quarrel between Poe and his foster-father, John Allan, over the poet's gambling debts made at the University of Virginia, preceded the latter's departure from the Allan home in the spring of 1827. See the letter of Colonel Thomas H. Ellis published in the Richmond (Va.) Standard for May 7, 1881.

7 (1829) meddle with. The phrase displays an infelicity exceptional with Poe, even in his early years. [page 197:]


(Yankee, September, 1829 (in part); 1829; 1831; Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, August, 1839; Broadway Journal, October 4, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

The excerpts from Fairy-Land (ll. 1-4, 19-28) in the Boston Yankee of September, 1829, are in a note “To Correspondents” by the editor, John Neal, to whom Poe subsequently dedicated Tamerlane as republished in the volume of 1829. At some time in the summer or early autumn of 1829, Poe offered the poem to N. P. Willis for the American Monthly Review, of which he was then editor. Willis, in publicly announcing the rejection of the poem (American Monthly, November, 1829, I, pp. 586-587), dilates on the pleasure he experiences in seeing rejected manuscripts of “bad poetry burning within the fender,” and represents himself as witnessing the destruction of a manuscript of the present poem under such circumstances, and as catching four lines of the poem (35-38) — a marked passage — as the manuscript finally “flashes up in a broad blaze.”

The text of 1831 prefixes to the poem forty lines — highly fantastic in nature — that are omitted in all subsequent versions; and reduces the rest of the poem to twenty-four lines. Neal refers to the poem in The Yankee of December, 1829, as if it then bore the title “Heaven,” but it is unlikely that Poe had originally authorized the use of this title.

Fairy-Land is not without originality, but appears to have been influenced by both Moore and Shelley. In a footnote on line 33 of the earliest edition, Poe enters the comment: “Plagiarism — see the works of Thomas Moore — passim.” He refers here possibly to a somewhat similar passage in Lalla Rookh (“The Fire-Worshippers,” Part II, l. 203), in which the albatross is mentioned (see line 34 of Fairy-Land); but it is more likely that the reference is to another passage in Lalla Rookh (“The Light of the Haram,” ll. 1 70 f., 292 f.), in which Moore attempts a description of fairy-land. The resemblance, however, is not close, and, in any case, involves nothing of plagiarism. The resemblance is closer to some of Shelley's lyrics in the second act of Prometheus Unbound — in particular, to the song of the “Echoes” in scene i (which pretty clearly influenced the third stanza of Dream-Land), first “Semichorus of Spirits” in scene ii, and the “Song of Spirits” in scene iii. [page 198:]

Much the same theme is treated also in Dream-Land (where the poet again uses some of the phrasing employed here), and in the group of poems — including Al Aaraaf, The City in the Sea, etc. — in which Poe deals with the world of departed spirits.

Professor Woodberry holds (I, p. 65) that Fairy-Land is “the only one of the new poems [in 1829 ] which bears the mark of [Poe's] originality,” and adds that “there is a unique character in [the] imagery that makes it linger in the memory when the crudities of its expression are forgotten.” Stoddard (I, p. 34) pronounces the poem “the best of the minor poems” in 1829. Neal describes it as “nonsense,” but “rather exquisite nonsense.” Willis, in the passage already alluded to in the American Monthly Review, I, p. 587, speaks of it as “some sickly rhymes.” Professor James Routh (Modern Language Notes, XXIX, pp. 72-73) queries whether the poem was not intended in part as a burlesque of Coleridge.

As published in Burton's Magazine, the following note — probably written by Poe, though it is unsigned — is prefixed to the poem:

“The Fairyland of our companion is not orthodox. His description differs from all received accounts of the country — but our readers will pardon the extravagance for the vigor of the delineation.”

The text followed in the present edition is that of 1845 save for the insertion of a colon at the end of line 4, of a comma after line 11, and of a comma after “Videlicet” in line 37.

1-4 Repeated with verbal variations in Dream-Land, ll. 9-12:

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,

And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,

With forms that no man can discover

For the tears that drip all over.

These opening lines are also paralleled in situation and atmosphere by the first stanza of The Sleeper, and by lines 25-27 of The Valley of Unrest.

6 (1831) lolling. See the note on The Sleeper, l. 10.

12 (1831) that what d’ ye call it. Perhaps introduced because of its grotesqueness. Cf. Gay's farce The What-d’ye Call-it and Milton's bastard sonnet, On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament, l. 12:

By shallow Edwards and Scotch What-d’ ye-call!

15 Comes down — still down — and down. With this line and those immediately following it, cf. the “Song of Spirits” in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, II, iii, with its refrain of “Down, down!” [page 199:]

22-24 An early example of Poe's use of parallellism.

33 On this line in the text of 1829 Poe makes the following extraordinary comment: “Plagiarism — see the works of Thomas Moore — passim — [Edr.” There is no reason to doubt that the note proceeds from Poe himself.


(1831; Southern Literary Messenger, March, 1836; Graham's Magazine, September, 1841; Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; Graham's Magazine, February, 1845; 1845)

(TEXT: 1845)

To Helen is the best-known of Poe's early poems, though it was omitted, strangely enough, by Griswold (1850). It was inspired, if we may believe Poe's own statement, by his love for Mrs. Jane Stith Stanard, a lady of Richmond, who had shown him certain kindly attentions on the occasion of a visit to her home while he was a boy (see Letters, pp. 294, 300, 422, 424, 427 f.). This lady, whom Poe describes in one of his letters to Mrs. Whitman (ibid., p. 294) as “the first purely ideal love of my soul,” and in a letter to Mrs. Shew (ibid., p. 300) as “the truest, tenderest of this world's most womanly souls, and an angel to my forlorn and darkened nature,” died on April 28, 1824, leaving the poet a disconsolate worshipper of her memory; and “for months after her decease” — so he assured Mrs. Whitman (see her volume, Edgar Poe and his Critics, p. 49) — “it was his habit to visit nightly the cemetery” where she was buried. Mrs. Clemm, in a letter to Mrs. Whitman (Century Magazine, January, 1909 (LXXVII, p. 448)), has also testified to his devotion to her. But both Professor Woodberry (I, p. 29) and Mrs. Weiss (p. 39), it should be stated, reject the accounts of the midnight visits to Mrs. Stanard's grave; and it may be that tradition is not to be relied on as to this particular. A pencil sketch of Mrs. Stanard stood above the poet's desk as late as 1846, according to Mrs. Weiss (p. 122, note).

The poem was written, so Lowell states in his sketch of Poe, — and this sketch passed through Poe's hands before going to the press (see Woodberry, II, p. 103), — when the poet was only fourteen years old, or about a year before Mrs. Stanard's death. This account, however, is hardly to be credited. That Poe should have omitted the poem from both 1827 and 1829 had it been completed when these volumes [page 200:] were published is highly improbable; the style and finish of the poem, even in the inferior form of 1831, also tell against so early a date. It is worthy of note, too, that Coleridge's Youth and Age, which perhaps influenced one line of the poem (see the note on line 2), was not published until 1828.

To Helen has been praised without stint by the critics. According to Professor Richardson (I, p. lii), it is the “most perfect” of Poe's poems; Edward Hutton asserts that it is “the most precise and the most serene” of all his lyrics (Poe's Poems, p. xi); and Edwin Markham (I, pp. xxx-xxxi) declares that “Poe never surpassed the serene exaltation and divine poise” that it exhibits, and adds that it belongs “with the deathless lyrics, with ‘Tears, Idle Tears,’ ‘Rose Aylmer,’ and the rest.” Mr. J. M. Robertson (New Essays, pp. 81-82) avers that it is “one of the most ripely perfect and spiritually charming poems ever written,” and adds that “Merely to credit these verses with ‘Horatian elegance,’ as some admiring critics have done, is to render them scant justice. They have not only Horace's fastidiousness of touch (with perhaps the single reservation of the unluckily hackneyed ‘classic face’) but the transfiguring aerial charm of pure poetry, which is not in Horace's line.” Lowell, in his sketch of Poe (reprinted by Harrison, I, pp. 367-383), makes these comments: “There is a little dimness in the filling up, but the grace and symmetry of the outline are such as few poets ever attain. There is a smack of ambrosia about it.... All is limpid and serene, with a pleasant dash of the Greek Helicon in it. The melody of the whole, too, is remarkable. ... It seems simple, like a Greek column, because of its perfection.” Stedman (Poets of America, p. 241) notes that there is some “confusion of imagery,” but adds that this is “wholly forgotten in the delight afforded by melody, lyrical perfection, sweet and classic grace.”

1 Helen. Mrs. Stanard's given names were “Jane Stith.” Poe is said to have disliked the name “Jane,” and for this reason to have substituted “Helen.” The name “Helen” appears also in the 1831 version of The Valley of Unrest and in the 1836 edition of Lenore (A Pæan).

2 Like those Nicean barks of yore. Cf. Coleridge's Youth and Age, 1. 12:

Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore —

which Poe perhaps had more or less vaguely in mind. Youth and Age, though first drafted in 1823, was not published till 1828, appearing then both in The Bijou and The Literary Souvenir (see the Works of [page 201:] Coleridge, Globe edition, pp. 639 f.). In The Bijou of 1828 appeared also Southey's lines, Imitation from the Persian, from which Poe quoted two verses as a motto for his minor poems in 1829; hence there is good reason for believing that Poe was acquainted with Coleridge's poem.

Nicean. On this epithet Professor W. P. Trent (The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Other Poems and Tales by Poe, p. 24, note) suggests that by “the weary, wayworn wanderer” Poe perhaps meant Ulysses, and that on that supposition “Nice’an” was Poe's substitution for “Phæacian.” Professor C. W. Kent (Poems by Poe, p. 134) holds that the “Nice’an barks” were “the ships of Alexander the Great.” Professor F. V. N. Painter (Poets of the South, p. 217) suggests that the reference is to “the ancient Ligurian town of Nicaea, now Nice, in France.”

A theory quite different from these, however, was proposed a good many years ago by W. M. Rossetti (Notes and Queries, 6th series, XI, pp. 323-324, 1885). Rossetti suggests that “Nicéan” is Poe's misspelling of “Nyseian,” and compares Milton's “Nyseian isle” (Paradise Lost, IV, l. 275), the reference being to the legend of Bacchus according to which he was conveyed in youth to the island of Nysa (off the coast of Libya). Poe alludes, according to Rossetti's theory, to “that period in the youth of Bacchus when he was conveyed back from the island to ‘his own native shore,’ Amalthea's Horn; or perhaps to some still later period when, having started from Nysa, and effected his renowned conquests, he finally visited, in the same barks wherein he and his companions had left Nysa, his natal home, Amalthea's Horn. The ‘perfumed sea’ would refer to the fragrance diffused from paradisal Nysa over the sea which intervenes between that island and Amalthea's Horn.”

The question is one that it is obviously impossible to settle with any definitiveness; but the view of Rossetti seems to be the most plausible of those so far proposed. Poe — if we accept this view — found his adjective, perhaps, in Milton's epic, as Rossetti suggests; perhaps, in the source on which Milton had drawn, Diodorus Siculus (Bibliotheca, III, §§ 66-74).

6-10 Professor Henry A. Beers (A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century, p. 202, note) calls attention to the resemblance between this stanza and the following lines from Thomas Warton's Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Painted Window: [page 202:]

No more the sacred window's round disgrace,

But yield to Grecian groups the shining space ...

Thy powerful hand has broke the Gothic chain,

And brought my bosom back to truth again.

Professor E. E. Hale (Stories and Poems by Poe, New York, 1904, p. xviii) notes the parallel with Swinburne's Song for the Centenary of Walter Savage Landor, stanza xvii, ll. 7-8:

And through the trumpet of a child of Rome

Rang the pure music of the flutes of Greece;

and an anonymous reviewer in the Southern Literary Messenger for June, 1857, p. 479, has pointed out the resemblance to a passage in Gerald Massey's A Poor Man's Wife:

In her worshipful presence, transfigured I stand,

And the poor man's English home

She lights with the Beauty of Greece the grand,

And the glory of regallest Rome.

Cf. also with lines 9-10, one of Kipling's couplets:

Ho, we revel in our chains

O’er the sorrow that was Spain's,

from his The Last Chantey (ll. 43-44).

7 hyacinth hair. Cf. The Assignation (Harrison, II, p. m): “Her hair ... clustered ... round and round her classical head, in curls like those of the young hyacinth”; and Ligeia (ibid., II, p. 250): “The raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and naturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric epithet ‘hyacinthine.’” Verity takes Milton to use the word (Paradise Lost, IV, l. 301) to mean “A dark colour, perhaps deep brown” (see his edition of Paradise Lost, p. 461). Professor Kent (Poems by Poe, p. 134) suggests that the poet perhaps has “no reference to the color or curly nature of her hair but to its beauty, in memory of the beauty of Hyacinthus.”

9 The line closes with a comma in 1845.

9, 10 These lines are probably as well known and as frequently quoted as any that Poe ever wrote. Edwin Markham (I, p. xxx) pronounces them to be “two mighty lines that compress into a brief space all the rich, high magnificence of dead centuries.” Robertson (p. 82) holds that they are “reserved for immortality.” And Mr. C. L. Moore (in the Dial of November 16, 1909) declares that they bear “the seal of ultimate [page 203:] perfection.” The critics have not failed to point out the marvelous improvement the lines underwent in the course of Poe's several revisions.

11-13 Reminiscent perhaps of two well-known passages from Byron:

Within a window’d niche of that high hall

Sate Brunswick's fated chieftain

(Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza xxiii, ll. 1-2),


The Niobe of nations! there she stands,

Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe,

An empty urn within her withered hands

(Ibid., Canto IV, stanza lxxix, ll. 1-3).

15 Holy Land. Spelled “Holy-Land” in 1845.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 147:]

1The figures in parenthesis after the titles of the poems refer to pages of the text.







[S:0 - KCP, 1917] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Notes (Part 01) (ed. K. Campbell, 1917)