Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Sonnet — to Science,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 90-92 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 90:]


This fine sonnet is used as an introduction to “Al Aaraaf” in all complete versions, and in 1841 was altered to serve as motto of the prose fantasy “The Island of the Fay.” In his sonnet Poe proclaims his intention to disregard scientific fact when fantasy better suits his purpose.

The source of inspiration for Poe's sonnet is a passage in the Études de la Nature of Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, which in the notes to “Al Aaraaf” Poe quotes directly from Henry Hunter's translation. In the Philadelphia edition of 1808, Studies of Nature (II, 248), in a section on the “Pleasures of Ignorance,” I find the idea that Poe put in verse at the end of his sonnet: “It is Science which has dragged down the chaste Diana from her nocturnal car: she has banished the Hamadryads from the antique forests, and the gentle Naiads from the fountains.”(5)


(A) Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829), p. 11; (B) Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, September 11, 1830; (C) The Casket, October 1830 (5:480); (D) Poems (1831), p. 81; (E) Southern Literary Messenger, May 1836 (2:366); (F) Graham's Magazine for June 1841 (18:253), in “The Island of the Fay”; (G) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (H) Broadway Journal, August 2, 1845 (2:54); (J) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 55; (K) Works (1850), II, 77.

Text J, identical with H, is used here. C is from B's type, left standing and reused. A version in The Casket for May 1831 is a reprint from D. The prospectus of The Casket in the Post, December 27, 1825, said that the monthly was to be made up of reprints of the best contributions to the weekly paper. [page 91:]

[page 91, continued:]


Title:  None (A, D, F); Sonnet (B, C, E)

1  true / meet (A, B, C, D, E)

2  peering / piercing (B, C)

3  preyest / prey'st (A, D, E, F, G, H); preyest / pray'st (B, C); the / thy (B, C)

5  should / shall (B, C)

7  jewelled / jewell’d (A, B, C, D, E)

8  soared / soar (A, B, C, D, E); he / be (misprint F)

9  dragged / dragg’d (A, B, C, D, E)

10  driven / driv’n (A, D, E)

11  To seek for shelter in some happier star (B, C); Hast thou not spoilt a story in each star (F)

12  The gentle Naiad from her fountain-flood (A, D, E); The gentle Nais from the fountain flood (B, C)   [[n]]

13  green grass / greenwood (B, C)

13-14  The elfin from the grass? — the dainty fay, The witch, the sprite, the goblin — where are they? (F)

14  summer / summer's (B, C); tamarind tree / shrubbery (A, B, C, D, E)

[page 91, continued:]


12 (1830)  “Nais” is good Greek, although the more usual form is “Naias”; Ausonius uses the shorter form in his Mosella, line 82, and Keats has it in his Endymion, III, 899.

13-14  With the version of 1841 compare “The Domain of Arnheim”: “the phantom handiwork, conjointly, of the Sylphs, of the Fairies, of the Genii, and of the Gnomes.”

14  The tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica), tall and spreading, has yellow flowers striped with red, and produces pods which are the source of a spice [page 92:] used in medicine and cookery. Originally from the Orient, whence the name from Arabic, “date of India,” the tamarind grew widely in both the East and West Indies by Poe's time, and his reference is no doubt to its fragrance.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 90:]

5  This source seems to have been first noticed in print by Palmer C. Holt in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library (November 1959). Far less close parallels in Keats’ “Lamia” (I, 9-14; II, 229f), cited by earlier commentators, may now be disregarded. It is not probable that Poe read Keats before 1830.




3  preyest / prey'st (A, etc. / 3  preyest / prey'st (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H); the / thy (B, C) [This tyopgraphical error was first noted by David K. Jackson, Poe Studies, III, no. 1, June 1970, p. 21.]


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