Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To The River [Po],” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 133-135 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 133, continued:]

To The River [Po]

This charming little poem in the author's playful manner, of which “Fairy-Land” is a better example, long puzzled commentators. In all the versions he wrote or printed himself, Poe left the name of the river a blank, probably thinking that readers would see that “Po” — a pun on his own name — was intended. Apparently Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers saw the joke, for he wrote Poe on February 21, 1847, of composing a “Song to the River Po,” which does not seem to be preserved.(1) Killis Campbell (Poems, p. 195) noticed an echo of a quatrain in Byron's “Stanzas to the Po”: [page 134:]

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!

But the pun escaped Campbell and all other annotators until in 1945 Mr. Richard J. Lord, my student at Hunter College, pointed out to me what must be meant. Poe, incidentally, chose to think of his river in a calmer mood than Byron's, and may also have had in mind a brief piece by William Cowper:


Sweet stream, that winds through yonder glade,

Apt emblem of a virtuous maid —

Silent and chaste she steals along,

Far from the world's gay busy throng;

With gentle yet prevailing force,

Intent upon her destined course;

Graceful and useful all she does,

Blessing and blest where’er she goes,

Pure-bosom’d as that watery glass,

And heaven reflected in her face.


(A) Wilmer manuscript, 1828, on the verso of “To — —” (“I saw thee on the bridal day”); (B) Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829), p. 63; (C) Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, August 1839 (5:99); (D) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (E) Herring copy of Al Aaraaf ... with manuscript corrections, 1845; (F) Broadway Journal, September 6, 1845 (2:131); (G) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 88; (H) Works (1850), II, 95.

The text used is G. The Wilmer manuscript was first described by Stedman and Woodberry, Works (1895), X, 230.

[page 135, continued:]


Title:  In an Album. — To the River —— (A)

2  crystal, wandering / labyrinth-like (A, B, C)

10  My pretty self resembles (A)

11  in his / in my (A, B, C, F); in thy / first written on thy but altered (A)

12  deeply / lightly (A)

13  His / The (A, B, C, F)

14  The scrutiny of her eyes (A, B, C, changed to present reading in E)

[page 135, continued:]


3-6  These lines long baffled commentators, who could find no well-known daughter of “old Alberto.” But Richard J. Lord pointed out what Poe must have had in mind: a charmingly playful young widow who did not hide her heart when she learned of the fatherly love borne her by an elderly physician named Alberto, but returned that love. The story is in the tenth novella of the first day of Boccaccio's Decameron.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 133:]

1  See The Complete Works of Thomas Holley Chivers, edited by E. L. Chase and L. F. Parks, I (1957), 70.





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