Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “A Paean,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 204-207 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 204, continued:]


This is certainly the weakest piece in Poe’s Poems of 1831, and has usually been treated as a version of “Lenore,” of which it is indeed a kind of preliminary draft. The chief source has recently been found by J. J. Cohane in The Anniversary for 1829, mentioned above in a comment on “The Sleeper.” The annual (pp. 72-75) contains a poem called “The Wedding Wake,” by George Darley.(1) It is about the grief of a young bridegroom at the funeral [page 205:] of his bride-to-be, and consists of seventeen quatrains. The more significant lines follow:

Dead Beauty’s eye is beamless all ...

Like a dark stream, her raven hair

Wanders adown her brow;

Look how the weetless, reckless air

Moves its dead tresses now!

Stain not, O deeply bending Youth!

Her sweet cheek with a tear.

Coffin her up, and on the pall

Lay one white virgin plume ...

The pale rose, the dim azure bell,

And that lamenting flower,

With Ai! Ai! its eternal knell,

Shall ever-bloom her bower ...

The bed is laid, the toll is done,

The ready priest doth stand;

Come, let the flowers be strown! be strown!

Strike up, ye bridal band!

Forbear, forbear that cruel jest;

Be this the funeral song:

Farewell, the loveliest and the best

That ever died so young!

The poem seems to have impressed Poe deeply; there is an echo also in “Irenë” and new reminiscences appear in “Lenore.”


(A) Poems (1831), pp. 67-70; (B) Southern Literary Messenger, January 1836 (2:71). The revised version (B) is given.

[page 207, continued:]


8  Her / Dead (A)

26  motionless / perfum’d there (A)

28  each tress / her hair (A)

29-32  A has two quatrains:

Thus on the coffin loud and long

I strike — the murmur sent

Through the grey chambers to my song,

Shall be the accompaniment.

Thou died’st in thy life’s June —

But thou did’st not die too fair:

Thou did’st not die too soon,

Nor with too calm an air.

34  Thy life and love are riven (A)

35  all-hallowed / untainted (A)

[page 207, continued:]


Title:  A paean is a song of rejoicing or praise, usually, but not necessarily, in honor of Apollo. Euripides speaks of a dirge (Iphigenia in Tauris, line 184) as a “hymn unlike paeans.”

14  The words are quoted because they are said by the “mourners.” Compare, in Poe’s tale “King Pest”: “a richly embroidered black silk-velvet pall.”

23  Thomas Moore, in a note to the Thirteenth Ode of Anacreon, quotes and translates an Italian imitation of the Sixth Ode with the phrases “ebro d’Amore” and “drunk with love.”

34  Since the second version of “A Paean” mentions “Helen,” the poem may be connected with Mrs. Stanard, if with anyone in particular; although it has been suggested (Phillips, I, 327) that the piece was “in memory of Mrs. Allan.”

36  Here, as in Colossians 1:16 and Paradise Lost, II, 430, “thrones” are angels of high rank.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 204, running to the bottom of page 205:]

1  “The Wedding Wake” was not found by Ramsay Colles, whose edition of [page 205:] Darley’s Poetical Works is the only one approaching completeness. In 1897 James S. Cotton wrote J. H. Ingram of a resemblance of Darley’s poem to “Lenore” — see the Ingram List, no. 400.





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