Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To One in Paradise,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 211-216 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 211, continued:]


This is always considered one of Poe’s more important poems. Miss Winwar, in The Haunted Palace (p. 163), says it is “among the most musical of his rare love poems” and that it has “yet a sense of irremediable loss.” Philip Pendleton Cooke wrote to Poe (Woodberry, Life, II, 205): “The closing stanza ... is the perfection of melody.”

In his tale “The Visionary” (later “The Assignation”), Poe gave the poem as the composition of the protagonist — obviously modeled on Lord Byron — who finds his beloved married to an older nobleman. Poe apparently had in mind an incident related in Thomas Moore’s biography of Byron,(1) which was pointed out by Roy P. Basler in American Literature, May 1937. On the eve of the wedding of Byron’s early love Mary Chaworth to John Musters, the bard wrote in her copy of the Letters of Madame [page 212:] de Maintenon the lines (ascribed by Moore to Eliza Dorothea, Lady Tuite):

Oh Memory, torture me no more,

The present’s all o’ercast;

My hopes of future bliss are o’er,

In mercy veil the past.

Why bring those images to view

I henceforth must resign?

Ah! why those happy hours renew,

That never can be mine?

Past pleasure doubles present pain,

To sorrow adds regret,

Regret and hope are both in vain,

I ask but to — forget.

Poe told the story of “Byron and Miss Chaworth” in the Columbian Magazine for December 1844; and the only personal name in any version of Poe’s poem is “Ianthe,” a name Byron used for young Charlotte Harley when he dedicated Childe Harold to her.

The connections with Byron of Poe’s hero and the poem given in Poe’s tale are so striking that interpretations running counter to them deserve little attention. Two may be mentioned, however: J. H. Whitty (see Phillips, I, 179) felt that there was a connection with a garden in Richmond, now called Linden Square, where Colonel Thomas Ellis, son of John Allan’s partner, said that Poe and Elmira Royster used to stroll; and Killis Campbell (Poems, p. 221) thought that the final stanza of the version used in the tale suggests a connection with Elmira.

Poe himself acknowledged a literary source of his poem. He says, as narrator in “The Visionary” (I quote the earliest version):

In turning over a page of Politian’s beautiful tragedy, the “Orfeo,” which lay near me upon an Ottoman, I found a passage underlined in pencil. It is a passage near the conclusion of the third act — a passage of heart-stirring pathos — a passage which, divested of its impurity, no man could read without a thrill — no maiden without a sigh ... upon the opposite interleaf were the following lines ...

Poe’s verses, without title, follow. The only passage to which this reference can apply is Orfeo, II, 19-26, which may be translated:

Now I lament, Oh lyre disconsolate, because the usual song no more seems right. Let’s weep as heaven spins upon its poles, and nightingale give [page 213:] place to our lament. Oh heaven! oh earth! oh sea! oh dire fate! How can I suffer so much misery? My beautiful Euridice, oh, my life, Without you, it’s wrong that I stay in this world.(2)

There is no impurity here, but Poe knew the epigram cited in the note to line 5, below, and may have supposed that there was some possible indelicacy in the lament. He hardly can have had a text before him, his indebtedness is so slight.

The poem must have been written before the end of 1833, since it appears in “The Visionary,” which was published in The Lady’s Book for January 1834. This version includes a fifth stanza, which is retained in all versions of the tale and its revision, “The Assignation,” but is omitted in the separately published versions of the poem. The earliest text preserved is probably that of a manuscript published in a supplement to the London Spectator of January 1, 1853 — following the appearance of an English edition of Poe’s poems — with the amazing claim by one “G. D. B.” that the American editor or Poe himself had put his name to a poem by Tennyson. On January 20 the Laureate wrote a letter, published in the issue of January 22, vindicating Poe’s integrity as author of the verses. The manuscript seems to have been authentic, but it has not been traced during the past century.

There are two other manuscripts of which I give readings. The first (J) is an abridged version written in the album of Poe’s little cousin, Mary Estelle [[Esther]] Herring, in Philadelphia about 1841. It was reproduced in The American Collector for December 1926 by Kenneth Rede, who found it (detached from the album) in the collection of Dr. Thomas S. Cullen of the Johns Hopkins University. The second manuscript (Z), first described by J. H. Whitty in Complete Poems (1917), p. 323, as having been “discovered within the past year,” has no history and is not above suspicion. The readings suggest that, if genuine, it is of 1844 or later. [page 214:]


(A) Manuscript, about 1833 (now lost), published in the Supplement to Vol. 26 of the London Spectator, January 1, 1853 (p. 5); (B) The Lady’s Book for January 1834 (8:42), in “The Visionary”; (C) Southern Literary Messenger, July 1835 (1:639-640), in “The Visionary”; (D) Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, July 1839 (5:49); (E) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), II, 206-207, in “The Visionary”; (F) George P. Morris’s American Melodies (copyrighted 1840), pp. 186-187; (G) Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, January 9, 1841; (H) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (J) manuscript in the album of Mary E. Herring, about 1841 (lines 1-6, 21-26); (K) Broadway Journal, May 10, 1845 (1:295); (L) Broadway Journal, June 7, 1845 (1:359), in “The Assignation”; (M) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 23; (N) J. Lorimer Graham copy of The Raven ... , lines 1 and 23 revised (1849); (P) Rufus W. Griswold, ed., Poets and Poetry of America, 10th edition (1850), pp. 422-423; (Q) Works (1850), I, 378-379, in “The Assignation”; (R) Works (1850), II, 33; (Z) manuscript in the Henry E. Huntington Library.

The J. Lorimer Graham version (N) is followed. The Post printing (G) was probably not authorized.

[page 215, continued:]


Title:  None (A, B, C, E, J, L, Q); To Ianthe in Heaven (D, F); To One Beloved (G); To One Departed (Z)

1  that all / all (A); all that (K, M, P)

5  wreathed / wreathed (D, P); with fairy fruits and / round with wild (B); around about with (A, C, D, E, F, G)

6  all the flowers / the flowers — they all (A, C, D, E, F, G)

7  But the dream — it could not last (A, B, C, D, E, F, G)

7-20  Omitted from J

8  And the star of life did rise (A); Young Hope! thou did’st arise (B); And the star of Hope did rise (C, D, E, F, G); Oh starry Hope! thou did’st arise (H)

9  But / Only (A)

11  “On! on!” — but / “Onward!” while (A, B, C, D, E, F, G); “Onward!” — but (L, Q, Z)

13-16  Omitted from A

14-20  Omitted from Z

15  Ambition – all — is o’er (B, C, D, E, F, G)

16  Omitted from K


Like the murmur of the solemn seas [sic]

To sands on the sea-shore,

A voice is whispering unto me,

“The day is past”; and never more (A)

17  solemn / breaking (B)

21  And / Now (J); Now (L, Q); my / mine (A); days / hours (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, J, L, Q)

22  nightly / nights are (A)

23  Are / Of (A); thy grey / thy dark in all other texts except: thy blue (J); the dark (Q)

24  In the maze of flashing dances (A)

26  what eternal / the slow Italian (A); far Italian (B); what Italian (C, E, G, L, Q); what Elysian (Z)

After line 20 there is an additional stanza in B:

Alas! for that accursed time

They bore thee o’er the billow

From me — to titled age and crime.

And an unholy pillow —

From Love, and from our misty clime

Where weeps the silver willow!

This also appears, with “me” and “Love” interchanged (C, E, G, L, Q)

[page 215, continued:]


3  If anything beyond an actual green isle is referred to, it may be that Poe is thinking of the old belief that blessed spirits dwelt in green isles of the ocean. In the Welsh Triads, it is said that Green Islands of Ocean are “the abode of the Fair Family, or souls of the virtuous Druids,” according to a note [page 216:] by Felicia Hemans on her poem “The Green Isles of Ocean” (Works, Edinburgh and London, 1854, IV, 221). These isles seem to have been well known in Poe’s day. Compare the second stanza of “To F[rances],” and “To Zante.”

5-6  In “Pinakidia” (Number 140) in the Southern Literary Messenger, August 1836 (2:580), Poe wrote: “Politian, the poet and scholar, was an admirer of Alessandra Scala, and addressed to her this extempore:

To teach me that in hapless suit

I do but waste my hours,

Cold maid, whene’er I ask for fruit

Thou givest me naught but flowers.”

This is the Thirty-second Greek Epigram of Politian (Angelo Poliziano). Where Poe got his translation is not yet known. Flowers are symbols of Platonic, fruits suggest carnal love,

10-11  Thomas Moore in the song “One Bumper at Parting” says: “But Time, like a pitiless master, / Cries ‘Onward!’ and spurs the gay hours.”

13  My student Elizabeth McNeil compared to this Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon,” lines 249-250: “A sea of stagnant idleness, / Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless.”

14-20  In the New York Times Saturday Review of Books for January 23, 1909, W. H. Babcock rebuked a critic who had quoted “as Poe’s utterance in propria persona what Poe put into the mouth of a broken-hearted man just before ... self-inflicted death. Read in view of that and with the context, the lines quoted become not unworthy. And the stanza just following [lines 21-26] is not to be matched for its wild, mystical ecstasy, like the best mocking-bird music heard under the moon.”

15  See St. John 8:12 for “the light of life.”

17-18  In “The Poetic Principle” Poe wrote of the “surf that complains to the shore.”

23  The unique reading of Mary Herring’s album reveals that the fair owner had blue eyes. The final reading “grey” is possibly a compliment to the gray eyes of Mrs. Annie Richmond. Annie, as described in “Landor’s Cottage,” had “eyes of spiritual gray.”

26  Compare to this a passage in “Metzengerstein”: “... dames of days gone by, floated away in the mazes of an unreal dance to the strains of imaginary melody.”


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 211:]

1  In Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of His life (2 vols. London, 1830), I, 57.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 213:]


Ora piangiamo, o sconsolata lira;

Che più non ci convien l’usato canto:

Piangiam mentre che ‘l ciel ne’ poli aggira:

E Filomena ceda al nostro pianto.

Oh cielo! oh terra! oh mare! oh sorte dira!

Come soffrir potrò mai dolor tanto?

Euridice mia bella, o vita mia,

Senza to non convien che al mondo stia.




-p. 213, in the printed edition, footnote 2 is given as a second footnote 1.

-p. 215, line 26: streams. / streams (omitting the ending period) [This correction is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his copy of TOM’s edition of the Poems]

-p. 216, in the notes to lines 5-6, the third line of the poem quoted: whene’er I ask / when e’er I ask (misprint or unnoted editorial correction) [This correction is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his copy of TOM’s edition of the Poems]


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