Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Latin Hymn,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 218-219 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 218, continued:]


This poem is found in the tale called first “Epimanes” and later “Four Beasts in One.” It concerns the freaks of the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus IV (175-164 B. C.), about whom there is much in Polybius, Livy, Athenaeus, and in Maccabees. He captured Jerusalem, and impiously entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple there. He assumed the title Epiphanes (“Illustrious”), but was called Epimanes (“Madman”), because of his strange conduct, according to Athenaeus, X, 53, following Polybius. From the account of his celebration of games at the grove of Daphne, one judges that he was not quite sane, or at least was rarely sober. Poe has the rabble singing a Latin hymn in his honor less absurdly than may be supposed. Epiphanes was brought up in Rome as a hostage, and admired all things Roman.

Poe took the Latin song from the biography of the Roman emperor Aurelian (A. D. 270-275) in the Scriptores historiae augustae VI, ascribed to Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse. The text he gives follows verbally the edition of the Scriptores historiae augustae of Claudius Salmasius, issued at Paris in 1620, p. 211, except that the last two words there are “fudit sanguinis,” suggesting that Poe followed a secondary source or quoted from memory. This was [page 219:] pointed out in the Stedman and Woodberry edition of Poe's Works, IV, 292. The Latin song may be translated: “We, one man, have beheaded a thousand. [Long] live he who slew a thousand. Nobody has as much of wine, as he has spilt of blood.”

In all versions of his story, Poe explained, in a footnote, that the Latin song celebrated Aurelian's exploit of killing, with his own hand, 950 of the enemy during the Sarmatic War.


(A) Manuscript sent in a letter, May 4, 1833, to “Messrs. Buckingham, Editors of the N. England Magazine, Boston,” containing the tale “Epimanes,” owned by Mr. H. Bradley Martin; (B) Southern Literary Messenger, March 1836 (2:237), in “Epimanes”; (C) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), II, 12, in “Epimanes”; (D) Broadway Journal, December 6, 1845 (2:334), in “Four Beasts in One”; (E) Works (1850), II, 469, in “Four Beasts in One,” verbally like D. Our text is based on D.





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