Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To Zante,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 310-312 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 310, continued:]


The occasion of the composition of this Shakespearean sonnet is almost surely a meeting of Poe and his first fiancée about 1836, while Poe was editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.

Elmira Shelton — signing only her first name — wrote Mrs. Clemm on September 22, 1849, after becoming re-engaged to Poe, a gentle and lovely letter. What is pertinent follows: “I remember seeing Edgar, & his lovely wife, very soon after they were married — I met them — I never shall forget my feelings at the time — They were indescribable, almost agonizing — However in an instant, I remembered that I was a married woman, and banished them from me.” The manuscript of this letter is now in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, and was first completely published in Edgar Allan Poe; Letters and Documents (1941), edited by A. H. Quinn and Richard H. Hart.

The allegory may be interpreted as a continuation of that of “Tamerlane” and is possibly transitional to that of “Annabel Lee.”

“To Zante” is partly based, as Woodberry observes (Life, I, p. 167), on a passage in the Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem of Chateaubriand, that had already inspired several lines in “Al Aaraaf.”

In “A Reviewer Reviewed” Poe began to point out an imitation in his verses “To Zante” of a “minor classic,” but in the unfinished manuscript he did not complete his comment or name the poem — from the context either Greek or Latin — that he had [page 311:] in mind. In view of this I reject the suggestion of a friend that Poe was inspired by a very well-known sonnet by Ugo Foscolo, published in 1803. It begins “Nè mai più toccherò le sacre sponde,” and laments Foscolo's inability again to touch the sacred soil of Zante, the island where he was born.


(A) Southern Literary Messenger, January 1837 (3:32); (B) manuscript, in a letter of November 6, 1840, to Richard Henry Stoddard, facsimiled in Scribner's Magazine, February 1891 (9:224); (C) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (D) Broadway Journal, July 19, 1845 (2:21); (E) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 20; (F) manuscript, in “A Reviewer Reviewed” (1849); (G) Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America, 10th edition (1850), p. 419; (H) Works (1850), II, 43. The manuscripts (B and F) are both owned by Mr. H. Bradley Martin.

TO ZANTE [H] [[v]]

[page 311, continued:]


Title:  Sonnet. To Zante (A, C, D, E, F)

3  memories / mem’ries (B, C)

6  entombéd / entombed (A, D, F)

11  Accurséd / Accursed (A, B, C, D, F)

[page 311, continued:]


1-2  Here again Poe uses Chateaubriand as source for the derivation of the island's name from the flower called hyacinth by the Greeks. It has been [page 312:] pointed out, however, that the early name of the island, Zacynthus, was derived from a hero of that name, said to have been a companion of Hercules, who was brought to the island for burial.

10  Poe was fond of the words “no more,” as have been many poets. Here he perhaps had in mind Pope's first “Pastoral,” lines 75-76: “If Sylvia smiles, new glories gild the shore, / And vanquish’d nature seems to charm no more.” Compare also Crabbe's Village, II, 167-168: “Calmly to dwell on all that pleased before, / And yet to know that all shall please no more.” Poe used the expression also in “To One in Paradise” and “Sonnet — Silence.”

14  See note to “Al Aaraaf,” I, 76-77.




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