Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. James H. Whitty), “The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette,” The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, pp. 170-177


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[page 170, continued:]

II

The following are from The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, New Series, July-December, 1829, John Neal, Editor: —

“TO CORRESPONDENTS(1) If E. A. P. of Baltimore — whose lines about Heaven, though he professes to regard [page 171:] them as altogether superior to anything in the whole range of American poetry, save two or three trifles referred to, are, though nonsense, rather exquisite nonsense — would but do himself justice, he might make a beautiful and perhaps a magnificent poem. There is a good deal here to justify such a hope:

Dim vales and shadowy floods,

And cloudy-looking woods,

Whose forms we can’t discover

For the tears that — drip all over.

The moonlight

———— falls

Over hamlets, over halls.

Wherever they may be,

O’er the strange woods, o’er the sea —

O’er spirits on the wing,

O’er every drowsy thing —

And buries them up quite

In a labyrinth of light,

And then how deep! — Oh deep!

Is the passion of their sleep!

“He should have signed it, Bah! . . . We have no room for others.”

“TO CORRESPONDENTS(1) Many papers intended for this number have been put aside for the next, . . . Among others are Night — The Magician — Unpublished Poetry (being specimens of a book about to appear at Baltimore).”

“UNPUBLISHED POETRY(2) The following passages are from the manuscript-works of a young author, about to be published in Baltimore. He is entirely a stranger to us, but with all their faults, if the remainder of Al Aaraaf and Tamerlane are as good as the body of the extracts here given — to say nothing of the more extraordinary parts, he will deserve [page 172:] to stand high — very high — in the estimation of the shining brotherhood. Whether he will do so however, must depend, not so much upon his worth now in mere poetry, as upon his worth hereafter in something yet loftier and more generous — we allude to the stronger properties of the mind, to the magnanimous determination that enables a youth to endure the present, whatever the present may be, in the hope, or rather in the belief, the fixed, unwavering belief, that in the future he will find his reward. ‘I am young,’ he says in a letter to one who has laid it on our table for a good purpose,

‘I am young — not yet twenty — am a poet — if deep worship of all beauty can make me one — and wish to be so in the more common meaning of the word. I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination. (By the way, do you remember — or did you ever read the exclamation of Shelley about Shakspeare? — “What a number of ideas must have been afloat before such an author could arise!”) I appeal to you as a man that loves the same beauty which I adore — the beauty of the natural blue sky and the sunshiny earth — there can be no tie more strong than that of brother for brother — it is not so much that they love one another, as that they both love the same parent — their affections are always running in the same direction — the same channel — and cannot help mingling.

I am and have been, from my childhood, an idler.

It cannot therefore be said that

“I left a calling for this idle trade,

A duty broke — a father disobeyed” —

for I have no father — nor mother.

I am about to publish a volume of “Poems,” the greater part written before I was fifteen. Speaking about “Heaven,”(1) [page 173:] the editor of the Yankee says, “He might write a beautiful, if not a magnificent poem” — (the very first words of encouragement I ever remember to have heard). I am very certain that as yet I have not written either — but that I can, I will take oath — if they will give me time.

The poems to be published are “Al Aaraaf” — “Tamerlane” — one about four, and the other about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces. “Al Aaraaf” has some good poetry, and much extravagance, which I have not had time to throw away.(1)

“Al Aaraaf” is a tale of another world — the star discovered by Tycho Brahe, which appeared and disappeared so suddenly — or rather, it is no tale at all. I will insert an extract, about the palace of its presiding Deity, in which you will see that I have supposed many of the lost sculptures of our world to have flown (in spirit) to the star “Al Aaraaf” — a delicate place, more suited to their divinity.

Uprear’d upon such height arose a pile

Of gorgeous columns on th’ unburthened air —

Flashing, from Pariah marble, that twin-smile

Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,

And nursled the young mountain in its lair:

Of molten stars their pavement — such as fall

Thro’ the ebon air — besilvering the pall

Of their own dissolution while they die —

Adorning, then, the dwellings of the sky;

A dome by linked light * from Heaven let down,

Sat gently on these columns as a crown;

A window of one circular diamond there [page 174:]

Looked out above into the purple air,

And rays from God shot down that meteor chain

And hallow’d all the beauty twice again,

Save when, between th’ Empyrean, and that ring,

Some eager spirit flapp’d a dusky wing:

But, on the pillars, seraph eyes have seen

The dimness of this world: that grayish green

That nature loves the best for Beauty’s grave,

Lurked in each cornice — round each architrave —

And every sculptur’d cherub thereabout

That from his marble dwelling ventured(1) out,

Seemed earthly in the shadow of his niche —

Archaian statues in a world so rich?

Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis —

From Balbec and the stilly, clear abyss

Of beautiful Gomorrah! — oh! the wave

Is now upon thee — but too late to save!

Far down within the crystal of the lake

Thy swollen pillars tremble — and so quake

The hearts of many wanderers who look in

Thy luridness of beauty — and of sin.

Another —

— Silence is the voice of God —

Ours is a world of words: quiet we call

“Silence” — which is the merest word of all.

Here Nature speaks — and ev’n ideal things

Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings;

But ah! not so, when in the realms on high,

The eternal voice of God is moving by,

And the red winds are withering in the sky!

From Tamerlane —

The fever’d diadem on my brow

I claimed and won usurpingly:

Hath not the same fierce heirdom given

Rome to the Cæsar — this to me? [page 175:]

The heritage of a kingly mind

And a proud spirit, which hath striven

Triumphantly with human-kind.

* * * *

On mountain soil I first drew life,

The mists of the Taglay have shed

Nightly their dews upon my head;

And, I believe, the winged strife

And tumult of the headlong air

Hath nestled in my very hair.

* * * *

So late from Heaven, that dew, it fell,

Mid dreams of one unholy night,

Upon me with the touch of Hell —

While the red flashing of the light

From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,

Seem’d then to my half-closing eye

The pageantry of monarchy;

And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar

Came hurriedly upon me telling

Of human battle (near me swelling).

* * * *

The rain came down upon my head

Unshelter’d, and the heavy wind

Was giantlike — so thou, my mind!

It was but man, I thought, who shed

Laurels upon me — and the rush —

The torrent of the chilly air

Gurgled within my ear the crush

Of empires — with the captive’s prayer;

The hum of suitors, and the tone

Of flattery round a sovereign-throne.

* * * *

Young Love’s first lesson is the heart:

For mid that sunshine and those smiles,

When, from our little cares apart,

And laughing at her girlish wiles,

I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,

And pour my spirit out in tears, [page 176:]

There was no need to speak the rest —

No need to quiet any fears

Of her — who ask’d no reason why,

But turned on me her quiet eye.

Tamerlane dying —

Father! I firmly do believe —

I know — for Death, who comes for me

From regions of the blest afar,

(Where there is nothing to deceive)

Hath left his iron gate ajar;

And rays of truth you cannot see

Are flashing through Eternity —

I do believe that Eblis hath

A snare in every human path;

Else how when in the holy grove

I wandered of the idol, Love,

Who daily scents his snowy wings

With incense of burnt offerings

From the most undefiled things —

Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven

Above with trelliced rays from Heaven

No mote may shun — no tiniest fly

The lightning of his eagle eye.

How was it that Ambition crept

Unseen, amid the revels there,

Till, growing bold, he laugh’d and leapt

In the tangles of Love’s brilliant hair?

Passage from the minor poems.

If my peace hath flown away

In a night — or in a day —

In a vision — or in none —

Is it therefore the less gone?

I am standing mid the roar

Of a weatherbeaten shore,

And I hold within my hand

Some particles of sand — [page 177:]

How few! and how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep!

My early hopes? — No — they

Went gloriously away,

Like lightning from the sky

At once — and so will I.”

Having allowed our youthful writer to be heard in his own behalf, — what more can we do for the lovers of genuine poetry? Nothing. They who are judges will not need more; and they who are not — why waste words upon them? We shall not.

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - JHW11, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette (ed. J. H. Whitty, 1911)