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COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
EDGAR ALLAN POE
BY JOHN H. INGRAM
In placing before the public this collection of Edgar Poe's poetical
works, it is requisite to point out in what respects it differs from,
and is superior to, the numerous collections which have preceded it.
Until recently, all editions, whether American or English, of Poe's
poems have been 'verbatim' reprints of the first posthumous collection,
published at New York in 1850.
In 1874 I began drawing attention to the fact that unknown and
unreprinted poetry by Edgar Poe was in existence. Most, if not all, of
the specimens issued in my articles have since been reprinted by
different editors and publishers, but the present is the first occasion
on which all the pieces referred to have been garnered into one sheaf.
Besides the poems thus alluded to, this volume will be found to contain
many additional pieces and extra stanzas, nowhere else published or
included in Poe's works. Such verses have been gathered from printed or
manuscript sources during a research extending over many years.
In addition to the new poetical matter included in this volume,
attention should, also, be solicited on behalf of the notes, which will
be found to contain much matter, interesting both from biographical and
bibliographical points of view.
JOHN H. INGRAM.
POEMS OF LATER LIFE:
To my Mother
To Frances S. Osgood
A Dream within a Dream
To Marie Louise (Shew)
To the Same
The City in the Sea
POEMS OF MANHOOD:
To one in Paradise
The Haunted Palace
The Conqueror Worm
SCENES FROM "POLITIAN"
POEMS OF YOUTH:
The Valley of Unrest
To----("I heed not that my earthly lot")
To----("The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see")
To the River----
Spirits of the Dead
"The Happiest Day,"
Hymn. Translation from the Greek
"In Youth I have known one"
The Village Street
The Forest Reverie
The Island of the Fay
The Power of Words
The Colloquy of Monos and Una
The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion
The Poetic Principle
The Philosophy of Composition
Old English Poetry
MEMOIR OF EDGAR ALLAN POE.
During the last few years every incident in the life of Edgar Poe has
been subjected to microscopic investigation. The result has not been
altogether satisfactory. On the one hand, envy and prejudice have
magnified every blemish of his character into crime, whilst on the
other, blind admiration would depict him as far "too good for human
nature's daily food." Let us endeavor to judge him impartially, granting
that he was as a mortal subject to the ordinary weaknesses of mortality,
but that he was tempted sorely, treated badly, and suffered deeply.
The poet's ancestry and parentage are chiefly interesting as explaining
some of the complexities of his character. His father, David Poe, was of
Anglo-Irish extraction. Educated for the Bar, he elected to abandon it
for the stage. In one of his tours through the chief towns of the United
States he met and married a young actress, Elizabeth Arnold, member of
an English family distinguished for its musical talents. As an actress,
Elizabeth Poe acquired some reputation, but became even better known for
her domestic virtues. In those days the United States afforded little
scope for dramatic energy, so it is not surprising to find that when her
husband died, after a few years of married life, the young widow had a
vain struggle to maintain herself and three little ones, William Henry,
Edgar, and Rosalie. Before her premature death, in December, 1811, the
poet's mother had been reduced to the dire necessity of living on the
charity of her neighbors.
Edgar, the second child of David and Elizabeth Poe, was born at Boston,
in the United States, on the 19th of January, 1809. Upon his mother's
death at Richmond, Virginia, Edgar was adopted by a wealthy Scotch
merchant, John Allan. Mr. Allan, who had married an American lady and
settled in Virginia, was childless. He therefore took naturally to the
brilliant and beautiful little boy, treated him as his son, and made him
take his own surname. Edgar Allan, as he was now styled, after some
elementary tuition in Richmond, was taken to England by his adopted
parents, and, in 1816, placed at the Manor House School,
Under the Rev. Dr. Bransby, the future poet spent a lustrum of his life
neither unprofitably nor, apparently, ungenially. Dr. Bransby, who is
himself so quaintly portrayed in Poe's tale of 'William Wilson',
described "Edgar Allan," by which name only he knew the lad, as "a quick
and clever boy," who "would have been a very good boy had he not been
spoilt by his parents," meaning, of course, the Allans. They "allowed
him an extravagant amount of pocket-money, which enabled him to get into
all manner of mischief. Still I liked the boy," added the tutor, "but,
poor fellow, his parents spoiled him."
Poe has described some aspects of his school days in his oft cited story
of 'William Wilson'. Probably there is the usual amount of poetic
exaggeration in these reminiscences, but they are almost the only record
we have of that portion of his career and, therefore, apart from their
literary merits, are on that account deeply interesting. The description
of the sleepy old London suburb, as it was in those days, is remarkably
accurate, but the revisions which the story of 'William Wilson' went
through before it reached its present perfect state caused many of the
author's details to deviate widely from their original correctness. His
schoolhouse in the earliest draft was truthfully described as an "old,
irregular, and cottage-built" dwelling, and so it remained until its
destruction a few years ago.
The 'soi-disant' William Wilson, referring to those bygone happy days
spent in the English academy, says,
"The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of incident
to occupy or amuse it. The morning's awakening, the nightly summons to
bed; the connings, the recitations, the periodical half-holidays and
perambulations, the playground, with its broils, its pastimes, its
intrigues--these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to
involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, a
universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and
spirit-stirring, _'Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!'"_
From this world of boyish imagination Poe was called to his adopted
parents' home in the United States. He returned to America in 1821, and
was speedily placed in an academy in Richmond, Virginia, in which city
the Allans continued to reside. Already well grounded in the elementary
processes of education, not without reputation on account of his
European residence, handsome, proud, and regarded as the heir of a
wealthy man, Poe must have been looked up to with no little respect by
his fellow pupils. He speedily made himself a prominent position in the
school, not only by his classical attainments, but by his athletic
feats--accomplishments calculated to render him a leader among lads.
"In the simple school athletics of those days, when a gymnasium had
not been heard of, he was 'facile princeps',"
is the reminiscence of his fellow pupil, Colonel T. L. Preston. Poe he
"a swift runner, a wonderful leaper, and, what was more rare, a boxer,
with some slight training.... He would allow the strongest boy in the
school to strike him with full force in the chest. He taught me the
secret, and I imitated him, after my measure. It was to inflate the
lungs to the uttermost, and at the moment of receiving the blow to
exhale the air. It looked surprising, and was, indeed, a little rough;
but with a good breast-bone, and some resolution, it was not difficult
to stand it. For swimming he was noted, being in many of his athletic
proclivities surprisingly like Byron in his youth."
In one of his feats Poe only came off second best.
"A challenge to a foot race," says Colonel Preston, "had been passed
between the two classical schools of the city; we selected Poe as our
champion. The race came off one bright May morning at sunrise, in the
Capitol Square. Historical truth compels me to add that on this
occasion our school was beaten, and we had to pay up our small bets.
Poe ran well, but his competitor was a long-legged, Indian-looking
fellow, who would have outstripped Atalanta without the help of the
"In our Latin exercises in school," continues the colonel, "Poe was
among the first--not first without dispute. We had competitors who
fairly disputed the palm, especially one, Nat Howard, afterwards known
as one of the ripest scholars in Virginia, and distinguished also as a
profound lawyer. If Howard was less brilliant than Poe, he was far
more studious; for even then the germs of waywardness were developing
in the nascent poet, and even then no inconsiderable portion of his
time was given to versifying. But if I put Howard as a Latinist on a
level with Poe, I do him full justice."
"Poe," says the colonel, "was very fond of the Odes of Horace, and
repeated them so often in my hearing that I learned by sound the words
of many before I understood their meaning. In the lilting rhythm of
the Sapphics and Iambics, his ear, as yet untutored in more
complicated harmonies, took special delight. Two odes, in particular,
have been humming in my ear all my life since, set to the tune of his
_'Jam satis terris nivis atque dirce
Grandinis misit Pater, et rubente,'_
_'Non ebur neque aureum
Mea renidet in dono lacu ar,_' etc.
"I remember that Poe was also a very fine French scholar. Yet, with
all his superiorities, he was not the master spirit nor even the
favorite of the school. I assign, from my recollection, this place to
Howard. Poe, as I recall my impressions now, was self-willed,
capricious, inclined to be imperious, and, though of generous
impulses, not steadily kind, nor even amiable; and so what he would
exact was refused to him. I add another thing which had its influence,
I am sure. At the time of which I speak, Richmond was one of the most
aristocratic cities on this side of the Atlantic.... A school is, of
its nature, democratic; but still boys will unconsciously bear about
the odor of their fathers' notions, good or bad. Of Edgar Poe," who
had then resumed his parental cognomen, "it was known that his parents
had been players, and that he was dependent upon the bounty that is
bestowed upon an adopted son. All this had the effect of making the
boys decline his leadership; and, on looking back on it since, I fancy
it gave him a fierceness he would otherwise not have had."
This last paragraph of Colonel Preston's recollections cast a suggestive
light upon the causes which rendered unhappy the lad's early life and
tended to blight his prospective hopes. Although mixing with members of
the best families of the province, and naturally endowed with hereditary
and native pride,--fostered by the indulgence of wealth and the
consciousness of intellectual superiority,--Edgar Poe was made to feel
that his parentage was obscure, and that he himself was dependent upon
the charity and caprice of an alien by blood. For many lads these things
would have had but little meaning, but to one of Poe's proud temperament
it must have been a source of constant torment, and all allusions to it
gall and wormwood. And Mr. Allan was not the man to wean Poe from such
festering fancies: as a rule he was proud of the handsome and talented
boy, and indulged him in all that wealth could purchase, but at other
times he treated him with contumely, and made him feel the bitterness of
Still Poe did maintain his leading position among the scholars at that
Virginian academy, and several still living have favored us with
reminiscences of him. His feats in swimming to which Colonel Preston has
alluded, are quite a feature of his youthful career. Colonel Mayo
records one daring performance in natation which is thoroughly
characteristic of the lad. One day in mid-winter, when standing on the
banks of the James River, Poe dared his comrade into jumping in, in
order to swim to a certain point with him. After floundering about in
the nearly frozen stream for some time, they reached the piles upon
which Mayo's Bridge was then supported, and there attempted to rest and
try to gain the shore by climbing up the log abutment to the bridge.
Upon reaching the bridge, however, they were dismayed to find that its
plank flooring overlapped the abutment by several feet, and that it was
impossible to ascend it. Nothing remained for them but to let go their
slippery hold and swim back to the shore. Poe reached the bank in an
exhausted and benumbed condition, whilst Mayo was rescued by a boat just
as he was succumbing. On getting ashore Poe was seized with a violent
attack of vomiting, and both lads were ill for several weeks.
Alluding to another quite famous swimming feat of his own, the poet
remarked, "Any 'swimmer in the falls' in my days would have swum the
Hellespont, and thought nothing of the matter. I swam from Ludlam's
Wharf to Warwick (six miles), in a hot June sun, against one of the
strongest tides ever known in the river. It would have been a feat
comparatively easy to swim twenty miles in still water. I would not
think much," Poe added in a strain of exaggeration not unusual with him,
"of attempting to swim the British Channel from Dover to Calais."
Colonel Mayo, who had tried to accompany him in this performance, had to
stop on the way, and says that Poe, when he reached the goal, emerged
from the water with neck, face, and back blistered. The facts of this
feat, which was undertaken for a wager, having been questioned, Poe,
ever intolerant of contradiction, obtained and published the affidavits
of several gentlemen who had witnessed it. They also certified that Poe
did not seem at all fatigued, and that he walked back to Richmond
immediately after the performance.
The poet is generally remembered at this part of his career to have been
slight in figure and person, but to have been well made, active, sinewy,
and graceful. Despite the fact that he was thus noted among his
schoolfellows and indulged at home, he does not appear to have been in
sympathy with his surroundings. Already dowered with the "hate of hate,
the scorn of scorn," he appears to have made foes both among those who
envied him and those whom, in the pride of intellectuality, he treated
with pugnacious contempt. Beneath the haughty exterior, however, was a
warm and passionate heart, which only needed circumstance to call forth
an almost fanatical intensity of affection. A well-authenticated
instance of this is thus related by Mrs. Whitman:
"While at the academy in Richmond, he one day accompanied a schoolmate
to his home, where he saw, for the first time, Mrs. Helen Stannard,
the mother of his young friend. This lady, on entering the room, took
his hands and spoke some gentle and gracious words of welcome, which
so penetrated the sensitive heart of the orphan boy as to deprive him
of the power of speech, and for a time almost of consciousness itself.
He returned home in a dream, with but one thought, one hope in life
--to hear again the sweet and gracious words that had made the
desolate world so beautiful to him, and filled his lonely heart with
the oppression of a new joy. This lady afterwards became the confidant
of all his boyish sorrows, and hers was the one redeeming influence
that saved and guided him in the earlier days of his turbulent and
When Edgar was unhappy at home, which, says his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, "was
very often the case, he went to Mrs. Stannard for sympathy, for
consolation, and for advice." Unfortunately, the sad fortune which so
frequently thwarted his hopes ended this friendship. The lady was
overwhelmed by a terrible calamity, and at the period when her guiding
voice was most requisite, she fell a prey to mental alienation. She
died, and was entombed in a neighboring cemetery, but her poor boyish
admirer could not endure to think of her lying lonely and forsaken in
her vaulted home, so he would leave the house at night and visit her
tomb. When the nights were drear, "when the autumnal rains fell, and the
winds wailed mournfully over the graves, he lingered longest, and came
away most regretfully."
The memory of this lady, of this "one idolatrous and purely ideal love"
of his boyhood, was cherished to the last. The name of Helen frequently
recurs in his youthful verses, "The Paean," now first included in his
poetical works, refers to her; and to her he inscribed the classic and
exquisitely beautiful stanzas beginning "Helen, thy beauty is to me."
Another important item to be noted in this epoch of his life is that he
was already a poet. Among his schoolfellows he appears to have acquired
some little reputation as a writer of satirical verses; but of his
poetry, of that which, as he declared, had been with him "not a purpose,
but a passion," he probably preserved the secret, especially as we know
that at his adoptive home poesy was a forbidden thing. As early as 1821
he appears to have essayed various pieces, and some of these were
ultimately included in his first volume. With Poe poetry was a personal
matter--a channel through which the turbulent passions of his heart
found an outlet. With feelings such as were his, it came to pass, as a
matter of course, that the youthful poet fell in love. His first affair
of the heart is, doubtless, reminiscently portrayed in what he says of
his boyish ideal, Byron. This passion, he remarks, "if passion it can
properly be called, was of the most thoroughly romantic, shadowy, and
imaginative character. It was born of the hour, and of the youthful
necessity to love. It had no peculiar regard to the person, or to the
character, or to the reciprocating affection... Any maiden, not
immediately and positively repulsive," he deems would have suited the
occasion of frequent and unrestricted intercourse with such an
imaginative and poetic youth. "The result," he deems, "was not merely
natural, or merely probable; it was as inevitable as destiny itself."
Between the lines may be read the history of his own love. "The Egeria
of _his_ dreams--the Venus Aphrodite that sprang in full and supernal
loveliness from the bright foam upon the storm-tormented ocean of _his_
thoughts," was a little girl, Elmira Royster, who lived with her father
in a house opposite to the Allans in Richmond. The young people met
again and again, and the lady, who has only recently passed away,
recalled Edgar as "a beautiful boy," passionately fond of music,
enthusiastic and impulsive, but with prejudices already strongly
developed. A certain amount of love-making took place between the young
people, and Poe, with his usual passionate energy, ere he left home for
the University had persuaded his fair inamorata to engage herself to
him. Poe left home for the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in
the beginning of 1825. lie wrote frequently to Miss Royster, but her
father did not approve of the affair, and, so the story runs,
intercepted the correspondence, until it ceased. At seventeen, Elmira
became the bride of a Mr. Shelton, and it was not until some time
afterwards that Poe discovered how it was his passionate appeals had
failed to elicit any response from the object of his youthful affection.
Poe's short university career was in many respects a repetition of his
course at the Richmond Academy. He became noted at Charlottesville both
for his athletic feats and his scholastic successes. He entered as a
student on February 1,1826, and remained till the close of the second
session in December of that year.
"He entered the schools of ancient and modern languages, attending the
lectures on Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian. I was a member
of the last three classes," says Mr. William Wertenbaker, the recently
deceased librarian, "and can testify that he was tolerably regular in
his attendance, and a successful student, having obtained distinction
at the final examination in Latin and French, and this was at that
time the highest honor a student could obtain. The present regulations
in regard to degrees had not then been adopted. Under existing
regulations, he would have graduated in the two languages above-named,
and have been entitled to diplomas."
These statements of Poe's classmate are confirmed by Dr. Harrison,
chairman of the Faculty, who remarks that the poet was a great favorite
with his fellow-students, and was noted for the remarkable rapidity with
which he prepared his recitations and for their accuracy, his
translations from the modern languages being especially noteworthy.
Several of Poe's classmates at Charlottesville have testified to his
"noble qualities" and other good endowments, but they remember that his
"disposition was rather retiring, and that he had few intimate
associates." Mr. Thomas Boiling, one of his fellow-students who has
favored us with reminiscences of him, says:
"I was 'acquainted', with him, but that is about all. My impression
was, and is, that no one could say that he 'knew' him. He wore a
melancholy face always, and even his smile--for I do not ever remember
to have seen him laugh--seemed to be forced. When he engaged
sometimes with others in athletic exercises, in which, so far as high
or long jumping, I believe he excelled all the rest, Poe, with the
same ever sad face, appeared to participate in what was amusement to
the others more as a task than sport."
Poe had no little talent for drawing, and Mr. John Willis states that
the walls of his college rooms were covered with his crayon sketches,
whilst Mr. Boiling mentions, in connection with the poet's artistic
facility, some interesting incidents. The two young men had purchased
copies of a handsomely-illustrated edition of Byron's poems, and upon
visiting Poe a few days after this purchase, Mr. Bolling found him
engaged in copying one of the engravings with crayon upon his dormitory
ceiling. He continued to amuse himself in this way from time to time
until he had filled all the space in his room with life-size figures
which, it is remembered by those who saw them, were highly ornamental
and well executed.
As Mr. Bolling talked with his associate, Poe would continue to scribble
away with his pencil, as if writing, and when his visitor jestingly
remonstrated with him on his want of politeness, he replied that he had
been all attention, and proved that he had by suitable comment,
assigning as a reason for his apparent want of courtesy that he was
trying 'to divide his mind,' to carry on a conversation and write
sensibly upon a totally different subject at the same time.
Mr. Wertenbaker, in his interesting reminiscences of the poet, says:
"As librarian I had frequent official intercourse with Poe, but it was
at or near the close of the session before I met him in the social
circle. After spending an evening together at a private house he
invited me, on our return, into his room. It was a cold night in
December, and his fire having gone pretty nearly out, by the aid of
some tallow candles, and the fragments of a small table which he broke
up for the purpose, he soon rekindled it, and by its comfortable blaze
I spent a very pleasant hour with him. On this occasion he spoke with
regret of the large amount of money he had wasted, and of the debts he
had contracted during the session. If my memory be not at fault, he
estimated his indebtedness at $2,000 and, though they were gaming
debts, he was earnest and emphatic in the declaration that he was
bound by honor to pay them at the earliest opportunity."
This appears to have been Poe's last night at the university. He left it
never to return, yet, short as was his sojourn there, he left behind him
such honorable memories that his 'alma mater' is now only too proud to
enrol his name among her most respected sons. Poe's adopted father,
however, did not regard his 'protege's' collegiate career with equal
pleasure: whatever view he may have entertained of the lad's scholastic
successes, he resolutely refused to discharge the gambling debts which,
like too many of his classmates, he had incurred. A violent altercation
took place between Mr. Allan and the youth, and Poe hastily quitted the
shelter of home to try and make his way in the world alone.
Taking with him such poems as he had ready, Poe made his way to Boston,
and there looked up some of his mother's old theatrical friends. Whether
he thought of adopting the stage as a profession, or whether he thought
of getting their assistance towards helping him to put a drama of his
own upon the stage,--that dream of all young authors,--is now unknown.
He appears to have wandered about for some time, and by some means or
the other succeeded in getting a little volume of poems printed "for
private circulation only." This was towards the end of 1827, when he was
nearing nineteen. Doubtless Poe expected to dispose of his volume by
subscription among his friends, but copies did not go off, and
ultimately the book was suppressed, and the remainder of the edition,
for "reasons of a private nature," destroyed.
What happened to the young poet, and how he contrived to exist for the
next year or so, is a mystery still unsolved. It has always been
believed that he found his way to Europe and met with some curious
adventures there, and Poe himself certainly alleged that such was the
case. Numbers of mythical stories have been invented to account for this
chasm in the poet's life, and most of them self-evidently fabulous. In a
recent biography of Poe an attempt had been made to prove that he
enlisted in the army under an assumed name, and served for about
eighteen months in the artillery in a highly creditable manner,
receiving an honorable discharge at the instance of Mr. Allan. This
account is plausible, but will need further explanation of its many
discrepancies of dates, and verification of the different documents
cited in proof of it, before the public can receive it as fact. So many
fables have been published about Poe, and even many fictitious documents
quoted, that it behoves the unprejudiced to be wary in accepting any new
statements concerning him that are not thoroughly authenticated.
On the 28th February, 1829, Mrs. Allan died, and with her death the
final thread that had bound Poe to her husband was broken. The adopted
son arrived too late to take a last farewell of her whose influence had
given the Allan residence its only claim upon the poet's heart. A kind
of truce was patched up over the grave of the deceased lady, but, for
the future, Poe found that home was home no longer.
Again the young man turned to poetry, not only as a solace but as a
means of earning a livelihood. Again he printed a little volume of
poems, which included his longest piece, "Al Aaraaf," and several others
now deemed classic. The book was a great advance upon his previous
collection, but failed to obtain any amount of public praise or personal
profit for its author.
Feeling the difficulty of living by literature at the same time that he
saw he might have to rely largely upon his own exertions for a
livelihood, Poe expressed a wish to enter the army. After no little
difficulty a cadetship was obtained for him at the West Point Military
Academy, a military school in many respects equal to the best in Europe
for the education of officers for the army. At the time Poe entered the
Academy it possessed anything but an attractive character, the
discipline having been of the most severe character, and the
accommodation in many respects unsuitable for growing lads.
The poet appears to have entered upon this new course of life with his
usual enthusiasm, and for a time to have borne the rigid rules of the
place with unusual steadiness. He entered the institution on the 1st
July, 1830, and by the following March had been expelled for determined
disobedience. Whatever view may be taken of Poe's conduct upon this
occasion, it must be seen that the expulsion from West Point was of his
own seeking. Highly-colored pictures have been drawn of his eccentric
behavior at the Academy, but the fact remains that he wilfully, or at
any rate purposely, flung away his cadetship. It is surmised with
plausibility that the second marriage of Mr. Allan, and his expressed
intention of withdrawing his help and of not endowing or bequeathing
this adopted son any of his property, was the mainspring of Poe's
action. Believing it impossible to continue without aid in a profession
so expensive as was a military life, he determined to relinquish it and
return to his long cherished attempt to become an author.
Expelled from the institution that afforded board and shelter, and
discarded by his former protector, the unfortunate and penniless young
man yet a third time attempted to get a start in the world of letters by
means of a volume of poetry. If it be true, as alleged, that several of
his brother cadets aided his efforts by subscribing for his little work,
there is some possibility that a few dollars rewarded this latest
venture. Whatever may have resulted from the alleged aid, it is certain
that in a short time after leaving the Military Academy Poe was reduced
to sad straits. He disappeared for nearly two years from public notice,
and how he lived during that period has never been satisfactorily
explained. In 1833 he returns to history in the character of a winner of
a hundred-dollar award offered by a newspaper for the best story.
The prize was unanimously adjudged to Poe by the adjudicators, and Mr.
Kennedy, an author of some little repute, having become interested by
the young man's evident genius, generously assisted him towards
obtaining a livelihood by literary labor. Through his new friend's
introduction to the proprietor of the 'Southern Literary Messenger', a
moribund magazine published at irregular intervals, Poe became first a
paid contributor, and eventually the editor of the publication, which
ultimately he rendered one of the most respected and profitable
periodicals of the day. This success was entirely due to the brilliancy
and power of Poe's own contributions to the magazine.
In March, 1834, Mr. Allan died, and if our poet had maintained any hopes
of further assistance from him, all doubt was settled by the will, by
which the whole property of the deceased was left to his second wife and
her three sons. Poe was not named.
On the 6th May, 1836, Poe, who now had nothing but his pen to trust to,
married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a child of only fourteen, and with
her mother as housekeeper, started a home of his own. In the meantime
his various writings in the 'Messenger' began to attract attention and
to extend his reputation into literary circles, but beyond his editorial
salary of about $520 brought him no pecuniary reward.
In January, 1837, for reasons never thoroughly explained, Poe severed
his connection with the 'Messenger', and moved with all his household
goods from Richmond to New York. Southern friends state that Poe was
desirous of either being admitted into partnership with his employer, or
of being allowed a larger share of the profits which his own labors
procured. In New York his earnings seem to have been small and
irregular, his most important work having been a republication from the
'Messenger' in book form of his Defoe-like romance entitled 'Arthur
Gordon Pym'. The truthful air of "The Narrative," as well as its other
merits, excited public curiosity both in England and America; but Poe's
remuneration does not appear to have been proportionate to its success,
nor did he receive anything from the numerous European editions the work
rapidly passed through.
In 1838 Poe was induced by a literary friend to break up his New York
home and remove with his wife and aunt (her mother) to Philadelphia. The
Quaker city was at that time quite a hotbed for magazine projects, and
among the many new periodicals Poe was enabled to earn some kind of a
living. To Burton's 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1837 he had contributed a
few articles, but in 1840 he arranged with its proprietor to take up the
editorship. Poe had long sought to start a magazine of his own, and it
was probably with a view to such an eventuality that one of his
conditions for accepting the editorship of the 'Gentleman's Magazine'
was that his name should appear upon the title-page.
Poe worked hard at the 'Gentleman's' for some time, contributing to its
columns much of his best work; ultimately, however, he came to
loggerheads with its proprietor, Burton, who disposed of the magazine to
a Mr. Graham, a rival publisher. At this period Poe collected into two
volumes, and got them published as 'Tales of the Grotesque and
Arabesques', twenty-five of his stories, but he never received any
remuneration, save a few copies of the volumes, for the work. For some
time the poet strove most earnestly to start a magazine of his own, but
all his efforts failed owing to his want of capital.
The purchaser of Burton's magazine, having amalgamated it with another,
issued the two under the title of 'Graham's Magazine'. Poe became a
contributor to the new venture, and in November of the year 1840
consented to assume the post of editor.
Under Poe's management, assisted by the liberality of Mr. Graham,
'Graham's Magazine' became a grand success. To its pages Poe contributed
some of his finest and most popular tales, and attracted to the
publication the pens of many of the best contemporary authors. The
public was not slow in showing its appreciation of 'pabulum' put before
it, and, so its directors averred, in less than two years the
circulation rose from five to fifty-two thousand copies.
A great deal of this success was due to Poe's weird and wonderful
stories; still more, perhaps, to his trenchant critiques and his
startling theories anent cryptology. As regards the tales now issued in
'Graham's', attention may especially be drawn to the world-famed
"Murders in the Rue Morgue," the first of a series--'"une espece de
trilogie,"' as Baudelaire styles them--illustrative of an analytic phase
of Poe's peculiar mind. This 'trilogie' of tales, of which the later two
were "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget," was
avowedly written to prove the capability of solving the puzzling riddles
of life by identifying another person's mind by our own. By trying to
follow the processes by which a person would reason out a certain thing,
Poe propounded the theory that another person might ultimately arrive,
as it were, at that person's conclusions, indeed, penetrate the
innermost arcanum of his brain and read his most secret thoughts. Whilst
the public was still pondering over the startling proposition, and
enjoying perusal of its apparent proofs, Poe still further increased his
popularity and drew attention to his works by putting forward the
attractive but less dangerous theorem that "human ingenuity could not
construct a cipher which human ingenuity could not solve."
This cryptographic assertion was made in connection with what the public
deemed a challenge, and Poe was inundated with ciphers more or less
abstruse, demanding solution. In the correspondence which ensued in
'Graham's Magazine' and other publications, Poe was universally
acknowledged to have proved his case, so far as his own personal ability
to unriddle such mysteries was concerned. Although he had never offered
to undertake such a task, he triumphantly solved every cryptogram sent
to him, with one exception, and that exception he proved conclusively
was only an imposture, for which no solution was possible.
The outcome of this exhaustive and unprofitable labor was the
fascinating story of "The Gold Bug," a story in which the discovery of
hidden treasure is brought about by the unriddling of an intricate
The year 1841 may be deemed the brightest of Poe's checkered career. On
every side acknowledged to be a new and brilliant literary light, chief
editor of a powerful magazine, admired, feared, and envied, with a
reputation already spreading rapidly in Europe as well as in his native
continent, the poet might well have hoped for prosperity and happiness.
But dark cankers were gnawing his heart. His pecuniary position was
still embarrassing. His writings, which were the result of slow and
careful labor, were poorly paid, and his remuneration as joint editor of
'Graham's' was small. He was not permitted to have undivided control,
and but a slight share of the profits of the magazine he had rendered
world-famous, whilst a fearful domestic calamity wrecked all his hopes,
and caused him to resort to that refuge of the broken-hearted--to that
drink which finally destroyed his prospects and his life.
Edgar Poe's own account of this terrible malady and its cause was made
towards the end of his career. Its truth has never been disproved, and
in its most important points it has been thoroughly substantiated. To a
correspondent he writes in January 1848:
"You say, 'Can you _hint_ to me what was "that terrible evil" which
caused the "irregularities" so profoundly lamented?' Yes, I can do more
than hint. This _evil_ was the greatest which can befall a man. Six
years ago, a wife whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a
blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of
her forever, and underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered
partially, and I again hoped. At the end of a year, the vessel broke
again. I went through precisely the same scene.... Then again--again--
and even once again at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the
agonies of her death--and at each accession of the disorder I loved
her more dearly and clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity.
But I am constitutionally sensitive--nervous in a very unusual degree.
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these
fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank--God only knows how often or
how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to
the drink rather than the drink to the insanity. I had, indeed, nearly
abandoned all hope of a permanent cure, when I found one in the
_death_ of my wife. This I can and do endure as becomes a man. It was
the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope and despair which I
could _not_ longer have endured, without total loss of reason."
The poet at this period was residing in a small but elegant little home,
superintended by his ever-faithful guardian, his wife's mother--his own
aunt, Mrs. Clemm, the lady whom he so gratefully addressed in after
years in the well-known sonnet, as "more than mother unto me." But a
change came o'er the spirit of his dream! His severance from 'Graham's',
owing to we know not what causes, took place, and his fragile schemes of
happiness faded as fast as the sunset. His means melted away, and he
became unfitted by mental trouble and ill-health to earn more. The
terrible straits to which he and his unfortunate beloved ones were
reduced may be comprehended after perusal of these words from Mr. A. B.
Referring to the poet's residence in Spring Gardens, Philadelphia, this
"It was during their stay there that Mrs. Poe, while singing one
evening, ruptured a blood-vessel, and after that she suffered a
hundred deaths. She could not bear the slightest exposure, and needed
the utmost care; and all those conveniences as to apartment and
surroundings which are so important in the case of an invalid were
almost matters of life and death to her. And yet the room where she
lay for weeks, hardly able to breathe, except as she was fanned, was a
little narrow place, with the ceiling so low over the narrow bed that
her head almost touched it. But no one dared to speak, Mr. Poe was so
sensitive and irritable; 'quick as steel and flint,' said one who knew
him in those days. And he would not allow a word about the danger of
her dying: the mention of it drove him wild."
Is it to be wondered at, should it not indeed be forgiven him, if,
impelled by the anxieties and privations at home, the unfortunate poet,
driven to the brink of madness, plunged still deeper into the Slough of
Despond? Unable to provide for the pressing necessities of his beloved
wife, the distracted man
"would steal out of the house at night, and go off and wander about
the street for hours, proud, heartsick, despairing, not knowing which
way to turn, or what to do, while Mrs. Clemm would endure the anxiety
at home as long as she could, and then start off in search of him."
During his calmer moments Poe exerted all his efforts to proceed with
his literary labors. He continued to contribute to 'Graham's Magazine,'
the proprietor of which periodical remained his friend to the end of his
life, and also to some other leading publications of Philadelphia and
New York. A suggestion having been made to him by N. P. Willis, of the
latter city, he determined to once more wander back to it, as he found
it impossible to live upon his literary earnings where he was.
Accordingly, about the middle of 1845, Poe removed to New York, and
shortly afterwards was engaged by Willis and his partner Morris as
sub-editor on the 'Evening Mirror'. He was, says Willis,
"employed by us for several months as critic and subeditor.... He
resided with his wife and mother at Fordham, a few miles out of town,
but was at his desk in the office from nine in the morning till the
evening paper went to press. With the highest admiration for his
genius, and a willingness to let it atone for more than ordinary
irregularity, we were led by common report to expect a very capricious
attention to his duties, and occasionally a scene of violence and
difficulty. Time went on, however, and he was invariably punctual and
industrious. With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual face, as a
reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible, of course, not
to treat him always with deferential courtsey.... With a prospect of
taking the lead in another periodical, he at last voluntarily gave up
his employment with us."
A few weeks before Poe relinquished his laborious and ill-paid work on
the 'Evening Mirror', his marvellous poem of "The Raven" was published.
The effect was magical. Never before, nor, indeed, ever since, has a
single short poem produced such a great and immediate enthusiasm. It did
more to render its author famous than all his other writings put
together. It made him the literary lion of the season; called into
existence innumerable parodies; was translated into various languages,
and, indeed, created quite a literature of its own. Poe was naturally
delighted with the success his poem had attained, and from time to time
read it in his musical manner in public halls or at literary receptions.
Nevertheless he affected to regard it as a work of art only, and wrote
his essay entitled the "Philosophy of Composition," to prove that it was
merely a mechanical production made in accordance with certain set
Although our poet's reputation was now well established, he found it
still a difficult matter to live by his pen. Even when in good health,
he wrote slowly and with fastidious care, and when his work was done had
great difficulty in getting publishers to accept it. Since his death it
has been proved that many months often elapsed before he could get
either his most admired poems or tales published.
Poe left the 'Evening Mirror' in order to take part in the 'Broadway
Journal', wherein he re-issued from time to time nearly the whole of his
prose and poetry. Ultimately he acquired possession of this periodical,
but, having no funds to carry it on, after a few months of heartbreaking
labor he had to relinquish it. Exhausted in body and mind, the
unfortunate man now retreated with his dying wife and her mother to a
quaint little cottage at Fordham, outside New York. Here after a time
the unfortunate household was reduced to the utmost need, not even
having wherewith to purchase the necessities of life. At this dire
moment, some friendly hand, much to the indignation and dismay of Poe
himself, made an appeal to the public on behalf of the hapless family.
The appeal had the desired effect. Old friends and new came to the
rescue, and, thanks to them, and especially to Mrs. Shew, the "Marie
Louise" of Poe's later poems, his wife's dying moments were soothed, and
the poet's own immediate wants provided for. In January, 1846, Virginia
Poe died; and for some time after her death the poet remained in an
apathetic stupor, and, indeed, it may be truly said that never again did
his mental faculties appear to regain their former power.
For another year or so Poe lived quietly at Fordham, guarded by the
watchful care of Mrs. Clemm,--writing little, but thinking out his
philosophical prose poem of "Eureka," which he deemed the crowning work
of his life. His life was as abstemious and regular as his means were
small. Gradually, however, as intercourse with fellow literati
re-aroused his dormant energies, he began to meditate a fresh start in
the world. His old and never thoroughly abandoned project of starting a
magazine of his own, for the enunciation of his own views on literature,
now absorbed all his thoughts. In order to get the necessary funds for
establishing his publication on a solid footing, he determined to give a
series of lectures in various parts of the States.
His re-entry into public life only involved him in a series of
misfortunes. At one time he was engaged to be married to Mrs. Whitman, a
widow lady of considerable intellectual and literary attainments; but,
after several incidents of a highly romantic character, the match was
broken off. In 1849 Poe revisited the South, and, amid the scenes and
friends of his early life, passed some not altogether unpleasing time.
At Richmond, Virginia, he again met his first love, Elmira, now a
wealthy widow, and, after a short renewed acquaintance, was once more
engaged to marry her. But misfortune continued to dog his steps.
A publishing affair recalled him to New York. He left Richmond by boat
for Baltimore, at which city he arrived on the 3d October, and handed
his trunk to a porter to carry to the train for Philadelphia. What now
happened has never been clearly explained. Previous to starting on his
journey, Poe had complained of indisposition,--of chilliness and of
exhaustion,--and it is not improbable that an increase or continuance of
these symptoms had tempted him to drink, or to resort to some of those
narcotics he is known to have indulged in towards the close of his life.
Whatever the cause of his delay, the consequences were fatal. Whilst in
a state of temporary mania or insensibility, he fell into the hands of a
band of ruffians, who were scouring the streets in search of accomplices
or victims. What followed is given on undoubted authority.
His captors carried the unfortunate poet into an electioneering den,
where they drugged him with whisky. It was election day for a member of
Congress, and Poe with other victims, was dragged from polling station
to station, and forced to vote the ticket placed in his hand. Incredible
as it may appear, the superintending officials of those days registered
the proffered vote, quite regardless of the condition of the person
personifying a voter. The election over, the dying poet was left in the
streets to perish, but, being found ere life was extinct, he was carried
to the Washington University Hospital, where he expired on the 7th of
October, 1849, in the forty-first year of his age.
Edgar Poe was buried in the family grave of his grandfather, General
Poe, in the presence of a few friends and relatives. On the 17th
November, 1875, his remains were removed from their first resting-place
and, in the presence of a large number of people, were placed under a
marble monument subscribed for by some of his many admirers. His wife's
body has recently been placed by his side.
The story of that "fitful fever" which constituted the life of Edgar Poe
leaves upon the reader's mind the conviction that he was, indeed, truly
typified by that:
"Unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
JOHN H. INGRAM.
* * * * *
POEMS OF LATER LIFE
THE NOBLEST OF HER SEX--
TO THE AUTHOR OF
"THE DRAMA OF EXILE"--
MISS ELIZABETH BARRETT BARRETT,
I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME
WITH THE MOST ENTHUSIASTIC ADMIRATION AND
WITH THE MOST SINCERE ESTEEM.
* * * * *
These trifles are collected and republished chiefly with a view to their
redemption from the many improvements to which they have been subjected
while going at random the "rounds of the press." I am naturally anxious
that what I have written should circulate as I wrote it, if it circulate
at all. In defence of my own taste, nevertheless, it is incumbent upon
me to say that I think nothing in this volume of much value to the
public, or very creditable to myself. Events not to be controlled have
prevented me from making, at any time, any serious effort in what, under
happier circumstances, would have been the field of my choice. With me
poetry has been not a purpose, but a passion; and the passions should be
held in reverence: they must not--they cannot at will be excited, with
an eye to the paltry compensations, or the more paltry commendations, of
* * * * *
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping--rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore--
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;--
This it is and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping--tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door:--
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping, somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;--
'Tis the wind and nothing more."
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he: not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore--
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered--not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before--
On the morrow _he_ will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope the melancholy burden bore
But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore--
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
_She_ shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath
Respite--respite aad nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!--
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore--
Is there--_is_ there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked,
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!
* * * * *
Hear the sledges with the bells--
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In their icy air of night!
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Hear the mellow wedding bells,
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten golden-notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
Hear the loud alarum bells--
What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now--now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells--
Of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
Hear the tolling of the bells--
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people--ah, the people--
They that dwell up in the steeple.
And who toiling, toiling, toiling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone--
They are neither man nor woman--
They are neither brute nor human--
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells--
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells--
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells--
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
* * * * *
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir--
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic.
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul--
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll--
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole--
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.
Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere--
Our memories were treacherous and sere--
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year--
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber--
(Though once we had journeyed down here)--
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
And now as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn--
As the sun-dials hinted of morn--
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn--
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.
And I said--"She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs--
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies--
To the Lethean peace of the skies--
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes--
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."
But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said--"Sadly this star I mistrust--
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:--
Oh, hasten!--oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly!--let us fly!--for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings till they trailed in the dust--
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust--
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.
I replied--"This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sibyllic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night:--
See!--it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright--
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."
Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom--
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of a vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb--
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said--"What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"
Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere--
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried--"It was surely October
On _this_ very night of last year
That I journeyed--I journeyed down here--
That I brought a dread burden down here!
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber--
This misty mid region of Weir--
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,--
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."
* * * * *
I saw thee once--once only--years ago:
I must not say _how_ many--but _not_ many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,
With quietude, and sultriness and slumber,
Upon the upturn'd faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe--
Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death--
Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.
Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
I saw thee half-reclining; while the moon
Fell on the upturn'd faces of the roses,
And on thine own, upturn'd--alas, in sorrow!
Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight--
Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow),
That bade me pause before that garden-gate,
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept,
Save only thee and me--(O Heaven!--O God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)--
Save only thee and me. I paused--I looked--
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!)
The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses' odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
All--all expired save thee--save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes--
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.
I saw but them--they were the world to me.
I saw but them--saw only them for hours--
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seemed to lie unwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres!
How dark a woe! yet how sublime a hope!
How silently serene a sea of pride!
How daring an ambition! yet how deep--
How fathomless a capacity for love!
But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees
Didst glide away. _Only thine eyes remained._
They _would not_ go--they never yet have gone.
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
_They_ have not left me (as my hopes have) since.
They follow me--they lead me through the years.
They are my ministers--yet I their slave.
Their office is to illumine and enkindle--
My duty, _to be saved_ by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire.
They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope),
And are far up in Heaven--the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still--two sweetly scintillant
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!
* * * * *
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
_I_ was a child and _she_ was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my ANNABEL LEE;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me--
Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we--
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.
* * * * *
For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!--they hold a treasure
Divine--a talisman--an amulet
That must be worn _at heart_. Search well the measure--
The words--the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor!
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie _perdus_
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets by poets--as the name is a poet's, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto--Mendez Ferdinando--
Still form a synonym for Truth--Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you _can_ do.
[To discover the names in this and the following poem, read the first
letter of the first line in connection with the second letter of the
second line, the third letter of the third line, the fourth, of the
fourth and so on, to the end.]
* * * * *
"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet--
Trash of all trash!--how _can_ a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff--
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles--ephemeral and _so_ transparent--
But _this is_, now--you may depend upon it--
Stable, opaque, immortal--all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within't.
[See note after previous poem.]
* * * * *
TO MY MOTHER.
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you--
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you,
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother--my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.
[The above was addressed to the poet's mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm.--Ed.]
* * * * *
Thank Heaven! the crisis--
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last--
And the fever called "Living"
Is conquered at last.
Sadly, I know,
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length--
But no matter!--I feel
I am better at length.
And I rest so composedly,
Now in my bed,
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead--
Might start at beholding me
Thinking me dead.
The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:--ah, that horrible,
The sickness--the nausea--
The pitiless pain--
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain--
With the fever called "Living"
That burned in my brain.
And oh! of all tortures
_That_ torture the worst
Has abated--the terrible
Torture of thirst,
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:--
I have drank of a water
That quenches all thirst:--
Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground--
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.
And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed--
For man never slept
In a different bed;
And, to _sleep_, you must slumber
In just such a bed.
My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting its roses--
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:
For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies--
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies--
With rue and the beautiful
And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie--
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.
She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast--
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.
When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm--
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.
And I lie so composedly,
Now in my bed
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead--
And I rest so contentedly,
Now in my bed,
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead--
That you shudder to look at me.
Thinking me dead.
But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie--
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie--
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.
* * * * *
Beloved! amid the earnest woes
That crowd around my earthly path--
(Drear path, alas! where grows
Not even one lonely rose)--
My soul at least a solace hath
In dreams of thee, and therein knows
An Eden of bland repose.
And thus thy memory is to me
Like some enchanted far-off isle
In some tumultuous sea--
Some ocean throbbing far and free
With storm--but where meanwhile
Serenest skies continually
Just o'er that one bright inland smile.
* * * * *
TO FRANCES S. OSGOOD.
Thou wouldst be loved?--then let thy heart
From its present pathway part not;
Being everything which now thou art,
Be nothing which thou art not.
So with the world thy gentle ways,
Thy grace, thy more than beauty,
Shall be an endless theme of praise.
And love a simple duty.
* * * * *
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old--
This knight so bold--
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow--
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be--
This land of Eldorado?"
"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"
* * * * *
I dwelt alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride--
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.
Ah, less--less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie's most unregarded curl--
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie's most humble and careless
Now Doubt--now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarte within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye--
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.
* * * * *
A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM.
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream:
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision or in none,
Is it therefore the less _gone_?
_All_ that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
_One_ from the pitiless wave?
Is _all_ that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
* * * * *
TO MARIE LOUISE (SHEW).
Of all who hail thy presence as the morning--
Of all to whom thine absence is the night--
The blotting utterly from out high heaven
The sacred sun--of all who, weeping, bless thee
Hourly for hope--for life--ah, above all,
For the resurrection of deep buried faith
In truth, in virtue, in humanity--
Of all who, on despair's unhallowed bed
Lying down to die, have suddenly arisen
At thy soft-murmured words, "Let there be light!"
At thy soft-murmured words that were fulfilled