CoverLast Flowers: The Romance & Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman

 by Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman
 Edited and with an introductory essay by Brett Rutherford
Illustrated by Richard Sardinha

This text was first published in book form by The Poet's Press in 1987, in a hand-bound edition of 200 copies, then in a revised hardcover edition with an expanded introductory essay in 2008; then with further revisions to the essay and additional poetry by Mrs. Whitman in 2008.

At the time of this book's publication, the work of Sarah Helen Whitman, Providence's most famous poet, had been out of print for more than 60 years, and the poems of Poe and his Rhode Island fiancee had never before appeared together in one collection. This volume recreates their highly charged meeting of minds. The expanded introductory essay contains much new material about Mrs. Whitman's family history, literary Providence in the 1840s to the 1870s, and a day-to-day account of Poe's 28 days in Providence during his doomed courtship. Click here to order this book from Amazon.

Brett Rutherford has lectured on Poe and Mrs Whitman at The John Hay Library (Brown University), The Providence Athenaeum, The Foxboro (MA) Historical Society, and the NEA's Big Read Program (Rhode Island College, 2010). For more information contact brett@poetspress.org.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Raven and Dove: Introductory Essay — Brett Rutherford A detailed account of the Poe-Helen romance, with many notes about the poems. (This is a link to another file.)

The Raven — Edgar Allan Poe

To E.A. Poe — Sarah Helen Whitman (Helen's "valentine" to Poe from 1848.)

The Raven — Sarah Helen Whitman (Helen's revision of her "valentine.")

To Helen — Edgar Allan Poe (Written years before, to another woman named Helen...)

To Helen — Edgar Allan Poe (Written after seeing Helen in her rose garden in 1845)

The Past — Sarah Helen Whitman

Ulalume — Edgar Allan Poe (Published anonymously; Helen asked Poe, "Whoever could have written this?")

Arcturus — Sarah Helen Whitman

Lines written in November — Sarah Helen Whitman

Israfel — Edgar Allan Poe

Dreamland — Edgar Allan Poe

Song — Sarah Helen Whitman

Our Island of Dreams — Sarah Helen Whitman

Annabel Lee — Edgar Allan Poe

Withered Flowers — Sarah Helen Whitman

The Last Flowers — Sarah Helen Whitman

The City in the Sea — Edgar Allan Poe

The Bells — Edgar Allan Poe

Proserpine, to Pluto in Hades — Sarah Helen Whitman (Poe as Pluto...)

The Conqueror Worm — Edgar Allan Poe

Resurgemus — Sarah Helen Whitman

Sonnets to Poe — Sarah Helen Whitman

Arcturus — Sarah Helen Whitman

The Phantom Voice — Sarah Helen Whitman

To One in Paradise — Edgar Allan Poe

Alone — Edgar Allan Poe

Noon — Sarah Helen Whitman (The middle section of Sarah Helen Whitman's most important poem.)

The Portrait — Sarah Helen Whitman

Copyright, Order Info and Links


Raven and Moon

THE RAVEN

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 someone 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 had I 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 is 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, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal
  ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken,
  and the stillness 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 again I heard 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 a minute 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 or shaven,
  thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
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 the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that
  one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther 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 that
  melancholy burden bore
  Of 'Never — nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling
  my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat
  in front of bird, and bust and door;
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 lamplight 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 footfalls
  tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee —
  by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite — respite and 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, upstarting —
"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!

1844-1849


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Dove

TO E. A POE

A Valentine, February 1848

A Raven true as ever flapped
     his heavy wing
against the window of the sick
        and croaked “Despair.”

— Young’s “Revenge”

Oh! thou grim and ancient Raven,
From the Night’s Plutonic shore,
Oft in dreams, thy ghastly pinions
Wave and flutter round my door —
Oft thy shadow dims the moonlight
Sleeping on my chamber floor.

Romeo talks of “White dove trooping,
Amid crows athwart the night:’
But to see thy dark wing swooping
Down the silvery path of light,
Amid swans and dovelets stooping,
Were to me, a nobler sight.

Oft amid the twilight glooming
Round some grim ancestral tower
In the lurid distance looming,
I can see thy pinions lower, —
Hear thy sullen storm-cry booming
Thro’ the lonely midnight hour.

Oft this work-day world forgetting,
From its toil curtain’d snug,
By the sparkling embers sitting
On the richly broidered rug,
Something round about me flitting
Glimmers like a “Golden Bug.”

Dreamily its path I follow,
In a “bee line” to the moon
Till, into some dreamy hollow
Of the midnight sinking soon,
Lo! he glides away before me
And I lose the golden boon.

Oft like Proserpine I wander
On the Night’s Plutonic shore,
Hoping, fearing, while I ponder
On thy loved and lost Lenore,
Till thy voice like distant thunder
Sounds across the distant moor.

From thy wing, one purple feather
Wafted o’er my chamber floor
Like a shadow o’er the heather,
Charms my vagrant fancy more
Than all the flowers I used to gather
On “Idalia’s velvet shore.”

Then, Oh! Grim and Ghastly Raven!
Wilt thou to my heart and ear
Be a Raven true as ever
Flapped his wings and croaked “Despair”?
Not a bird that roams the forest
Shall our lofty eyrie share.
— Providence, R.I., February 14, 1848 (Published in The Home Journal, March 18, 1848)

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Dove

THE RAVEN

Raven, from the dim dominions
  On the Night's Plutonian shore,
Oft I hear thy dusky pinions
  Wave and flutter round my door —
See the shadow of thy pinions
  Float along the moon-lit floor;

Often, from the oak-woods glooming
  Round some dim ancestral tower,
In the lurid distance looming —
  Some high solitary tower —
I can hear thy storm-cry booming
  Through the lonely midnight hour.

When the moon is at the zenith,
  Thou dost haunt the moated hall,
Where the marish flower greeneth
  O'er the waters, like a pall —
Where the House of Usher leaneth,
  Darkly nodding to its fall:

There I see thee, dimly gliding —
  See thy black plumes waving slow —
In its hollow casements hiding,
  When their shadow yawns below,
To the sullen tarn confiding
  The dark secrets of their woe: —

See thee, when the stars are burning
  In their cressets, silver clear —
When Ligeia's spirit yearning
  For the earth-life, wanders near —
When Morella's soul returning,
  Weirdly whispers "I am here."

Once, within a realm enchanted,
  On a far isle of the seas,
By unearthly visions haunted,
  By unearthly melodies,
Where the evening sunlight slanted
  Golden through the garden trees —

Where the dreamy moonlight dozes,
  Where the early violets dwell,
Listening to the silver closes
  Of a lyric loved too well,
Suddenly, among the roses,
  Like a cloud, thy shadow fell.

Once, where Ulalume lies sleeping,
  Hard by Auber's haunted mere,
With the ghouls a vigil keeping,
  On that night of all the year,
Came thy souding pinions, sweeping
  Through the leafless woods of Weir!

Oft, with Proserpine I wander
  On the Night's Plutonian shore,
Hoping, fearing, while I ponder
  On thy loved and lost Lenore —
On the demon doubts that sunder
  Soul from soul forevermore;

Trusting, though with sorrow laden,
  That when life's dark dream is o'er,
By whatever name the maiden
  Lives within thy mystic lore,
Eiros, in that distant Aidenn,
  Shall his Charmion meet once more.

 

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Raven

TO HELEN

Helen, thy beauty is to me
  Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
  The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
  To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
  Thy hyancinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
  To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
  How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
  Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
  Are Holy-Land!

1831-1843


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Helen Halo

TO HELEN

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 upturned 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 those roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death —
Fell on the upturned 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 upturned 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. (Oh, Heaven! — oh, God!
How my heart beats at 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 enwritten
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!

1848-1849
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dove

THE PAST

So fern, und doch so nah. — GOETHE.

Thick darkness broodeth o'er the world:
  The raven pinions of the Night,
Close on her silent bosom furled,
  Reflect no gleam of orient light.
E'en the wild Norland fires that mocked
  The faint bloom of the eastern sky,
Now leave me, in close darkness locked,
  Tonight's weird realm of fantasy.

Borne from pale shadow-lands remote,
  A morphean music, wildly sweet,
Seems, on the starless gloom, to float,
  Like the white-pinioned Paraclete.
Softly into my dream it flows,
  Then faints into the silence drear;
While from the hollow dark outgrows
  The phantom Past, pale gliding near.

The visioned Past; so strangely fair!
  So veiled in shadowy, soft regrets.
So steeped in sadness, like the air
  That lingers when the day-star sets!
Ah! could I fold it to my heart,
  On its cold lips my kisses press,
This waste of aching life impart,
  To win it back from nothingness!

I loathe the purple light of day,
  And shun the morning's golden star,
Beside that shadowy form to stray,
  Forever near, yet oh how far!
Thin as a cloud of summer even,
  All beauty from my gaze it bars;
Shuts out the silver cope of heaven,
  And glooms athwart the dying stars.

Cold, sad, and spectral, by my side,
  It breathes of love's ethereal bloom —
Of bridal memories, long affied
  To the dread silence of the tomb:
Sweet, cloistered memories, that the heart
  Shuts close within its chalice cold;
Faint perfumes, that no more dispart
  From the bruised lily's floral fold.

"My soul is weary of her life;"
  My heart sinks with a slow despair;
The solemn, star-lit hours are rife
  With fantasy; the noontide glare,
And the cool morning, fancy free,
  Are false with shadows; for the day
Brings no blithe sense of verity,
  Nor wins from twilight thoughts away.

Oh, bathe me in the Lethean stream,
  And feed me on the lotus flowers;
Shut out this false, bewildering dream,
  This memory of departed hours!
Sweet haunting dream! so strangely fair —
  So veiled in shadowy, soft regrets —
So steeped in sadness, like the air
  That lingers when the day-star sets!

The Future can no charm confer,
  My heart's deep solitudes to break;
No angel's foot again shall stir
  The waters of that silent lake.
I wander in pale dreams away,
  And shun the morning's golden star,
To follow still that failing ray,
  Forever near, yet oh how far!

February 1846


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raven

ULALUME

The skies they were ashen and sober;
  The leaves, they were crispèd 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)
We 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 star-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 Sybillic splendor is beaming
  With Hope and in Beauty tonight —
  See! — it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we may safely trust to its gleaming
  And be sure it will lead us aright —
We surely 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 the 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?"
  She replied — "Ulalume — Ulalume —
  'T is the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
  As the leaves that were crispèd 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."

Said we, then — the two, then — "Ah, can it
  Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —
  The pitiful, the merciful ghouls,
To bar up our way and to ban it
  From the secret that lies in these wolds —
  From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —

Have drawn up the spectre of a planet
  From the limbo of lunary souls —
This sinfully scintillant planet
  From the Hell of the planetary souls?"

1847-1849

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dove

ARCTURUS

Written in October

"Our star looks through the storm."

Star of resplendent front! thy glorious eye
Shines on me still from out yon clouded sky —
Shines on me through the horrors of a night
More drear than ever fell o'er day so bright —
Shines till the envious Serpent slinks away,
And pales and trembles at thy steadfast ray.

Hast thou not stooped from Heaven, fair star? to be
So near me in this hour of agony? —
So near — so bright — so glorious, that I seem
To lie entranced as in some wondrous dream —
All earthly joys forgot — all earthly fear,
Purged in the light of thy resplendent sphere:
Kindling within my soul a pure desire
To blend with thine its incandescent fire —
To lose my very life in thine, and be
Soul of thy soul through all eternity.

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dove

LINES WRITTEN IN NOVEMBER

Farewell the forest shade, the twilight grove,
The turfy path with fern and flowers inwove,
Where through long summer days I wandered far,
Till warned of Evening by her folding star.
No more I linger by the fountain's play,
Where arching boughs shut out the sultry ray,
Making at noontide hours a dewy gloom
O'er the moist marge, where weeds and wild flowers bloom;
Till, from the western sun, a glancing flood
Of arrowy radiance filled the twilight wood,
Glinting athwart each leafy, verdant fold,
And flecking all the turf with drops of gold.

Sweet sang the wild bird on the waving bough
Where cold November winds are wailing now;
The chirp of insects on the sunny lea,
And the low, drowsy bugle of the bee,
Are silent all; closed is their vesper lay,
Borne by the breeze of Autumn far away.
Yet still the withered heath I love to rove,
The bare, brown meadow, and the leafless grove;
Still love to tread the bleak hill's rocky side,
Where nodding asters wave in purple pride,
Or, from its summit, listen to the flow
Of the dark waters, booming far below.
Still through the tangling, pathless copse I stray,
Where sere and rustling leaves obstruct the way,
To find the last, pale blossom of the year,
That strangely blooms when all is dark and drear;
The wild witch-hazel, fraught with mystic power
To ban or bless, as sorcery rules the hour.
Then, homeward wending, through the dusky vale,
Where winding rills their evening damps exhale,
Pause by the dark pool, in whose sleeping wave
Pale Dian loves her golden locks to lave;
As when she stole upon Endymion's rest,
And his young dreams with heavenly beauty blest.
And thou, "stern ruler of the inverted year,"
Cold, cheerless Winter, hath thy wild career
No sweet, peculiar pleasures for the heart,
That can ideal worth to rudest forms impart?
When, through thy long, dark nights, cold sleet and rain
Patter and plash against the frosty pane,
Warm curtained from the storm, I love to lie,
Wakeful, and listening to the lullaby
Of fitful winds, that as they rise and fall
Send hollow murmurs through the echoing hall.
  Oft, by the blazing hearth at even-tide,
I love to see the fitful shadows glide,
In flickering motion, o'er the illumined wall,
Till slumber's honey-dew my senses thrall;
Then, while in dreamy consciousness, I lie
'Twixt sleep and waking, fairy fantasy
Culls, from the golden past, a treasured store,
And weaves a dream so sweet, hope could not ask for more.
In the cold splendor of a frosty night,
When blazing stars burn with intenser light
Through the blue vault of heaven;
  when the keen air
Sculptures in bolder lines the uplands bare;
When sleeps the shrouded earth, in solemn trance,
Beneath the wan moon's melancholy glance;
I love to mark earth's sister planets rise,
And in pale beauty tread the midnight skies;
Where, like lone pilgrims, constant as the night,
They fill their dark urns from the fount of light.
  I love the Borealis flames that fly,
Fitful and wild, athwart the northen sky;
The storied constellations, like a page
Fraught with the wonders of a former age,
Where monsters grim, gorgons and hydras rise,
And "gods and heroes blaze along the skies."
  Thus Nature's music, various as the hour,
Solemn or sweet, hath ever mystic power
Still to preserve the unperverted heart
Awake to love and beauty; to impart
Treasures of thought and feeling,
  pure and deep,
That aid the doubting soul
  its heavenward course to keep.


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raven

ISRAFEL

And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute,
and who has the sweetest voice of all God's creatures — Koran

In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
  "Whose heart-strings are a lute;"
None sing to wildly well
As the angel Israfel,
And the giddy Stars (so legends tell)
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
  Of his voice, all mute.

Tottering above
  In her highest noon,
  The enamoured moon
Blushes with love,
  While, to listen, the red levin
  (With the rapid Pleiads, even,
  Which were seven,)
  Pauses in Heaven.

And they say (the starry choir
  And the other listening things)
That Israfel's fire
Is owing to that lyre
  By which he sits and sings —
The trembling living wire
  Of those unusual strings.

But the skies that angel trod,
  Where deep thoughts are a duty —
Where Love's a grown-up God —
  Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
  Which we worship in a star.

Therefore thou art not wrong,
  Israfeli, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong,
  Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above
  With thy burning measures suit —
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love,
  With the fervour of thy lute —
  Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
  Is a world of sweets and sours;
  Our flowers are merely — flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
  Is the sunshine of ours.

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
  Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
  A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
  From my lyre within the sky.

1831-1845


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raven

DREAMLAND

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
  I have reached these lands but newly
  From an ultimate dim Thule —
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
  Out of SPACE — out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters — lone and dead —
Their still waters — still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead —
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily —
By the mountains — near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever —
By the grey woods — by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp —
By the dismal tarns and pools
  Where dwell the Ghouls —
By each spot the most unholy —
In each nook most melancholy, —
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past —
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by —
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth-and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
'T is a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'T is — oh, 't is an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not — dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringèd lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

1844-1849


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dove

SONG

I bade thee stay. Too well I know
  The fault was mine — mine only:
I dared not think upon the past,
  All desolate and lonely.

I feared in memory's silent air
  Too sadly to regret thee —
Feared in the night of my despair
  I could not all forget thee.

Yet go — ah, go! those pleading eyes,
  Those low, sweet tones, appealing
From heart to heart — ah, dare I trust
  That passionate revealing?

For ah, those dark and pleading eyes
  Evoke too keen a sorrow —
A pang that will not pass away,
  With thy wild vows, tomorrow.

A love immortal and divine
  Within my heart is waking:
Its dream of anguish and despair
  It owns not but in breaking.


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dove

OUR ISLAND OF DREAMS

By the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
— Keats

Tell him I lingered alone on the shore,
Where we parted, in sorrow, to meet never more;
The night wind blew cold on my desolate heart,
But colder those wild words of doom,
  "Ye must part?"

O'er the dark, heaving waters, I sent forth a cry;
Save the wail of those waters there came no reply.
I longed, like a bird, o'er the billows to flee,
From our lone island home and the moan of the sea:

Away — far away — from the wild ocean shore,
Where the waves ever murmur, "No more, never more;"
Where I wake, in the wild noon of midnight, to hear
That lone song of the surges, so mournful and drear.

When the clouds that now veil from us heaven's fair light,
Their soft, silver lining turn forth on the night;
When time shall the vapors of falsehood dispel,
He shall know if I loved him, but never how well.

1849

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raven

ANNABEL LEE

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 wingèd seraphs in 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 by night,
  Chilling my 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, 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 sounding sea.

May-September 1849
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dove

WITHERED FLOWERS

Remembrances of happiness! to me
  Ye bring sweet thoughts of the year's purple prime,
Wild, mingling melodies of bird and bee,
  That pour on summer winds their silvery chime
Of balmy incense, burdening all the air,
  From flowers that by the sunny garden wall
Bloomed at your side, nursed into beauty there
  By dews and silent showers: but these to all
Ye bring. Oh! sweeter far than these the spell
  Shrined in those fairy urns for me alone;
For me a charm sleeps in each honeyed cell,
  Whose power can call back hours of rapture flown,
To the sad heart sweet memories restore,
Tones, looks, and words of love that may return no more.


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Last FLowers

THE LAST FLOWERS

The undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,
Rings on my spirit like a knell.

Dost thou remember that Autumnal day
  When by the Seekonk's lonely wave we stood,
And marked the languor of repose that lay,
  Softer than sleep, on valley, wave and wood?

A trance of holy sadness seemed to lull
  The charmèd earth and circumambient air,
And the low murmur of the leaves seemed full
  Of a resigned and passionless despair.

Though the warm breath of summer lingered still
  In the lone paths where late her footsteps passed,
The pallid star-flowers on the purple hill
  Sighed dreamily, "We are the last! the last!"

I stood beside thee, and a dream of heaven
  Around me like a golden halo fell!
Then the bright veil of fantasy was riven,
  And my lips murmured, "Fare thee well! — farewell!"

I dared not listen to thy words, nor turn
  To meet the mystic language of thine eyes,
I only felt their power, and in the urn
  Of memory, treasured their sweet rhapsodies.

We parted then, forever — and the hours
  Of that bright day were gathered to the past —
But, through long wintry nights, I heard the flowers
  Sigh dreamily, "We are the last! — the last!"

September 1849


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raven

THE CITY IN THE SEA

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad
  and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently —
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free —
Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —
Up fanes — up Babylon — like walls —
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers —
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathèd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol's diamond eye —
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass —
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea —
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave — there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide —
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow —
The hours are breathing faint and low —
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

1831-1845


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raven

THE BELLS

I

Hear the sledges with the bells —
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the 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 tintinabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden 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, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III

Hear the loud alarum bells —
Brazen 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
Of despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
In 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!

IV

Hear the tolling of the bells —
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy meaning of the 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
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling
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, 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.

July 1849


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ceres sheaf of wheat

PROSERPINE TO PLUTO IN HADES

Nec repetita sequi curet Proserpina matrem
   — Virgil, Georgics, I. 39

I think on thee amid these spring-time flowers,
  On thee, my emperor, my sovran lord,
Dwelling alone in dim Tartarean towers
  Of thy dark realm, by earth and heaven abhorred,
Wandering afar by that Avernian river
Where dead kings walk and phantoms wail forever.

I think on thee in that stern palace regnant,
  Where no sweet voice of summer charms the air,
Where the vast solitude seems ever pregnant
  With some wild dream of untold despair.
Thy love, remembered, doth heaven's light eclipse;
I feel thy lingering kisses on my lips.

I languish for the late autumnal showers,
  The cool, cool plashing of the autumn rain,
The shimmering hoar-frost and fast-fading flowers,
  That give me back to thy dark realm again:
To thee I'll bring Sicilia's starry skies
And all the heaven of summer in my eyes.

When from the earth's noontide beauty borne away
  To the pale prairies of that under world,
A mournful flower upon thy breast I lay
  Till round thy heart its clinging tendrils curled —
A frightened dove, that tamed its fluttering pinion
To the dear magic of thy love's dominion.

For thou wert grandly beautiful as night,
  Stern Orcus, in thy realm of buried kings;
And thy sad crown of cypress in my sight
  Fairer than all the bright and flowery rings
Of wreathèd poppies and of golden corn
By Ceres on her stately temples worn.

I sat beside thee on Hell's dusky throne,
  Nor feared the awful shadow of thy fate;
Content to share the burden of thy crown,
  And all the mournful splendors of thy state;
Bending my flower-like beauty to thy will,
Seeking with light thy lonely dark to fill.

Wondering, I think how thy dear love hath bound me
  In a new life that half forgets the old;
All day I haunt the meadows where you found me,
  Knee-deep in daffodils of dusky gold,
Or sit by Cyane's sad fountain, dreaming
Of the red lake by thy proud palace gleaming.

When, in her car by wingèd dragons borne,
  Pale Ceres sought me through the shuddering night,
With angry torches and fierce eyes, forlorn,
  Slaying the dark that screened me from her sight,
Like a reft lioness that rends the air
Of midnight with her perilous despair,

Jove, pitying the great passion of her woe,
  Gave back thy queen-bride to the mother's grief —
To Ceres gave — through summer's golden glow
  And all the crescent months, from spear to sheaf:
Alas, how sadly in Sicilian bowers
I pass this lonely, lingering time flowers!

In the long silence of the languid noons,
  When all the panting birds are faint with heat,
I wander listless by the blue lagoons
  To hear their light waves rippling at my feet
Through the dead calm, and count the lingering time
By the slow pulsing of their silver chime.

I languish for the late autumnal showers,
  The cool, cool plashing of the autumn rain,
The shimmering hoar-frost and fast-fading flowers,
  That give me back to thy dark realm again;
I have no native land from thee apart,
And my high heaven of heavens is in thy heart.


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raven

THE CONQUEROR WORM

Lo! 't is a gala night
  Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
  In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
  A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
  The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
  Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly —
  Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
  That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
  Invisible Woe!

That motley drama — oh, be sure
  It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
  By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
  To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
  And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
  A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
  The scenic solitude!
It writhes! — it writhes! — with mortal pangs
  The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
  In human gore imbued.

Out — out are the lights — out all!
  And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
  Comes down with the rush of a storm
While the angels, all palid and wan,
  Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
  And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

1842-1849


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dove

RESURGEMUS

I mourn thee not: no words can tell
  The solemn calm that tranced my breast
When I first knew the soul had past
  From earth to its eternal rest;

For doubt and darkness, o'er thy head,
  Forever waved their Condor wings;
And in their murky shadows bred
  Forms of unutterable things;

And all around thy silent hearth,
  The glory that once blushed and bloomed
Was but a dim-remembered dream
  Of "the old time entombed."

Those melancholy eyes that seemed
  To look beyond all time, or, turned
On eyes they loved, so softly beamed —
  How few their mystic language learned.
How few could read their depths, or know
  The proud, high heart that dwelt alone
In gorgeous palaces of woe,
  Like Eblis on his burning throne.

For ah! no human heart could brook
  That darkness of thy doom to share,
And not a living eye could look
  Unscathed upon thy dread despair.

I mourn thee not: life had no lore
  Thy soul in morphean dews to steep,
Love's lost nepenthe to restore,
  Or bid the avenging sorrow sleep.

Yet, while the night of life shall last,
  While the slow stars above me roll,
In the heart's solitudes I keep
  A solemn vigil for thy soul.

I tread dim cloistral aisles, where all
  Beneath are solemn-sounding graves;
While o'er the oriel, like a pall,
  A dark, funereal shadow waves.

There, kneeling by a lampless shrine,
  Alone amid a place of tombs,
My erring spirit pleads for thine
  Till light along the orient blooms.

Oh, when thy faults are all forgiven,
  The vigil of my life outwrought
In some calm altitude of heaven —
  The dream of thy prophetic thought —

Forever near thee, soul in soul,
  Near thee forever, yet how far,
May our lives reach love's perfect goal
  In the high order of thy star!


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Poe Halo

SONNETS TO POE

I

Vainly my heart had with thy sorceries striven:
It had no refuge from thy love — no Heaven
But in thy fatal presence — from afar
It owned thy power and trembled like a star
O'erfraught with light and splendor. Could I deem
How dark a shadow should obscure its beam? —
Could I believe that pain could ever dwell
Where thy bright presence cast its blissful spell?
Thou wert my proud palladium — could I fear
The avenging Destinies when thou wert near? —
Thou wert my Destiny — thy song, thy fame,
The wild enchantments clustering round thy name,
Were my soul's heritage, its royal dower;
Its glory and its kingdom and its power!

II

When first I looked into thy glorious eyes,
  And saw, with their unearthly beauty pained,
Heaven deepening within heaven, like the skies
  Of autumn nights without a shadow stained,
I stood as one whom some strange dream enthralls;
  For far away, in some lost life divine,
Some land which every glorious dream recalls,
  A spirit looked on me with eyes like thine.
E'en now, though death has veiled their starry light,
And closed their lids in his relentless night —
As some strange dream, remembered in a dream,
Again I see, in sleep, their tender beam;
Unfading hopes their cloudless azure fill,
Heaven deepening within heaven, serene and still.

III

Oft since thine earthly eyes have closed on mine,
  Our souls, dim-wandering in the hall of dreams,
Hold mystic converse on the life divine,
  By the still music of immortal streams;
And oft thy spirit tells how souls, affied
  By sovran destinies, no more can part, —
How death and hell are powerless to divide
  Souls whose deep lives lie folded heart in heart.
And if, at times, some lingering shadow lies
  Heavy upon my path, some haunting dread,
Then do I point thee to the harmonies
  Of those calm heights whereto our souls arise
Through suffering, — the faith that doth approve
In death the deathless power and divine life of love.

IV

We met beneath September's gorgeous beams:
   Long in my house of life thy star had reigned;
Its mournful splendor trembled through my dreams,
   Nor with the night's phantasmal glories waned.
We wandered thoughtfully o'er golden meads
   To a lone woodland, lit by starry flowers,
Where a wild solitary pathway leads
   Through mouldering sepulchres and cypress bowers.
A dreamy sadness filled the autumnal air —
   By a low, nameless grave I stood beside thee,
My heart according to thy murmured prayer
   The full sweet answers that my lips denied thee.
O mournful faith, on that dread altar sealed —
Sad dawn of love in realms of death revealed!

V

On our lone pathway bloomed no earthly hopes —
   Sorrow and death were near us, as we stood
Where the dim forest, from the upland slopes,
   Swept darkly to the sea. The enchanted wood
Thrilled, as by some foreboding terror stirred;
   And as the waves broke on the lonely shore,
In their low monotone, methought I heard
   A solemn voice that sighed, "Ye meet no more."
There, while the level sunbeams seemed to burn
   Through the long aisles of red, autumnal gloom —
Where stately, storied cenotaphs inurn
   Sweet human hopes, too fair on earth to bloom —
Was the bud reaped, whose petals, pure and cold,
Sleep on my heart till Heaven the flower unfold.

VI

If thy sad heart, pining for human love,
   In its earth solitude grew dark with fear,
Lest the high Sun of Heaven itself should prove
   Powerless to save from that phantasmal sphere
Wherein thy spirit wandered — if the flowers
   That pressed around thy feet, seemed but to bloom
In lone Gethsemanes, through starless hours,
   When all, who loved, had left thee to thy doom: —
Oh, yet, believe, that in that hollow vale,
   Where thy soul lingers, waiting to attain
So much of Heaven's sweet grace as shall avail
   To lift its burden of remorseful pain —
My soul shall meet thee and its Heaven forego
Till God's great love, on both, one hope,
          one Heaven bestow.

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dove

ARCTURUS

Written in April

Nec morti esse locum, sed viva volare
Sideris in numerum atque alto succedere coelo — VIRGIL, Georgics, IV

Again, imperial star! thy mystic beams
Pour their wild splendors on my waking dreams,
Piercing the blue depths of the vernal night
With opal shafts and flames of ruby light;
Filling the air with melodies, that come
Mournful and sweet, from the dark, sapphire dome-
Weird sounds, that make the cheek with wonder pale,
As their wild symphonies o'ersweep the gale,
For, in that gorgeous world, I fondly deem,
Dwells the freed soul of one whose earthly dream
Was full of beauty, majesty and woe;
One who, in that pure realm of thine, doth grow
Into a power serene — a solemn joy,
Undimmed by earthly sorrow or alloy;
Sphered far above the dread, phantasmal gloom —
The penal tortures of that living tomb
Wherein his earth-life languished — who shall tell
The drear enchantments of that Dantean hell!

"Was it not Fate, whose earthly name is Sorrow,"
That bade him, with prophetic soul, to borrow
From all the stars that fleck night's purple dome,
Thee, bright Arcturus! for his Eden home: —
Was it not Fate, whose name in Heaven above,
Is Truth and Goodness and unchanging Love —
Was it not Fate, that bade him turn to thee
As the bright regent of his destiny? —
For when thine orb passed from the lengthening gloom
Of autumn nights, a morning star to bloom
Beside Aurora's eastern gates of pearl,
He passed from earth, his weary wings to furl
In the cool vales of Heaven: thence, through yon sea
Of starry isles, to hold his course to thee.

Now, when in April's cloudless nights, I turn
To where thy pharos mid the stars doth burn —
A glorious cynosure — I read in thee
The rune of Virgil's golden augury;
And deem that o'er thy seas of silver calm
Floats the far perfume of the Eden palm.


*For there is no place of annihilation: but alive
they mount up each into his own order of star, and
take their high seat in the heavens. — Georgics, Book IV.

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dove

THE PHANTOM VOICE

It is a phantom voice:
Again! — again! how solemnly it falls
Into my heart of hearts!"
      Scenes from Politian

Through the solemn hush of midnight,
    How sadly on my ear
Falls the echo of a harp whose tones
    I never more may hear!

A wild, unearthly melody,
    Whose monotone doth move
The saddest, sweetest cadences
    Of sorrow and of love:

Till the burden of remembrance weighs
    Like lead upon my heart,
And the shadow, on my soul that sleeps,
    Will never more depart.

The ghastly moonlight, gliding
    Like a phantom through the gloom,
How it fills with solemn fantasies
      My solitary room!

And the sighing winds of Autumn,
    Ah! how sadly they repeat
That low, bewildering melody,
    So mystically sweet!

I hear it softly murmuring
    At midnight o'er the hill,
Or across the wide savannas,
    When all beside is still.

I hear it in the moaning
    Of the melancholy main;
In the rushing of the night-wind,
    The rhythm of the rain.

E'en the wild flowers of the forest,
    Waving sadly to and fro,
But whisper to my boding heart
    The burden of its woe.

And the spectral moon, now paling
    And fading, seems to say,
"I leave thee to remembrances
    That will not pass away."

Ah, through all the solemn midnight,
    How mournful 't is to hark
To the voices of the silence,
The whisper of the dark!

In vain I turn, some solace
    From the distant stars to crave:
They are shining on thy sepulchre,
    Are smiling on thy grave.

How I weary of their splendor!
    All night long they seem to say,
"We are lonely — sad and lonely —
    Far away — far, far away!!"

Thus through all the solemn midnight,
    That phantom voice I hear,
As it echoes through the silence,
    When no earthly sound is near.

And though dawn-light yields to noon-light,
    And though darkness turns to day,
They but leave me to remembrances
    That will not pass away.

November 1849


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raven

TO ONE IN PARADISE

Thou wast that all to me, love,
    For which my soul did pine —
A green isle in the sea, love,
    A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
    And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
    Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
    A voice from out the Future cries,
"On! On\" — but o'er the Past
      (Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!

For, alas! alas! with me
    The light of Life is o'er!
"No more — no more — no more — "
(Such language holds the solemn sea
    To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
    Or the stricken eagle soar!

Alas! for that accursed time
    They bore thee o'er the billow
From Love — to titled age and crime,
    And an unholy pillow —
From me, and from our misty clime
    Where weeps the silver willow!

And all my days are trances,
    And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy grey eye glances,
    And where they footstep gleams —
In what ethereal dances,
    By what eternal streams.

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raven

ALONE

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring. —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I loved — I loved alone.

Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still —
From the torrent, or the fountain —
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by —
From the thunder, and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —


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dove

NOON

from Hours of Life

"The mysterious silence of full noon."

— BAILEY. Festus.

"Combien de fois dans le silence de minuit, et dans cet autre silence de midi, si accablant, si inquiet, si dévorant, n'ai-je pas senti mon coeur se précipiter vers un but inconnu, vers un onhbeur sans forme et sans nom, qui est au ciel, qui est dans l'air, qui est partout, comme l'amour! C'est l'aspiration sainte de la partie la plus éthéreé de notre âme vers l'inconnu."

— George Sand

Dream followed dream; and still the day
Floated on golden wings away;
But in the hush of the high noon,
Touched by a sorrow without name,
Consumed by a slow fever-flame,
I loathed my life's mysterious boon,
Unconscious of its end or aim;

Lost in a languor of repose —
A luxury of gloom —
As when the curved, voluptuous rose
Droops with its wealth of bloom.

Decked as for a festival
Seemed the wide and lonely hall
Of Nature, but a mute despair
Filled the universal air —

A sense of loneliness and void —
A wealth of beauty unenjoyed —
A sadness born mid the excess
Of life's unvalued loveliness.

Every pulse of being panting
With a bliss it fain would share,
Still there seemed a presence wanting,
Still some lost ideal haunting
All the lone and lustrous air.

Far off I heard the solemn chimes
Of Life and Death —
The rhythm of ancestral rhymes
Above — beneath!

"Light in shadow ever fading —
Death on Life's bright realm invading —
Pain with pleasure keeping measure,
Wasting care with golden treasure."

So the ancient burden rang,
So the choral verses sang.

Though beautiful on all the hills
The summer noonlight lay,
Far in the west a single cloud
Lay folded like a fleecy shroud,
Ready to veil its ray.
And over all a purple pall
Seemed waiting for the day.

I heard far, phantom voices calling
Over all the flowery wold —
O'er the westering meadows falling
Into slopes of gleamy gold —

Still I heard them calling — calling —
Through the dim, entangled glooms —
Far through sunless valleys falling
Downward to a place of tombs.

Near me pressed a vassal throng,
Slaves to custom, serfs to wrong —
Hollow-heartd, vain and cold,
Minions of the earthly mold;

Holding in supreme derision
Memories of the life Elysian,
Reckless of the birthright lost,
Heedless of the heavenly host,
Traitors to the Holy Ghost! 

Haunted by a nameless terror —
Thrilled by a foreboding breath,
As the aspen wildly trembles
When the winds are still as death —
I sought amid the sadness drear
Some loved familiar face to cheer
The solitude — some lingering tone
Of love ere love and hope had flown.

I heard a low voice breathe my name:
Was it the echo of my own —
That weird and melancholy tone —
That voice whose subtle sweetness came
Keen as the serpent's tongue of flame?
So near, its music seemed to me
The music of my heart to be.

Still I heard it, nearer, clearer,
When all other songs had flown,
Floating round me till it bound me
In a wild world of its own.

Suddenly a chill wind leapt
Through its woven harmonies;
All its silver chords were snapt
As a wind-harp's by the breeze.

A shudder through the silence crept
And death athwart the noonlight swept.
Then came the pall, the dirge, the knell,
As, dust to dust, the earth-clods fell,

Down crumbling on a coffin lid,
Within whose narrow casket hid —
Shut from the cheerful light of day —
Buried, yet quick, my own heart lay.

Graves closed round my path of life,
The beautiful had fled;
Pale shadows wandered by my side,
And whispered of the dead.

The far off hollow of the sky
Seemed like an idle mockery —
The vaulted hollow of the sky,
With its blue depths of mystery
But rounded Death's vast empery.

O'erwearied with life's restless change
From ecstasy to agony,
Its fleeting pleasures born to die,
The mirage of its fantasy,
Its worn and melancholy range
Of hopes that could no more estrange
The married heart of memory,
Doomed, while we drain life's perfumed wine,
For the dull Lethean wave to pine,

And, for each thrill of joy, to know
Despair's slow pulse or sorrow's throe —
I sought some central truth to span
These wide extremes of good and ill —
I longed with one bold glance to scan
Life's perfect sphere, to rend at will

The gloom of Erebus — dread zone,
Coiled like a serpent round the throne
Of Heaven — the realm where Justice veils
Her heart and holds her even scales —
Where awful Nemesis awaits
The doomed, by Pluto's iron gates.

In the long noon-tide of my sorrow,
I questioned of the eternal morrow;
I gazed in sullen awe
Far through the illimitable gloom

Down deepening like the swift maelstrom,

The doubting soul to draw
Into eternal solitudes,
Where unrelenting silence broods
Around the throne of Law.

I questioned the dim chronicle
Of ages gone before —
I listened for the triumph songs

That range from shore to shore,
Where the heroes and the conquerers wrought
The mighty deeds of yore —
Where the footprints of the martyrs
Had bathed the earth in gore,
And the war-horns of the warriors
Were heard from shore to shore.

Their blood on desert plains was shed —
Their voices on the wind had fled —
They were the drear and shadowy DEAD!

Still, through the storied past, I sought
An answer to my sleepless thought;
In the cloisters old and hoary
Of the mediaeval time —
In the rude ancestral story
Of the ancient Runic rhyme.

I paused on Grecian plains, to trace
Some remnant of a mightier race,
Serene in sorrow and in strife,
Calm conquerers of Death and Life,
Types of the god-like forms that shone
Upon the sculptured Parthenon.

But still, as when Prometheus bare
From heaven the fiery dart,
I saw the "vulture passions" tear
The proud Caucasian heart —
The war of destiny with will
Still conquered, yet conflicting still.

I heard loud Hallelujahs
From Israel's golden lyre,
And I sought their great Jehovah
In the cloud and in the fire.
I lingered by the stream that flowed
"Fast by the oracle of God" —
I bowed, its sacred wave to sip —
Its waters fled my thirsting lip.
The serpent trail was over all
Its borders — and its palms that threw
Aloft their waving coronal,
Were blistered by a poison dew.

Serener elements I sought,
Sublimer altitudes of thought,
The truth Saint John and Plato saw,
The mystic light, the inward law;
The Logos ever found and lost,
The aureola of the Ghost.

I hailed its faint auroral beam
In many a Poet's Delphic dream —

On many a shrine where faith's pure flame
Through fable's gorgeous oriel came.

Around the altars of the god,
In holy passion hushed, I trod,
Where one the mighty voice of Jove
Rang through Dodona's haunted grove.
No more the dove with sable plumes
Swept through the forest's gorgeous glooms;
The shrines were desolate and cold,
Their paeans hushed, their story told,
In long, inglorious silence lost,
Like fiery tongues of Pentecost.

No more did music's golden surge
The mortal in immortal merge:
High canticles of joy and praise
Died with the dream of other days;
I only heard the Maenad's wail —
That shriek that made the orient pale:
Evohe! — ah — Evohe!
The mystic burden of a woe
Whose dark enigma none may know;
The primal curse — the primal throe.

Evohe! — ah — Evohe!
Nature shuddered at the cry
Of that ancient agony!

Still the fabled Python bound me —
Still the serpent coil inwound me —
Still I heard the Maenad's cry,
Evohe! — ah — Evohe!

Where the Nile pours his sullen wave
Through tombs and empires of the grave,
I sought, 'mid cenotaphs, to find
The earlier miracles of mind:
Alas, beside the funeral urn
How drearily the death-lights burn;
On dim Denderah's sculptured lore
How sadly the noonlight falls,
How mournfully the west wind sighs
Through Karnak's mouldering halls!
No tongue shall tell their wondrous tale,
No hand shall lift the Isis veil;
The mighty pyramids that rise
So drear along the morning skies,
Guard well the secrets of the dead,
Nor break the sleep of ages fled.

Their awful shadow passed, I stood
On India's burning solitude;
Where, in the misty morning of the world,
Life lay as in a dream of beauty furled.


I saw the mighty altars of the Sun —
Before whose fires, the star-gods, one by one,
Paled like thin ghosts — in lurid splendors rife;
I heard the Persian hail him Lord of Life!
I saw his altar flames rise wild and high,
Veiling the glory of the noon-day sky,
Hiding the holy heavens with their ensanguined dye.

I turned, and from the Brahmin's milder law
I sought truth's mystic element to draw,
Pure as it sparkled in the cup of Heaven —
The bright Amreeta to the immortals given —
To bathe my soul in fontal springs, that lie
Veiled from the careless and incurious eye.

Half wakened from the brooding sleep
Of Nature ere she felt the leap
Of sentient life, the Hindoo seemed
Sad as the faith his fathers dreamed;
Like his own rock-hewn temples, wrought
From some obscure and shadowy thought
Of ancient days — some formless dread,
In the gray dawn of ages bred —
Prone on his native earth reclined,
To endless reveries resigned,
His dull song lapsing on the Lethean stream,
Lost in the dim world of a lotus dream.

Still, still the eternal mystery
The shadow of the poison-tree
Of Good and Evil haunted me.
In Religion's holy name,
Furies fed her altar-flame,
Sophists gloried in her shame.
Still the ancient mythus bound me,
Still the serpent coil inwound me,
Still I heard the Maenad's cry,
Evohe! — ah — Evohe!

Wearied with man's discordant creed,
I sought on Nature's page to read
Life's history, eye yet she shrined
Her essence in the incarnate mind;
Intent her secret laws to trace
In primal solitudes of space,
From her first, faint atomic throes,
To where her orbèd splendor glows
In the vast, silent spheres that roll
Forever towards their unknown goal.

I turned from dull alchemic lore
With starry Chaldeans to soar,
And sought, on fancy's wing, to roam

That glorious galaxy of light
Where mingling stars, like drifting foam,
Melt on the solemn shores of night;
But still the surging glory chased
The dark through night's chaotic waste;
And still, within its deepening voids,
Crumbled the burning asteroids.

Long gloating on that hollow gloom,
Methought that in some vast maelstrom
The stars were hurrying to their doom —
Bubbles upon life's boundless sea,
Swift meteors of eternity,
Pale sparks of mystic fire, that fall
From God's unwaning coronal.

Is there, I asked, a living woe
In all those burning orbs that glow
Through the blue ether? — do they share
Our dim world's anguish and despair?
In their vast orbits do they fly
From some avenging destiny —
And shall their wild eyes pale beneath
The dread anathema of Death? —
Our own fair earth — shall she too drift,
Forever shrouded in a weft
Of stormy clouds, that surge and swirl
Around her in a dizzy whirl: —
Forever shall a shadow fall
Backward from her golden wall,
Its dark cone stretching, ghast and gray,
Into outer glooms away? —

From the sad, unsated quest
Of knowledge, how I longed to rest
On her green and silent breast!

I languished for the dews of death
My fevered heart to steep —
The heavy, honey-dews of death,
The calm and dreamless sleep.

I left my fruitless lore apart,
And leaned my ear on Nature's heart,
To hear, far from life's busy throng,
The chime of her sweet undersong.

She pressed her balmy lips to mine,
She bathed me in her sylvan springs;
And still, by many a rural shrine,
She taught me sweet and holy things.
I felt her breath my temples fan,
I learned her temperate laws to scan,
My soul, of hers, became a conscious part;
Her beauty melted through my inmost heart.


Still I languished for the word
Her sweet lips had never spoken,
Still, from the pale shadow-land,
There came nor voice nor token;
No accent of the Holy Ghost
Whispered of the loved and lost;
No bright wanderer came to tell
If, in worlds beyond the grave,
Life, love, and beauty dwell.

(1) "The priestsses of Dodona assert that two black pigeons flew from Thebes in Egypt; one of which settled in Libya, the other among themselves: which latter, resting on a beech tree, declared with a human voice that here was to be the oracle of Jove." — Herodotus, Book II, ch 55.

(2) The Maenads, in their wild incantations, carried serpents in their hands, and with frantic gestures cried out Eva! Eva! Epiphanius thinks that this invocation related to the mother of mankind; but I am inclined to believe that it was the word Epha or Opha, rendered by the Greeks, Ophis, serpent. I take Abbadon to have been the name of the same ophite God whose worship has so long infected the world. The learned Heinsius makes Abbadon the same as the serpent Python."

— Jacob Bryant, Analysis of Ancient Mythology

"While Maenads cry Evoe, Evoe!
That voice that is contagion to the world."

— Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

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THE PORTRAIT

After long years I raised the folds concealing
  That face, magnetic as the morning's beam
While slumbering memory thrilled at its revealing
  Like Memnon wakening from his marble dream.

Again I saw the brow's translucent pallor,
  The dark hair floating o'er it like a plume;
The sweet, imperious mouth, whose haughty valor
  Defied all portents of impending doom.

Eyes planet calm, with something in their vision
  That seemed not of earth's mortal mixture born;
Strange mythic faiths and fantasies Elysian,
  And far, sweet dreams of "fairly lands forlorn."

Unfathomable eyes that held the sorrow
  Of vanished ages in their shadowy deeps,
Lit by that prescience of a heavenly morrow
  Which in high hearts the immortal spirit keeps.

Oft has that pale, poetic presence haunted
  My lonely musings at the twilight hour,
Transforming the dull earth-life it enchanted,
  With marvel and with mystery and with power.

Oft have I heard the sullen sea-wind moaning
  Its dirge-like requiems on the lonely shore,
Or listening to the Autumn winds intoning
  The wild, sweet legend of the lost Lenore;

Oft in some ashen evening of October,
  Have stood entranced beside a mouldering tomb
Hard by that visionary lake of Auber,
  Where sleeps the shrouded form of Ulalume;

Oft in chill, star-lit nights have heard the chiming
  Of far-off mellow bells on the keen air,
And felt their molten-golden music timing
  To the heart's pulses, answering unaware.

Sweet, mournful eyes, long closed upon earth's sorrow
  Sleep restfully after life's fevered dream!
Sleep, wayward heart! till on some cool, bright morrow
  Thy soul, refreshed, shall bathe in morning's beam.

Though cloud and sorrow rest upon thy story,
  And rude hands lift the drapery of thy pall,
Time, as a birthright, shall restore the glory,
  And Heaven rekindle all the stars that fall.

1870


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Copyright 1987, 2003, 2008 by Brett Rutherford (for introductory essay). The works of Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman are in the public domain. Revised May 2011.

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