Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “Introduction,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 156-159 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 156, continued:]

INTRODUCTION

This poem, published by its author in this form only once — in Poems (1831), pp. 33-36 — incorporates as lines 1-10 and 35-45 the two stanzas of the poem called “Preface” in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829) and later called “Romance” (see page 128, above). The thirty-six new lines have great merit, but are extremely personal. Perhaps that is why Poe never reprinted them.

INTRODUCTION

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Romance, who loves to nod and sing,

With drowsy head and folded wing,

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

5

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been — a most familiar bird —

Taught me my alphabet to say —

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild-wood I did lie

10

A child — with a most knowing eye.

 

Succeeding years, too wild for song,

Then roll’d like tropic storms along, ­[page 157:]

Where, tho’ the garish lights that fly

Dying along the troubled sky,

15

Lay bare, thro’ vistas thunder-riven,

The blackness of the general Heaven,

That very blackness yet doth fling

Light on the lightning’s silver wing.

 

For, being an idle boy lang syne,

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20

Who read Anacreon, and drank wine,

I early found Anacreon rhymes

Were almost passionate sometimes —

And by strange alchemy of brain

His pleasures always turn’d to pain —

25

His naivete to wild desire —

His wit to love — his wine to fire —

And so, being young and dipt in folly

I fell in love with melancholy,

And used to throw my earthly rest

30

And quiet all away in jest —

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I could not love except where Death

Was mingling his with Beauty’s breath —

Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny

Were stalking between her and me.

 

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35

O, then the eternal Condor years

So shook the very Heavens on high,

With tumult as they thunder’d by;

I had no time for idle cares,

Thro’ gazing on the unquiet sky!

40

Or if an hour with calmer wing

Its down did on my spirit fling,

That little hour with lyre and rhyme

To while away — forbidden thing!

My heart half fear’d to be a crime

45

Unless it trembled with the string.

 

But now my soul hath too much room — ­[page 158:]

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Gone are the glory and the gloom —

The black hath mellow’d into grey,

And all the fires are fading away.

 

50

My draught of passion hath been deep —

I revell’d, and I now would sleep —

And after-drunkenness of soul

Succeeds the glories of the bowl —

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An idle longing night and day

55

To dream my very life away.

 

But dreams — of those who dream as I,

Aspiringly, are damned, and die:

Yet should I swear I mean alone,

By notes so very shrilly blown,

60

To break upon Time’s monotone,

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While yet my vapid joy and grief

Are tintless of the yellow leaf —

Why not an imp the greybeard hath,

Will shake his shadow in my path —

65

And even the greybeard will o’erlook

Connivingly my dreaming-book.

[1829-1831]

 


[page 158, continued:]

NOTES

­­For notes on lines 1-18 and 35-45, see “Romance,” above.

20-23  “Anacreon rhymes” are obviously Moore’s translations of the Anacreontea, but selections from these simple poems in the original language were read in beginning Greek classes in Poe’s day. Some commentators have felt the reference to wine here to be connected with actual drinking. But while the youth of Poe’s era probably did sometimes accompany the singing of Moore’s Anacreon with actual potations, it is not Poe’s but the ancient poet’s wine that “turned to fire.” Note also a passage in “Shadow — A Fable”: “We sang the songs of Anacreon — which are madness.”

31-34  There seems to me no reason to give these lines any save the simplest meaning: “It was my luck to fall in love only with women from whom age, death, and marriage to others separated me.” The allusions are to his “Helen” (Jane Stith Stanard, the mother of his schoolmate), who died early, and to ­[page 159:] Elmira Royster, from whom he was separated by her marriage to Alexander Shelton. In the Explicator (vol. 20, no. 1, September 1961), David M. Rein, taking “love” in the wider sense of “have deep affection for,” would add Poe’s real and foster mothers.

47  Campbell (Poems, p. 193) compares to this the lines from Wordsworth’s ode, “Intimations of Immortality”: “Whither is fled the visionary gleam? / Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” and Moore’s The Loves of the Angels: “Or, if they did, their gloom was gone, / Their darkness put a glory on!”

54-55  Compare Andrew Marvell’s “Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun,” lines 37-40:

Thenceforth I set my self to play

My solitary time away,

With this: and very well content,

Could so mine idle Life have spent.

Poe quoted other lines from this poem with enthusiasm in a review of S. C. Hall’s Book of Gems in the Southern Literary Messenger, August 1836, and again in the Broadway Journal, May 17, 1845.

61-62  Compare Macbeth, V, iii, 23-24: “My way of life / Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf,” and Byron’s echo of this in “On this Day I complete my Thirty-Sixth Year,” line 5: “My days are in the yellow leaf.”

 


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Notes:

None.


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