Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “Lenore,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 330-339 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 330:]

LENORE

No other poem of Poe’s gave him so much trouble as “Lenore.” He himself regarded it as the same poem as “A Paean,” the poorest thing in his Poems of 1831. He reworked that a little in 1836. Then late in 1842 he changed it greatly in content and cast it into a form called in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a “Pindarick Ode.” By this time he had virtually a new poem, which he titled “Lenore.” Not yet satisfied, he again recast it in long-line stanzas without much change of content. In the last summer of his life he was still altering that form.

Usually Poe’s revisions were improvements, but many critics wish he had let “Lenore” stand as it was first published in 1843. Thomas Wentworth Higginson said in his Short Studies of American Authors (Boston, 1880), p. 15: “Never in American literature . . . was such a fountain of melody flung into the air as when ‘Lenore’ first appeared in ‘The Pioneer’; and never did fountain so drop as when Poe rearranged it in its present form.”(1)

The form in long lines with internal rhymes — the one usually known to modern readers — was arrived at in 1844. It seems possible that Poe was influenced by reading “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” by Elizabeth Barrett, in whose work he took great interest at the time. Her poem certainly influenced “The Raven,” of which the heroine is also named Lenore, and for many of us the chief interest of “Lenore” in long lines lies in the fact that it is a steppingstone to “The Raven.”(2)

There is an interesting explanation of what Poe was trying to accomplish, written at about the time when he recast the poem for the second time. In his “Marginalia,” number 103, printed in the Democratic Review, December 1844, he has a long critique of a poem by Amelia Welby called “The Departed.” He discusses ­[page 331:] several attitudes appropriate in elegiac poems, and concludes, “Better still, [they should] utter the notes of triumph. I have endeavored to carry out this latter idea in some verses which I have called ‘Lenore.’ ”

The heroine’s name first appeared as Lenore in the wholesale reworking of the early “Paean” into the new poem late in 1842. In the 1836 version of “A Paean” the heroine had been named Helen, perhaps an allusion to Mrs. Jane Stanard. On the copy of the Broadway Journal Poe gave to Sarah Helen Whitman in 1848, he wrote, “Helen, Ellen, Elenore, Lenore.” These names, like the title name in “Eleonora,” a tale of 1841, all are generally supposed to mean “light” or “bright.”

Poe’s exact form of the name was, I suspect, from “Lenore,” the title of the longest poem of the once very well known child poet, Margaret Miller Davidson (1823-1838). In reviewing, in Graham’s Magazine for August 1841, Washington Irving’s Biography and Poetical Remains of that young lady, Poe accorded some rather limited praise to Margaret’s little romance with a happy ending, and he discussed the poem at length in his lecture on “The Poets and Poetry of America.”

Poe also must have known Felicia Hemans’ Forest Sanctuary (1825), her own favorite among her poems and once very widely read. In canto II, lix, she writes of her heroine, buried at sea:

Gentlest Leonor!

Once fairest of young brides! — and never more,

Loved as thou wert, may human tear be shed

Above thy rest!

This presumably had a place in the genesis of Poe’s “Lenore” and “The Raven” too, in both of which “Lenore” and “nevermore” rhyme.(3) ­[page 332:]

Poe said that Elmira Shelton was his “lost Lenore,” as John M. Daniel told in the Southern Literary Messenger, March 1850. But this was the remark of a gallant gentleman seeking a lady’s hand, and one suspects that his reference was to “The Raven.” “Lenore” seems to me in its later forms as impersonal a thing as Poe ever wrote.

Poe on December 25, 1842, sent in a letter to James Russell Lowell “a brief poem,” which presumably was some form of “Lenore,” and two days later a manuscript that surely was. In the second letter he quoted two phrases from “Lenore” in suggesting a permissive change, which Lowell decided against, in the arrangement of the line beginning “To friends above.” Unhappily the manuscripts referred to are lost. The poem Lowell published at Boston in The Pioneer for February 1843 was signed in full “By Edgar Allan Poe.” A somewhat revised version was included in Hirst’s sketch of Poe in the Philadelphia Saturday Museum of March 4.

Exactly when Poe decided to put “Lenore” into the stanzaic form in which it is generally known is uncertain, since the first printing is probably introuvable. Soon after reaching New York on April 7, 1844, Poe went to work on the Sunday Times, edited by Major Mordecai M. Noah, and the poem was probably published in its columns; but only one number of Noah’s paper for the proper period is known, and that number (April 14) is damaged. However, Poe’s poem was popular and was copied in various papers, of which some do survive.

One curious publication in the Evening Mirror, November 28, 1844, deserves special mention:

To the Editors of the Evening Mirror

Dearest Mirror: I copy the subjoined lines “By Mr. Willis”, from an old number of the Jackson (Tenn.) Advocate, where they are evidently out of place, and at all events so grossly misprinted that I must ask you to replenish them, and more especially as they do not appear in the late collection of Mr. W. It can scarcely be possible that there are two Dromios.    Amelia. ­[page 333:]

Here there follows the text of Poe’s “Lenore” in twenty-four long lines, and Willis remarks:

We thank our friend, the “Amelia”, for supposing us capable of the authorship of these majestic-paced stanzas. They are not ours — we wish they were! But, (if they are not “Amelia’s” — and they are very much in the measure of the “Step-son”), we do not know whose they are . . .

Amelia Welby’s best-known poem (on her stepson) is misquoted in Poe’s “Rationale of Verse.” Although Poe was on the Mirror staff, apparently he did not read the paper carefully and took no notice of the Willis article.(4)

A long-line version of the poem was included in Lowell’s sketch of Poe in Graham’s for February 1845; Poe reprinted the verses in the Broadway Journal of August 16 and collected them in The Raven and Other Poems. The following paragraph appeared in the Broadway Journal of September 13, 1845:

The “Chambersburg Times” does us the honor to make up the whole of its first page from a single number of “The Broadway Journal.[”] This would be all very well, had it not forgotten to give us credit for our articles, contributed and editorial — and had it not forgotten not to make certain improvements in our compositions to suit its own fancy. Copying, for example, a little poem of our own called “Lenore,” the Chambersburg editor alters “the damnèd earth” into “the cursed earth.” Now, we prefer it damned, and will have it so.(5)

Mention may be made here of other echoes. A story signed “Lilla Herbert” in the Columbian Magazine for December 1845 is called “The Withered Heart,” and in it Poe’s poem is used as a theme. On a manuscript of a letter Poe wrote him on August 11, 1845, Dr. Chivers wrote some verses about one “false Guy de Vere,” who somewhere in France betrayed a lady whose name was Hortense, but Chivers’ lines have little in common with Poe’s “Lenore” save the hero’s name.(6) “Lenore” by George H. Thurston ­[page 334:] in the Home Journal of April 27, 1850, is based on “The Raven” rather than its namesake poem by Poe.

Poe thought that Henry B. Hirst in his Penance of Roland, written about 1847, plagiarized a passage from lines 10-12 of the long-line version. Poe made the charge in a manuscript written about 1849 but not printed until Griswold included a text in the Works (1850), III, 211.

 

TEXTS

PINDARIC VERSION: (A) The Pioneer for February 1843 (1:60); (B) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843.

LONG-LINE VERSION: (C) Uncertain periodical (probably New York Sunday Times) prior to October 1844, known only from unauthorized reprints in (Ca) New York Evening Mirror, November 28, 1844, and (Cb) Oquawka Spectator, September 13, 1848; (D) Graham’s Magazine for February 1845 (26:53) in Lowell’s sketch of Poe; (E) Broadway Journal, August 16, 1845 (2:81); (F) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), pp. 14-15; (G) The Poets and Poetry of America, 10th edition (dated 1850, issued in December 1849), p. 421; (H) letter to R. W. Griswold, late June 1849 (lines 20-26); (J) manuscript revisions in J. Lorimer Graham copy of The Raven . . . , summer 1849 (lines 20-26); (K) Richmond Daily Whig, September 18, 1849; (L) Works (1850), II, 12-13.

The earliest version (A), and the final revised form (K) with a misprint corrected in the last line, are given in full.

The text of Griswold’s anthology (G) was put back into short lines by him. It shows late readings, although Poe’s letter to him (H) is ignored.

The version (K) printed in the Richmond Daily Whig, September 18, 1849, was obviously arranged for by the author in connection with announcement of his last lecture on Monday evening, September 24. It alone shows in print the line order of both late manuscripts (H, J). The paper had a semi-weekly edition called Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, in which the poem appeared from the same types in a number also dated September 18, probably issued in the afternoon. Files of both editions were examined at the New-York Historical Society.

LENORE [A]

AH, broken is the golden bowl!

The spirit flown forever!

[[v]]

Let the bell toll! — A saintly soul

[[v]]

Glides down the Stygian river! ­[page 335:]

5

And let the burial rite be read —

The funeral song be sung —

A dirge for the most lovely dead

That ever died so young!

And, Guy de Vere,

10

Hast thou no tear?

Weep now or nevermore!

See, on yon drear

And rigid bier,

Low lies thy love Lenore!

 

15

“Yon heir, whose cheeks of pallid hue

With tears are streaming wet,

Sees only, through

[[n]]

Their crocodile dew,

A vacant coronet —

[[v]]

20

False friends! ye loved her for her wealth

And hated her for her pride,

And, when she fell in feeble health,

[[v]]

Ye blessed her — that she died.

How shall the ritual, then, be read?

25

The requiem how be sung

For her most wrong’d of all the dead

That ever died so young?”

 

Peccavimus!

But rave not thus!

30

And let the solemn song

Go up to God so mournfully that she may feel no wrong!

The sweet Lenore

Hath “gone before”

With young hope at her side,

35

And thou art wild

For the dear child

That should have been thy bride —

For her, the fair

And debonair, ­[page 336:]

40

That now so lowly lies —

The life still there

Upon her hair,

The death upon her eyes.

 

“Avaunt! — to-night

45

My heart is light —

No dirge will I upraise,

But waft the angel on her flight

With a Pæan of old days!

Let no bell toll!

50

Lest her sweet soul,

Amid its hallow’d mirth,

Should catch the note

As it doth float

[[v]]

Up from the damned earth —

55

To friends above, from fiends below,

[th’ indignant ghost is riven —

From grief and moan

To a gold throne

Beside the King of Heaven!”

[1843]

 


[[v]]

LENORE [K]

[[n]]

Ah, broken is the golden bowl! — the spirit flown forever!

Let the bell toll! — a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river: —

[[n]]

And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear? — weep now or never more!

See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!

[[v]]

5

Come, let the burial rite be read — the funeral song be sung! —

An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young —

[[v]]

A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

 

[[v]]

“Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and ye hated her for her pride; ­[page 337:]

[[v]]

[[n]]

And, when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her — that she died: —

10

How shall the ritual then be read — the requiem how be sung

[[n]]

By you — by yours, the evil eye — by yours the slanderous tongue

[[v]]

That did to death the innocence that died and died so young?”

 

[[v]]

[[n]]

Peccavimus: — yet rave not thus! but let a Sabbath song

Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong!

[[v]]

[[n]]

15

The sweet Lenore hath gone before, with Hope that flew beside,

Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride —

[[n]]

For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,

[[v]]

The life upon her yellow hair, but not within her eyes —

[[v]]

The life still there upon her hair, the death upon her eyes.

 

[[v]]

20

“Avaunt! — Aaunt! to friends from fiends the indignant ghost is riven —

[[v]]

From Hell unto a high estate within the utmost Heaven —

[[v]]

From moan and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven: —

[[v]]

Let no bell toll, then, lest her soul, amid its hallowed mirth

[[v]]

Should catch the note as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth!

[[v]]

25

And I — tonight my heart is light: — no dirge will I upraise,

[[v]]

But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!”

[1844-1849]

 


­[page 336, continued:]

VARIANTS [[For version A]]

3  Printed as two lines in B

4  Glides down / Floats on (B)

20  loved / lov’d (B)

23  blessed / bless’d (B)

54  damned / damnéd (B)

 


­[page 337, continued:]

VARIANTS [[For version K]]

(The symbol C indicates that Ca and Cb are alike.)

Title:  Dirge (Cb)

5  Come / Ah (D)

7  Not in C; printed from broken type, losing first word, in E

8  ye hated / hated (all others except C)

9  that / when (Cb); blessed / bless’d (G)

12  died and died / perished (C)

13  yet rave / but rave (D, E, F, G, L); but let / and let (C, D, E, F, G, L)

15  The sweet / She — sweet (C)

18  within / upon (C)

19  Not in C

20-26  The order of the lines in all other texts except H and J is 25-26, 23-24, 20-22

20  Avaunt! . . .fiends / To friends above, from fiends below (C, D, E, F, G, L); Avaunt! avaunt! from fiends below ­[page 338:] (J); the indignant / th’ indignant (Ca)

21  unto / into (Cb); within the utmost / far up within the (all others)

22  moan and groan / grief and groan (F, G, J, L); grief and moan (C, H); golden / gold (C)

23  then, lest her / lest her sweet (C, D, E, F, G, L); hallowed / hallow’d (G)

24  damnéd / damned (C)

25  And I / Avaunt! (C, D, E, F, G, L)

26  Pæan / Pœan (misprint, E, K; here corrected from all others)

 


­[page 338, continued:]

NOTES [[chiefly to version K]]

1-2  The allusion is to Ecclesiastes 12:5-7, “the mourners go about the streets . . . the silver cord is loosed . . . the golden bowl is broken . . . and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it,” a passage used more fully in the third paragraph of Poe’s tale, “The Premature Burial” (1844). Compare also the opening of “A Hero of the Revolution” by General George P. Morris:

Let not a tear be shed!

Of grief give not a token!

Although the silver thread

And golden bowl be broken.

Mr. Cortland P. Auser tells me that Morris’s poem was written in memory of General Daniel Delavan in 1837.

3  The name of the hero, Guy De Vere, first appears at the same time as that of Lenore, about 1842. It is a somewhat conventional aristocratic name, implying “true,” but Poe probably took the surname from John Plumer Ward’s novel, DeVere, or the Man of Independence (1827). Poe mentioned this novel in a review of Bulwer’s Poems in the Broadway Journal, February 8, 1845, and again in 1849 in “Marginalia,” number 220. Tennyson’s “Lady Clara Vere de Vere” seems to have no connection with Poe’s hero.

9  In Southern speech, “bless” still sometimes means “curse”; compare French blesser, to injure.

11  The superstition about the “evil eye” is the basis of Poe’s tale “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843).

11-12  On a leaf on which Poe wrote down favorite passages from Shakespeare, he gives from Much Ado About Nothing, V, iii, 3: “Done to death by slanderous tongues.”

13  Peccavimus (we have sinned), from the Vulgate of Psalm 106:6, is in the Burial Service.

15  The phrase “gone before” was given as a quotation in some, but not all, versions of the poem. Arthur Ransome, Edgar Allan Poe (1912), p. 40, objected to it as infelicitous. But Poe probably considered it quaint. Compare Ben Jonson’s “Epigram XXXIII”: “. . . gone before / Whither the world shall follow.”

17  The word “debonair” is now rarely used in highly serious context, but Poe must have recalled that in “L’Allegro” Milton called Mirth “buxom, blithe and debonair.”

18 (1843)  In the old bestiaries there occurs a story that crocodiles cannot resist killing people, but seeing their human prey prostrate, think them so ­[page 339:] like themselves that they weep, although they still eat them. Crocodile tears come of a shallow grief.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 330:]

1  J. P. Fruit in The Mind and Art of Poe’s Poetry (1899), p. 101, defended the long lines as suggesting “a chant, a dirge, a requiem.”

2  For all that Poe occasionally wrote of “Lenore” as one of his best poems, and for all its undeniable melody, the poem, especially the third stanza, exemplifies the faults of which Poe’s less friendly critics complain. The rhythm is too marked, the story too plainly told.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 331, running to the bottom of page 332:]

3  It has been generally supposed, as by Killis Campbell (Poems, p. 215), that Poe’s heroine is a namesake of the heroine of the famous ballad “Lenore” by the German romantic Gottfried August Bürger. In reviews of Captain Basil Hall’s Skimmings and of Henry F. Chorley’s Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, both in the Southern Literary Messenger, October 1836, Poe tells about the admiration felt for that poem by Mrs. Hemans and by Sir Walter Scott, who wrote an adaptation of it called “William and Helen.” The heroine, refusing to be reconciled to the loss of her lover Wilhelm in the Crusades, uttered such impious words as led his ghost to come and carry her off to his grave. What has this precious pair to do with Guy ­[page 332:] De Vere and his gentle sweetheart? In his reviews Poe expresses no admiration for Bürger’s ballad, nor even indicates that he knew its theme. I cannot regard it as a model for his own “Lenore.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 333:]

4  No issues of the Jackson Advocate can now be located. Poe’s occasional correspondent, John Tomlin, lived in Jackson, Tennessee, and may have been connected with the paper.

5  No issue of the Times of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, between August 16 and September 13, 1845, can be located. The piratical editor was either Franklin F. May or Enos R. Powell, who became May’s partner some time in 1845, according to I. H. McCauley, Historical Sketch of Franklin County, second edition (1878), p. 68.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 333, running to the bottom of page 334:]

6  The manuscript has been cut down so that almost no line of Chivers’ poem is ­[page 334:] complete. The fragments will presumably appear in a forthcoming volume of the Complete Works of Thomas Holley Chivers, now in course of publication by Brown University Press.

 


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Notes:

Poe’s comment about Hirst first appears in an installment of “Marginalia” that was prepared for Graham’s Magazine about March 1848, but not published.

A set of the Chambersburg Times for 1845 has been located. Poe’s poem appears in the issue for September 1, 1845. For more information, see Jeffrey A. Savoye, “The Curse of Lenore: Poe and the Chambersburg Times’, Edgar Allan Poe Review, Spring 2011, vol. XII, no. 1, pp. 32-41.

The editon of the works of T. H. Chivers, issued by Brown University, ended with the first volume, presenting only his correspondence.


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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) (Lenore)