Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “For Annie,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 452-461 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 452, continued:]

FOR ANNIE

Poe’s “For Annie” has been popular with anthologists and their readers for generations. It is a great accomplishment, undeniably ­[page 453:] effective, although a tour de force.(1) The subject is quietude, but a most unquiet rhythm is employed, obviously suggested by Thomas Hood’s “Bridge of Sighs” — a poem Poe recited in his lectures on “The Poetic Principle” in 1848 and 1849.

The poem is far more than a metrical exercise. To the world, as E. C. Stedman said, “for delicate . . . melody, it is one of Poe’s truest poems,” and Mme. Thérèse Blanc called it “le plus tendre de tous les poémes de Poe.”(2) From the author to his cherished friend it was a most personal poem for Annie. She was Mrs. Charles B. Richmond of Lowell and Westford, Massachusetts. Her maiden name was Nancy Locke Heywood, but Poe called her “Annie.” She liked others to do so, and in 1873 after the death of her husband she had the change of the name made legally.(3)

Poe first met Mrs. Richmond when he came to lecture at Lowell on July 10, 1848. Her husband did not object to their Platonic relationship. Poe’s letters to her have never been completely published, and before her death she destroyed the originals. In one of the unpublished passages Poe definitely said that he thought that more than Platonic friendship for them would be unwise.(4)

The personal experience upon which the poem is based Poe recounted in a somewhat hysterical letter to “Annie” from Fordham on November 16, 1848:

Why am I not with you now darling that I might . . . look deep down into the clear Heaven of your eyes . . . whisper in your ear the divine ­[page 454:] emotion[s], which agitate me[?] . . . in Providence — I went to bed & wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair . . . I procured . . . laudanum(5) and . . . took the cars back to Boston . . . I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you . . . I then reminded you of that holy promise, which was the last I exacted from you in parting — the promise that, under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death . . . Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laudanum . . . A friend was at hand, who . . . saved me . . . After the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, & to a casual observer, sane . . . I am so ill . . . in body and mind, that I feel I CANNOT live, unless I can feel your sweet, gentle, loving hand pressed upon my forehead — oh my pure, virtuous, generous, beautiful, beautiful sister Annie! — is it not POSSIBLE for you to come . . . until I subdue this fearful agitation . . . Farewell — here & hereafter — forever your own Eddy —

There has been disagreement among commentators as to whether the protagonist in the poem is alive or not. Stéphane Mallarmé referred to him as one who has been so ill that he has fancied himself in the first moments of death but has been revived by the presence and affection of Annie. C. Alphonso Smith said the French translator “did not understand it: he thought the speaker was a convalescent.”(6) But Mallarmé was certainly right. The decisive passage is in line 16, “might fancy me dead,” which is supported by the symbolism of rosemary (which means revival, explained in my note on line 63) and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin in line 84, “to shield me from harm.”

On March 23, 1849, Poe wrote to Mrs. Richmond: “I enclose also some other lines ‘For Annie’ — and will you let me know in what manner they impress you?” He added that he had sent them to the Flag of Our Union. This mention clearly refers to the present poem; “A Dream Within a Dream” had been called “For Annie” in a manuscript previously sent to Mrs. Richmond.

Poe’s relation with Gleason and Ballou’s Flag of Our Union was not a happy one. On April 20, 1849, he wrote to Willis: “The poem which I enclose . . . has been just published in a paper ­[page 455:] for which sheer necessity compels me to write . . . It pays well as times go — but . . . whatever I send it I feel I am consigning to the tomb of the Capulets.” He went on to ask Willis to reprint the lines as “From a late [Boston] paper” and to write an introduction in the Home Journal. The Flag regularly came out a full week before the date it bore, and Poe rightly assumed that “For Annie” would be in the issue appearing April 21. Willis sent the script Poe had given him to the printer at once, with the note: “Will Mr. Babcock please put this on the second page this week, & leave me twenty lines room for an introduction.” The result was that even if the Flag actually reached dealers before the Home Journal, Poe’s poem appeared in two papers bearing the same date. The Flag, not unnaturally, protested in the issue for May 12. Poe soon thereafter sent Mrs. Richmond word that the Flag had misprinted his lines — an accusation which (if true at all) can only mean that the editor refused to make changes in proof at the last minute. Poe added that the Flag still had two of his articles. These had been paid for and were printed, but the paper for which he felt such contempt purchased nothing more of Poe’s.

On May 23 Poe sent a Home Journal clipping to E. H. N. Patterson, thus authorizing its publication in that young editor’s paper, the Spectator of Oquawka, Illinois.(7) Poe sent to Griswold in June “perfect copies” of “Annabel Lee” and “For Annie” for use in Poets and Poetry of America; the former is a manuscript, but the latter may well have been a corrected clipping.(8) Griswold used the same text in the Works as in his anthology.

 

TEXTS

(A) Manuscript sent to Mrs. Richmond, March 23, 1849, facsimiled in London Bibliophile, May 1909; (B) Boston Flag of Our Union for April 28, 1849; (C) manuscript sent to N. P. Willis on April 20, 1849; (D) Home Journal for April 28, 1849; (E) Oquawka Spectator, May 16, 1849; (F) Poets ­[page 456:] and Poetry of America, 10th edition (dated 1850, issued late in 1849), p. 422; (G) Works (1850), II, 48-51; (H) manuscript sent to Susan Archer Talley on September 26, 1849, now lost; (Z) Richmond Examiner proofsheets from Whitty, Complete Poems (1911), pp. 74-77.

The text adopted is Griswold’s (G), which has a superior reading in line 97. The presentation manuscript (A), once lent to Ingram, was in the Harold Peirce Sale, Philadelphia, May 6, 1903, lot 958, and is now owned by Colonel Richard Gimbel. The manuscript given to Willis (C), now incomplete, was once in the collection of the late William H. Koester. The manuscript sent Miss Talley on September 26, 1849, is mentioned in the article “Last Days of Edgar A. Poe” by Susan Archer Talley Weiss in Scribner’s Magazine for March 1878 (15:714) but was destroyed during the Civil War. The text in Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America (F) is verbally like that in Works (G), but the printer used apostrophes thus: in line 6, conquer’d; 28, madden’d; 29, burn’d; yo, Drown’d; 79, extinguish’d; 80, cover’d. The Examiner proofsheets (Z) are said to have had a unique reading, in line 45.

[[n]]

FOR ANNIE [G]

Thank Heaven! the crisis —

The danger is past,

And the lingering illness

Is over at last —

[[n]]

5

And the fever called “Living”

Is conquered at last.

 

Sadly, I know

[[n]]

I am shorn of my strength,

And no muscle I move

[[n]]

10

As I lie at full length —

But no matter! — I feel

[[n]]

I am better at length.

 

And I rest so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

15

That any beholder

Might fancy me dead —

Might start at beholding me,

Thinking me dead.

 

[[v]]

The moaning and groaning, ­[page 457:]

20

The sighing and sobbing

[[v]]

Are quieted now,

[[v]]

[[n]]

With that horrible throbbing

[[v]]

At heart: — ah, that horrible,

Horrible throbbing!

 

[[n]]

25

The sickness — the nausea —

The pitiless pain —

Have ceased, with the fever

That maddened my brain —

With the fever called “Living”

30

That burned in my brain.

 

[[v]]

And oh! of all tortures

That torture the worst

Has abated — the terrible

Torture of thirst

[[n]]

35

For the napthaline river

[[v]]

[[n]]

Of Passion accurst: —

[[n]]

I have drank of a water

That quenches all thirst: —

 

[[n]]

Of a water that flows,

40

With a lullaby sound,

[[v]]

From a spring but a very few

Feet under ground —

From a cavern not very far

Down under ground.

 

[[v]]

45

And ah! let it never

Be foolishly said

That my room it is gloomy

And narrow my bed;

For man never slept

50

In a different bed —

And, to sleep, you must slumber

In just such a bed. ­[page 458:]

 

[[n]]

My tantalized spirit

Here blandly reposes,

55

Forgetting, or never

[[n]]

Regretting its roses —

Its old agitations

Of myrtles and roses:

 

For now, while so quietly

[[v]]

60

Lying, it fancies

A holier odor

[[n]]

About it, of pansies —

A rosemary odor,

[[v]]

Commingled with pansies —

65

With rue and the beautiful

[[v]]

[[n]]

Puritan pansies.

 

[[v]]

And so it lies happily,

Bathing in many

[[v]]

A dream of the truth

70

And the beauty of Annie —

Drowned in a bath

Of the tresses of Annie.

 

She tenderly kissed me,

She fondly caressed,

75

And then I fell gently

To sleep on her breast —

Deeply to sleep

From the heaven of her breast.

 

When the light was extinguished,

80

She covered me warm,

And she prayed to the angels

To keep me from harm —

[[n]]

To the queen of the angels

To shield me from harm. ­[page 459:]

 

85

And I lie so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

(Knowing her love)

That you fancy me dead —

And I rest so contentedly,

90

Now in my bed,

[[n]]

(With her love at my breast)

That you fancy me dead —

That you shudder to look at me,

Thinking me dead: —

 

95

But my heart it is brighter

Than all of the many

[[v]]

Stars in the sky,

For it sparkles with Annie —

[[v]]

It glows with the light

100

Of the love of my Annie —

With the thought of the light

[[n]]

Of the eyes of my Annie.

[1849]

 


[page 459, continued:]

VARIANTS

(No account is taken here of changes in punctuation or lineation.)

19-30  Fourth and fifth stanzas transposed (A, B)

21  now, / now; with (A); now; and the (B)

22  With that horrible / The horrible (A); Horrible (B)

23  ah, / oh, (A); O, (B)

31  oh / ah (A, B)

36  Passion / Glory (A, B)

41  spring but / fountain (B)

45  And / But (Z)

60-62  A reads:

Lying, I fancy

A holier odor about me,

Of pansy —

64 and 66  pansies / pansy (A)

67  it lies / I lie (A)

69  truth / love (A, B)

97  in the sky / of the heaven (A, B); of the sky (D, E)

99  light / thought (A); fire (B)

 


[page 459, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  Poe used the same title for a manuscript version of “A Dream Within a Dream.”

5  Compare Macbeth’s phrase (III, ii, 22): “After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.” This idea is a commonplace, used by Milton, Shelley, Kirke White, Mrs. Browning, and others. Said Poe, in “Mesmeric Revelation”: “Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is ­[page 460:] perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.” And in “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” he wrote: “The pulses were still . . . Volition had not departed but was powerless . . . The rose water . . . affected me with sweet fancies of flowers.”

8ff.  One of Poe’s extremely rare errors of spelling is “lenth,” in a letter quoted above at p. 412. It is a clue to his pronunciation of “strength” and “length.”

10, 12  Wilbur (Poe, p. 150), calls the double use of length “a lame pun . . . probably not so intended.” It seems to me rather a successful use of “absolute rhyme,” since it has been so rarely noticed.

22  See “The Beloved Physician” for a note on Poe’s heart trouble.

25  Many readers may regret that Poe chose to be so clinically accurate here. He defended Shelley’s use of “sicken” in a review of a book called The Poetry of Life (by Sarah Stickney) in the Southern Literary Messenger, January 1836.

35  “Napthaline” is better spelled “napthalene.” Moore, in a note to Lalla Rookh, quotes Scott Waring as saying, “Naptha [sic] is used by the Persians (as we are told by Milton it was in Hell) for lamps.” It is clear, combustible rock oil, procured by the ancients from asphaltum, usually brought from the Dead Sea. Wilbur (Poe, p. 150) points out the allusion to Phlegethon, the fiery river of Hades. See also line 53.

36  The early reading “Glory” suggests the vanity of pride rather than lust. Wilbur (Poe, p. 150) compares “The Poetic Principle,” where Poe said: “Passion, alas! its tendency is to degrade rather than elevate the soul.”

37  John 4:14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The unusual form of the participle drank is in all texts authorized by Poe.

39-44  Wilbur, p. 150, suggests an allusion to Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

53  Tantalus was tortured by water he could not drink and fruit he could not reach; see also line 35.

56-58  Roses and myrtles are symbols of love.

62-64  The reader may be expected by the poet to recall Opheha’s words in Hamlet, IV, v, 175ff.: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; Pray, love, remember; And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts . . . There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it herb-grace o’ Sundays.” In “The Island of the Fay” Poe says: “All about them the rue and rosemary clambered.” And in “The Power of Words” there is a reference to “pansies and violets, and heart’s-ease.” There is, however, another significance of rosemary, for which the meaning “Your presence revives me” is given by Frances Sargent Osgood in The Poetry of Flowers (New York, 1841), p. 263. Mrs. Osgood also interprets rue as “Grace or Purification.” ­[page 461:]

66  The very unusual phrase “Puritan pansies” is appropriate, since Annie was a New Englander. It may be suggested by a conceit in Emerson’s “To Ellen at the South” (1843): “The flowers, tiny sect of Shakers.”

83  The Blessed Virgin is called Regina angelorum (queen of the angels). Compare Poe’s “Hymn,” addressed to our Lady.

91  Poe wrote Mrs. Whitman on November 14, 1848: “I feel your dear love at my heart.”

102  In “Landor’s Cottage” we are told, “The eyes of Annie . . . were spiritual gray; her hair a light chestnut.” The eyes of the lady in “To One in Paradise” were changed to gray in the last revised version, perhaps for Annie’s benefit.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 453:]

1  Quinn (p. 600) says it “is one of Poets finest poems . . . He reproduced an emotional state by a short throbbing measure . . . the very incoherencies mirror perfectly the mood.” N. P. Willis invented the word “individualesque” for it, in the introduction he wrote at Poe’s request and published with “For Annie” in the Home Journal of April 28, 1849. This introduction, headed “Odd Poem,” was reprinted by Killis Campbell (Poems, p. 288); most of it has little pertinence.

2  Stedman, Poets of America (Boston and New York, 1885), p. 246. Campbell (Poems, p. 289) gives these and other favorable opinions, and some from critics who disliked the poem, because of the clinical details in some stanzas.

3  Phillips, II, 1293ff., quoting directly a letter of December 18, 1915, from Mrs. George P. Lawrence, Mr. Richmond’s niece.

4  Complete copies of Poe’s letters were made surreptitiously before the originals were destroyed. About thirty years ago my late friend, James Southall Wilson, read them under pledge not to make copies, a pledge which he kept. He did, however, tell me of the nature of the passage to which I refer. I have been unable to trace these transcripts myself.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 454:]

5  In Poe’s day laudanum was a specific remedy for toothache and diarrhœa, was sold without a prescription by all druggists, and was often taken for other maladies, real or imagined.

6  Smith, Edgar Allan Poe: How to Know Him (Indianapolis, 1921), p. 232, Mallarmé’s interpretation appeared (with Edouard Manet’s illustrations) in the first edition of his famous book Les Poèmes d’Edgar Poe: Traduetion en Prose (Paris, 1889), pp. 190-191.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 455:]

7  Apparently Patterson had already received a copy of the Home Journal or a clipping from it, since he published an identical text in his paper for May 16. I have used the file in the library of Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

8  A letter of “May 17, 1849,” addressed to Mrs. Lewis, promising to make a copy of “For Annie” for her that day and signed “Edgar A. Poe,” has no history prior to 1935 and I cannot regard it as authentic. It is hard to believe we should have no earlier trace of so important a manuscript if the Brooklyn poetess ever had it.

 


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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) (For Annie)