Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “[Excerpts from Milton],” manuscript, undated but possibly @1829, 1 page, 2 sides




[column 1:]

Yet some there are that by due steps aspire

To lay their just hands on that golden key

That opes the palace of Eternity.



A spirit pure

As treads the spangled pavement of the sky

The gentle Philadel.



Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles

That like to rich and various gems inlay

The unadorned bosom of the deep.



But first I must put off

These my sky-robes.



On sands and shores, and desert wildernesses.



What chance good lady, hath bereft you thus?

Dim darkness, and this leafy labyrinth.



In such a scant allowance of starlight



And thou shalt be our star of Arcady

Or Tyrian Cynosure.



By the gaily-circling glass

We can see how minutes pass

By the hollow cask are told

How the waning night grows old.



All I hope of mortal man

Is to love me while he can



See! here be all the pleasures

That Fancy can beget on youthful thoughts.



Losing youth is losing all.



The heart is wiser than the schools

The senses always revison call



Nor sighs nor murmurs but of gentle love

Whose woes delight, what must his pleasures then?



Thrice upon thy fingers tip

Thrice upon thy ruby lip.



And yet more med’cinal is it than that Moly

Which Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave [column 2:]

When day never shuts his eye

Up in the broad fields of the sky.



And from thence can soar as soon

To the corners of the moon.



Taught by virtue you may climb

Higher than the sphery chime

Or if virtue feeble were

Heaven itself would stoop to her.



May thy brimmed waves for this

Thy full tribute never miss

May thy billows roll ashore

The beryl, and the golden ore



He must not float upon his watery bier

Unwept — nor welter to the parching wind

Without the mead of some melodious tear.



Were it not better done as others use

To sport with Amaryllis in the shade

Or with the tangles of Neæra’s hair?



Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

That last infirmity of noble mind

To score delight, and live laborious days



Henceforth thou art the genius of the shore

In thy large recompense, and shalt be good

To all that wander in that perilous flood.



What power? what spell? what mighty force is not

Your learned hands can loose this Gordian Knot!


Hymns devout, and holy psalms

Singing everlastingly.


What needs my Shakespeare for his sacred bones

An age of labor in a pile of stones

Or that his hallowed relics should be hid

Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?


Who would not sing for Lycidas? He knew

Himself to sing.




[column 1:]

O nightingale that on yon bloomy spray

Warblest at eve when all the woods are still!


Donna leggiadra, il cui bel nome honora

L’herbosa val di Rheno, e il nobil varco,

Bene è colui d’ogni valore scarco

Qual tuo spirto gentil non innamora.


Fair lady whose harmonious name the Rhine

Thro’ all her grassy vale delights to hear

But were indeed the wretch who could forbear

To love a spirit elegant as thine.


Amor lo volse, ed io a l’altrui peso

Seppi ch’Amor cosa mai volse indarno.


So love has will’d, and oftimes Love has shown

That what he wills he never wills in vain.


Questa è lingua di cui si vanta amore.


This is the language in which Love delights.


Parole adorne di lingua piu d’una,

E’l cantar che di mezzo l’hemispero.

Traviar ben può la faticosa Luna.


Words exquisite, of idioms more than one,

And song, whose fascinating power might bind

And from her sphere draw down the lab’ring moon.


Madonna, a voi del mio cuor l’humil dono

Farò divoto; io certo a prove tante

L’hebbi fedele, intrepido, costante

De pensieri leggiadro, accorto, e buono.


To thee dear lady with an humble sigh

Let me devote my heart which I have found

By certain proofs not few, intrepid sound

Good and addicted to conceptions high.


Quanto rugge il gran mondo, e scocca il tuono

S’arma di se, e d’intero diamante.


When tempests shake the world & fire the sky

It rest in adamant self-wrapp’d around. [column 2:]


How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth

Stolen on his wing my 3 and 20th year!


Lift not thy spear against the Muses bower

The great Emathian conqueror bid spare

The house of Pindarus when temple & tower

Went to the ground: And the repeated air

Of sad Electra’s poet had the power

To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.


That would have made Quintillian stare & gasp


Rail’d at Latona’s twin-born progeny

Which after held the sun and moon in fee.


License they mean when they cry “Liberty.”


Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher

Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing

Met in the milder shades of Purgatory.


Meekly thou didst resign this earthly load

of death called life.


But as Faith pointed with her golden rod

Followed thee up to joy and bliss forever.

Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old.


Till Favonius re-inspire

The frozen Earth, and clothe in fresh attire

The lily and rose that neither sow’d nor spun.


The better part with Mary & with Ruth

Chosen thou hast.


The breaking of that Parliament

Broke him — as that dishonest victory

At Cheronæa fatal to liberty

Killed with report that old man eloquent.




This one-page document is reprinted here, with permission, from the collection of the Poe Foundation in Richmond, Virginia.

The page has been folded in half horizontally, then in half vertically, then in half vertically again, so the page is divided by folds into eight rectangular segments of equal size. Poe may have carried this in a pocket at some point. It is possible that he may have used it as part of one of his lectures, along with his excerpts from Shakespeare. On the back of the page, in the panel that forms the lower left quadrant is considerably more age toned than the rest of the page, indicating that it was probably stored folded in such a way that this portion was in contact with other materials or exposed more directly to the elements.

Mabbott comments that these notes are probably from about 1829 (Poems, 1969, p. xxvi, note 6) though without explanation. Presumably, he thinks Poe made them while preparing “Al Aaraaf,” which contains references to Comus. These extracts appear to have been first printed by Thomas P. Haviland in “How Well Did Poe Know Milton?,” PMLA, September 1954, pp. 841-860. Haviland states that Mabbott, in 1954, set the date of the manuscript as 1831-1834 (Haviland, p. 844).

In 1866, Lambert A. Wilmer recalled that “On Literary subjects Poe held some singularly heterodox opinions. As for Milton, Shakspeare, and the whole array of illustrious British poets, he professed to hold them in great contempt” (L. A. Wilmer, “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe,” Baltimore Daily Commercial, May 23, 1866, vol. I, no. 200., p. 1, col. 5. Reprinted in Mabbott, 1941, p. 31.). Mabbott comments, “Poe may have inveighed against the faults of Shakespeare and Milton, but many references in his works show he admired them for all that” (Mabbott, “notes to ‘Wilmer’s Recollections of Edgar A. Poe,” Merlin, Together with Recollections of Edgar A. Poe, New York: Scholar’s Facsimiles & Reprints, 1941, p. 28).

Sources for the quotations:

Front page (“Comus,” “Lycidas,” etc.):

1 - “Yet some there are . . .”   “Comus,” lines 12-14.

2 - “A spirit pure . . .”  “Comus,” (scene I)

3 - “Imperial rule of all . . .”   “Comus,”  lines 21-23.

4 - “But first I must put off . . .”  “Comus,” lines 82-83.

5 - “On sands and shores . . .”  “Comus,” line 229.

6 - “What chance good lady . . .”  “Comus,” lines 277-278.

7 - “In such a scant . . .”  “Comus,” line 308

8 - “And thou shalt be . . .”  “Comus,”  line 341-342

9 - “By the gaily-circling . . .”   “Comus,” line??

10 - “All I hope of mortal . . .”   “Comus,” line??

11 - “See! here be all the . . .”  “Comus”   lines 669-

12 - “Losing youth is losing all” “Comus” (“Song — By A. Man”) (in scene I)

13 - “The heart is wiser than . . .” “Comus” (“Song — By Euphrosyne”) (in scene III)

14 - “Nor sighs nor murmurs but . . .” “Comus” (in scene I)

15 - “Thrice upon thy fingers tip . . .”     “Comus,” lines 914-915

16 - “And yet more med’cinal is it . . .”     “Comus,” lines 636-637

17 - “And from thence can soar . . .”     “Comus,” lines 1016-1017

18 - “Taught by virtue you may . . .”     “Comus,” lines 1020-1023

19 - “May thy brimmed waves . . .”     “Comus,” lines 924-925 and 932-933

20 - “He must not float upon . . .”     “Lycidas,” line??

21 - “Were it not better done . . .”      “Lycidas,” lines 67-69

22 - “Fame is the spur that the . . .”      “Lycidas,” lines 70-72

23 - “Henceforth thou are the . . .”      “Lycidas,” lines 183-185

24 - “What power? what spell? . . .”     “At a Vacation Exercise,” lines 89-90

25 - “Hymns devout, and holy . . .”     “At a Solemn Music,” lines 15-16

26 - “What needs my Shakespeare . . .”     “On Shakespeare,” lines 1-4

27 - “Who would not sing for . . .”     “Lycidas,” lines 10-11


Back page (Sonnets):

1 - “O nightingale . . .”  “[Sonnet I: On the Nightingale],” lines 1-2.

2 - “Donna leggiadra, il . . .”  “[Sonnet II, in Italian: Donna Leggiadra],” lines 1-4.

3 - “Fair Lady whose . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

4 - “Guardi ciascun a gli . . .”   “[Sonnet II, in Italian: Donna Leggiadra],” lines 11-12.

5 - “Ah then — turn each . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

6 - “Amor lo volse, ed io . . .”     “[Sonnet III, in Italian: Qual in colle aspro],” lines 11-12.

7 - “So love a spirit elegant . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

8 - “Questa e lingua di . . .”     “[Canzone, in Italian: Ridonsi donne e giovani],” line 15.

9 - “This is the language in . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

10 - “Parole adorne di lingua . . .”     “[Sonnet IV, in Italian: Parole adorne di lingua],” lines 10-12.

11 - “Words exquisite, of idioms . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

12 - “Madonna a voi del mio . . .”     “[Sonnet VI, in Italian: Giovanne piano, e semplicetto],” lines 3-6.

13 - “To thee dear lady with . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

14 - “Quando rugge il gran . . .”     “[Sonnet VI, in Italian: Giovanne piano, e semplicetto],” lines 7-8.

15 - “When tempests shake . . .”   translation by William Cowper of lines above.

16 - “How soon hath Time . . .”     “[Sonnet VII: How Soon hath Time],” lines 1-2.

17 - “Lift not thy spear against . . .”     “[Sonnet VIII: Captain or Colonel, or Knight],” lines 9-14.

18 - “That would have made . . .”     “[Sonnet XI: A Book was writ of late],” line 11.

19 - “Rail’d at Latona’s twin-born . . .”     “[Sonnet XII: I did but prompt the age to quit],” lines 6-7.

20 - “Dante shall give Fame . . .”     “[Sonnet XIII: Harry whose tuneful and well measur’d],” lines 12-14.

21 - “Meekly thou didst resign . . .”     “[Sonnet XIV: When Faith and Love which parted],” lines 3-4.

22 - “But as Faith pointed . . .”     “[Sonnet XIV: When Faith and Love which parted],” lines 7-8.

23 - “Till Favonius re-inspire . . .”     “[Sonnet XX: Lawrence of vertuous Father],” lines 6-8.

24 - “The better part with Mary . . .”   “[Sonnet IX: Lady that in the prime],” lines 5-6.

25 - “The breaking of that . . .”     “[Sonnet X: Daughter to that good Earl],” lines 5-8.]



[S:0 - MS, 1829] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Excerpts from Milton (MS notes)