July 09, 2008
I recently finished reading Edgar Allan Poe’s pros.
This week I went on to finish his poems.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed both.
It seems his work is unfairly stereotyped as morbid and demented.
While he has a number of dark stories,
for the most part his pros and poems aren’t so much dark
as they are visceral, un-fearing, well researched,
and above all penetrating and memorable,
with an unflinching examination of the psyche.
It’s no wonder Dostoevsky drew inspiration from Poe.
I would copy the passages I circled while reading the pros,
but that would be too much,
luckily I am much harder to please with poetry
and so copying the lines of his poems that resonated with me is manageable.
“The Raven” and “A Dream Within A Dream”
were the two poems where I liked every word of every line.
The first is too long and well known for me to bother copying,
So I’ll start with the latter
and follow it with my favorite fragments of his other poems.
A Dream Within A Dream
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
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.
Ah, less — less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl —
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl.
“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!
And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy grey eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams-
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.
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.
To-day (the wind blew, and) it swung
So impudently in my face,
So like a thing alive you know,
I tore it from its pride of place
And shook it into pieces — so
Be all ingratitude requited.
The winds ran off with it delighted,
Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
With drowsy head and folded wing,
Like – eyes of the maiden
Who calls on you now –
Arise! from your dreaming
In violet bowers,
To duty beseeming
These star-litten hours –
And shake from your tresses
Encumber’d with dew
The breath of those kisses
That cumber them too –
(O! how, without you, Love!
Could angels be blest?)
Those kisses of true Love
That lull’d ye to rest!
Up! – shake from your wing
Each hindering thing:
The dew of the night –
It would weigh down your flight
And true love caresses –
O, leave them apart!
They are light on the tresses,
But lead on the heart.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight-
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define-
Nor Love–although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining-
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.
We grew in age- and love- together,
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather-
And when the friendly sunshine smil’d,
And she would mark the opening skies,
I saw no Heaven- but in her eyes.
What tho’ the moon- the white moon
Shed all the splendour of her noon,
Her smile is chilly, and her beam,
In that time of dreariness, will seem
(So like you gather in your breath)
A portrait taken after death.
And boyhood is a summer sun
Whose waning is the dreariest one-
For all we live to know is known,
And all we seek to keep hath flown-
Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall
With the noon-day beauty- which is all.