Poe's Poetry

Poems of Youth: Al Aaraaf


O! nothing earthly save the ray

(Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye,

As in those gardens where the day

Springs from the gems of Circassy -

O! nothing earthly save the thrill

Of melody in woodland rill -

Or (music of the passion-hearted)

Joy's voice so peacefully departed

That like the murmur in the shell,

Its echo dwelleth and will dwell -

O! nothing of the dross of ours -

Yet all the beauty - all the flowers

That list our Love, and deck our bowers -

Adorn yon world afar, afar -

The wandering star.

'Twas a sweet time for Nesace - for there

Her world lay lolling on the golden air,

Near four bright suns - a temporary rest -

An oasis in desert of the blest.

Away away - 'mid seas of rays that roll

Empyrean splendor o'er th' unchained soul -

The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)

Can struggle to its destin'd eminence -

To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode,

And late to ours, the favour'd one of God -

But, now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm,

She throws aside the sceptre - leaves the helm,

And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns,

Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.

Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth,

Whence sprang the "Idea of Beauty" into birth,

(Falling in wreaths thro' many a startled star,

Like woman's hair 'mid pearls, until, afar,

It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt),

She look'd into Infinity - and knelt.

Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled -

Fit emblems of the model of her world -

Seen but in beauty - not impeding sight -

Of other beauty glittering thro' the light -

A wreath that twined each starry form around,

And all the opal'd air in color bound.

All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed

Of flowers: of lilies such as rear'd the head

On the fair Capo Deucato [2], and sprang

So eagerly around about to hang

Upon the flying footsteps of - deep pride -

Of her who lov'd a mortal - and so died [3].

The Sephalica, budding with young bees,

Uprear'd its purple stem around her knees:

And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam'd [4] -

Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham'd

All other loveliness: its honied dew

(The fabled nectar that the heathen knew)

Deliriously sweet, was dropp'd from Heaven,

And fell on gardens of the unforgiven

In Trebizond - and on a sunny flower

So like its own above that, to this hour,

It still remaineth, torturing the bee

With madness, and unwonted reverie:

In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf

And blossom of the fairy plant, in grief

Disconsolate linger - grief that hangs her head,

Repenting follies that full long have fled,

Heaving her white breast to the balmy air,

Like guilty beauty, chasten'd, and more fair:

Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light

She fears to perfume, perfuming the night:

And Clytia [5] pondering between many a sun,

While pettish tears adown her petals run:

And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth [6] -

And died, ere scarce exalted into birth,

Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing

Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king:

And Valisnerian lotus thither flown [7]

From struggling with the waters of the Rhone:

And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante [8]!

Isola d'oro! - Fior di Levante!

And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever [9]

With Indian Cupid down the holy river -

Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given

To bear the Goddess' song, in odors, up to Heaven [10]:

"Spirit! that dwellest where,

In the deep sky,

The terrible and fair,

In beauty vie!

Beyond the line of blue -

The boundary of the star

Which turneth at the view

Of thy barrier and thy bar -

Of the barrier overgone

By the comets who were cast

From their pride, and from their throne

To be drudges till the last -

To be carriers of fire

(The red fire of their heart)

With speed that may not tire

And with pain that shall not part -

Who livest - that we know -

In Eternity - we feel -

But the shadow of whose brow

What spirit shall reveal?

Tho' the beings whom thy Nesace,

Thy messenger hath known

Have dream'd for thy Infinity

A model of their own [11] -

Thy will is done, O God!

The star hath ridden high

Thro' many a tempest, but she rode

Beneath thy burning eye;

And here, in thought, to thee -

In thought that can alone

Ascend thy empire and so be

A partner of thy throne -

By winged Fantasy [12],

My embassy is given,

Till secrecy shall knowledge be

In the environs of Heaven."

She ceas'd - and buried then her burning cheek

Abash'd, amid the lilies there, to seek

A shelter from the fervor of His eye;

For the stars trembled at the Deity.

She stirr'd not - breath'd not - for a voice was there

How solemnly pervading the calm air!

A sound of silence on the startled ear

Which dreamy poets name "the music of the sphere."

Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call

"Silence" - which is the merest word of all.

All Nature speaks, and ev'n ideal things

Flap shadowy sounds from the visionary wings -

But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high

The eternal voice of God is passing by,

And the red winds are withering in the sky!

"What tho' in worlds which sightless cycles run [13],

Link'd to a little system, and one sun -

Where all my love is folly, and the crowd

Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud,

The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath

(Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?)

What tho' in worlds which own a single sun

The sands of time grow dimmer as they run,

Yet thine is my resplendency, so given

To bear my secrets thro' the upper Heaven.

Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly,

With all thy train, athwart the moony sky -

Apart - like fire-flies in Sicilian night [14],

And wing to other worlds another light!

Divulge the secrets of thy embassy

To the proud orbs that twinkle - and so be

To ev'ry heart a barrier and a ban

Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!"

Up rose the maiden in the yellow night,

The single-mooned eve!-on earth we plight

Our faith to one love - and one moon adore -

The birth-place of young Beauty had no more.

As sprang that yellow star from downy hours,

Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers,

And bent o'er sheeny mountain and dim plain

Her way - but left not yet her Therasaean reign [15].


High on a mountain of enamell'd head -

Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed

Of giant pasturage lying at his ease,

Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees

With many a mutter'd "hope to be forgiven"

What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven -

Of rosy head, that towering far away

Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray

Of sunken suns at eve - at noon of night,

While the moon danc'd with the fair stranger light -

Uprear'd upon such height arose a pile

Of gorgeous columns on th' uuburthen'd air,

Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile

Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,

And nursled the young mountain in its lair.

Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall [16]

Thro' the ebon air, besilvering the pall

Of their own dissolution, while they die -

Adorning then the dwellings of the sky.

A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down,

Sat gently on these columns as a crown -

A window of one circular diamond, there,

Look'd out above into the purple air

And rays from God shot down that meteor chain

And hallow'd all the beauty twice again,

Save when, between th' Empyrean and that ring,

Some eager spirit flapp'd his dusky wing.

But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen

The dimness of this world: that grayish green

That Nature loves the best for Beauty's grave

Lurk'd in each cornice, round each architrave -

And every sculptured cherub thereabout

That from his marble dwelling peered out,

Seem'd earthly in the shadow of his niche -

Achaian statues in a world so rich?

Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis [17] -

From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss

Of beautiful Gomorrah! Oh, the wave [18]

Is now upon thee - but too late to save!

Sound loves to revel in a summer night:

Witness the murmur of the gray twilight

That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco [19],

Of many a wild star-gazer long ago -

That stealeth ever on the ear of him

Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim,

And sees the darkness coming as a cloud -

Is not its form - its voice - most palpable and loud?[20]

But what is this? - it cometh - and it brings

A music with it - 'tis the rush of wings -

A pause - and then a sweeping, falling strain,

And Nesace is in her halls again.

From the wild energy of wanton haste

Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart;

The zone that clung around her gentle waist

Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart.

Within the centre of that hall to breathe

She paus'd and panted, Zanthe! all beneath,

The fairy light that kiss'd her golden hair

And long'd to rest, yet could but sparkle there!

Young flowers were whispering in melody [21]

To happy flowers that night - and tree to tree;

Fountains were gushing music as they fell

In many a star-lit grove, or moon-light dell;

Yet silence came upon material things -

Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings -

And sound alone that from the spirit sprang

Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:

"Neath blue-bell or streamer -

Or tufted wild spray

That keeps, from the dreamer,

The moonbeam away - [22]

Bright beings! that ponder,

With half-closing eyes,

On the stars which your wonder

Hath drawn from the skies,

Till they glance thro' the shade, and

Come down to your brow

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.

Ligeia! Ligeia!

My beautiful one!

Whose harshest idea

Will to melody run,

O! is it thy will

On the breezes to toss?

Or, capriciously still,

Like the lone Albatross, [23]

Incumbent on night

(As she on the air)

To keep watch with delight

On the harmony there?

Ligeia! wherever

Thy image may be,

No magic shall sever

Thy music from thee.

Thou hast bound many eyes

In a dreamy sleep -

But the strains still arise

Which thy vigilance keep -

The sound of the rain

Which leaps down to the flower,

And dances again

In the rhythm of the shower -

The murmur that springs [24]

From the growing of grass

Are the music of things -

But are modell'd, alas!

Away, then, my dearest,

O! hie thee away

To springs that lie clearest

Beneath the moon-ray -

To lone lake that smiles,

In its dream of deep rest,

At the many star-isles

That enjewel its breast -

Where wild flowers, creeping,

Have mingled their shade,

On its margin is sleeping

Full many a maid -

Some have left the cool glade, and

Have slept with the bee - [25]

Arouse them, my maiden,

On moorland and lea -

Go! breathe on their slumber,

All softly in ear,

The musical number

They slumber'd to hear -

For what can awaken

An angel so soon

Whose sleep hath been taken

Beneath the cold moon,

As the spell which no slumber

Of witchery may test,

The rhythmical number

Which lull'd him to rest?"

Spirits in wing, and angels to the view,

A thousand seraphs burst th' Empyrean thro',

Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight -

Seraphs in all but "Knowledge," the keen light

That fell, refracted, thro' thy bounds afar,

O death! from eye of God upon that star;

Sweet was that error - sweeter still that death -

Sweet was that error - ev'n with us the breath

Of Science dims the mirror of our joy -

To them 'twere the Simoom, and would destroy -

For what (to them) availeth it to know

That Truth is Falsehood - or that Bliss is Woe?

Sweet was their death - with them to die was rife

With the last ecstasy of satiate life -

Beyond that death no immortality -

But sleep that pondereth and is not "to be" -

And there - oh! may my weary spirit dwell -

Apart from Heaven's Eternity - and yet how far from Hell! [26]

What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim

Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn?

But two: they fell: for heaven no grace imparts

To those who hear not for their beating hearts.

A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover -

O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over)

Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known?

Unguided Love hath fallen - 'mid "tears of perfect moan." [27]

He was a goodly spirit - he who fell:

A wanderer by mossy-mantled well -

A gazer on the lights that shine above -

A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:

What wonder? for each star is eye-like there,

And looks so sweetly down on Beauty's hair -

And they, and ev'ry mossy spring were holy

To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.

The night had found (to him a night of wo)

Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo -

Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky,

And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie.

Here sate he with his love - his dark eye bent

With eagle gaze along the firmament:

Now turn'd it upon her - but ever then

It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.

"Ianthe, dearest, see! how dim that ray!

How lovely 'tis to look so far away!

She seemed not thus upon that autumn eve

I left her gorgeous halls - nor mourned to leave,

That eve - that eve - I should remember well -

The sun-ray dropped, in Lemnos with a spell

On th' Arabesque carving of a gilded hall

Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall -

And on my eyelids - O, the heavy light!

How drowsily it weighed them into night!

On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran

With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan:

But O, that light! - I slumbered - Death, the while,

Stole o'er my senses in that lovely isle

So softly that no single silken hair

Awoke that slept - or knew that he was there.

"The last spot of Earth's orb I trod upon

Was a proud temple called the Parthenon; [28]

More beauty clung around her columned wall

Then even thy glowing bosom beats withal, [29]

And when old Time my wing did disenthral

Thence sprang I - as the eagle from his tower,

And years I left behind me in an hour.

What time upon her airy bounds I hung,

One half the garden of her globe was flung

Unrolling as a chart unto my view -

Tenantless cities of the desert too!

Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then,

And half I wished to be again of men."

"My Angelo! and why of them to be?

A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee -

And greener fields than in yon world above,

And woman's loveliness - and passionate love."

"But list, Ianthe! when the air so soft

Failed, as my pennoned spirit leapt aloft, [30]

Perhaps my brain grew dizzy - but the world

I left so late was into chaos hurled,

Sprang from her station, on the winds apart,

And rolled a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart.

Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar,

And fell - not swiftly as I rose before,

But with a downward, tremulous motion thro'

Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto!

Nor long the measure of my falling hours,

For nearest of all stars was thine to ours -

Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth,

A red Daedalion on the timid Earth."

"We came - and to thy Earth - but not to us

Be given our lady's bidding to discuss:

We came, my love; around, above, below,

Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go,

Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod

She grants to us as granted by her God -

But, Angelo, than thine gray Time unfurled

Never his fairy wing o'er fairer world!

Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes

Alone could see the phantom in the skies,

When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be

Headlong thitherward o'er the starry sea -

But when its glory swelled upon the sky,

As glowing Beauty's bust beneath man's eye,

We paused before the heritage of men,

And thy star trembled - as doth Beauty then!"

Thus in discourse, the lovers whiled away

The night that waned and waned and brought no day.

They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts

Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.


Footnote 1: A star was discovered by Tycho Brahe which appeared suddenly in the heavens - attained, in a few days, a brilliancy surpassing that of Jupiter - then as suddenly disappeared, and has never been seen since.

Footnote 2: On Santa Maura - olim Deucadia.

Footnote 3: Sappho.

Footnote 4: This flower is much noticed by Lewenhoeck and Tournefort. The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.

Footnote: Clytia - the Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ a better-known term, the turnsol - which turns continually towards the sun, covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewy clouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heat of the day. - 'B. de St. Pierre.'

Footnote 6: There is cultivated in the king's garden at Paris, a species of serpentine aloe without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odor of the vanilla, during the time of its expansion, which is very short. It does not blow till towards the month of July - you then perceive it gradually open its petals - expand them - fade and die. - 'St. Pierre'.

Footnote 7: There is found, in the Rhone, a beautiful lily of the Valisnerian kind. Its stem will stretch to the length of three or four feet - thus preserving its head above water in the swellings of the river.

Footnote 8: The Hyacinth.

Footnote 9: It is a fiction of the Indians, that Cupid was first seen floating in one of these down the river Ganges, and that he still loves the cradle of his childhood.

Footnote 10: And golden vials full of odors which are the prayers of the saints. - 'Rev. St. John.'

Footnote 11: The Humanitarians held that God was to be understood as having really a human form. - 'Vide Clarke's Sermons', vol. I, page 26, fol. edit.

The drift of Milton's argument leads him to employ language which would appear, at first sight, to verge upon their doctrine; but it will be seen immediately, that he guards himself against the charge of having adopted one of the most ignorant errors of the dark ages of the Church. - 'Dr. Sumner's Notes on Milton's Christian Doctrine'.

This opinion, in spite of many testimonies to the contrary, could never have been very general. Andeus, a Syrian of Mesopotamia, was condemned for the opinion, as heretical. He lived in the beginning of the fourth century. His disciples were called Anthropomorphites. - 'Vide du Pin'.

Among Milton's minor poems are these lines:

Dicite sacrorum praeesides nemorum Dese, etc.,

Quis ille primus cujus ex imagine

Natura solers finxit humanum genus?

Eternus, incorruptus, aequaevus polo,

Unusque et universus exemplar Dei.

- And afterwards,

Non cui profundum Caecitas lumen dedit

Dircaeus augur vidit hunc alto sinu, etc.

Footnote 12:

Seltsamen Tochter Jovis

Seinem Schosskinde

Der Phantasie.


Footnote 13: Sightless - too small to be seen. - 'Legge'.

Footnote 14: I have often noticed a peculiar movement of the fire-flies; they will collect in a body and fly off, from a common centre, into innumerable radii.

Footnote 15: Therasaea, or Therasea, the island mentioned by Seneca, which, in a moment, arose from the sea to the eyes of astonished mariners.

Footnote 16:

Some star which, from the ruin'd roof

Of shak'd Olympus, by mischance did fall.


Footnote 17: Voltaire, in speaking of Persepolis, says,

"Je connais bien l'admiration qu'inspirent ces ruines - mais un palais

erige au pied d'une chaine de rochers steriles - peut-il etre un chef

d'oeuvre des arts!"

Footnote 18: "Oh, the wave" - Ula Deguisi is the Turkish appellation; but, on its own shores, it is called Baliar Loth, or Al-motanah. There were undoubtedly more than two cities engulphed in the "dead sea." In the valley of Siddim were five - Adrah, Zeboin, Zoar, Sodom and Gomorrah. Stephen of Byzantium mentions eight, and Strabo thirteen (engulphed)- but the last is out of all reason. It is said (Tacitus, Strabo, Josephus, Daniel of St. Saba, Nau, Maundrell, Troilo, D'Arvieux), that after an excessive drought, the vestiges of columns, walls, etc., are seen above the surface. At 'any' season, such remains may be discovered by looking down into the transparent lake, and at such distance as would argue the existence of many settlements in the space now usurped by the "Asphaltites."

Footnote 19: Eyraco-Chaldea.

Footnote 20: I have often thought I could distinctly hear the sound of the darkness as it stole over the horizon.

Footnote 21:

Fairies use flowers for their charactery.

'Merry Wives of Windsor'.

Footnote 22: In Scripture is this passage:

"The sun shall not harm thee by day, nor the moon by night."

It is, perhaps, not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has the effect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposed to its rays, to which circumstances the passage evidently alludes.

Footnote 23: The Albatross is said to sleep on the wing.

Footnote 24: I met with this idea in an old English tale, which I am now unable to obtain and quote from memory:

"The verie essence and, as it were, springe heade and origine of all

musiche is the verie pleasaunte sounde which the trees of the forest

do make when they growe."

Footnote 25: The wild bee will not sleep in the shade if there be moonlight. The rhyme in the verse, as in one about sixty lines before, has an appearance of affectation. It is, however, imitated from Sir W. Scott, or rather from Claud Halcro - in whose mouth I admired its effect:

O! were there an island,

Tho' ever so wild,

Where woman might smile, and

No man be beguil'd, etc.

Footnote 26: With the Arabians there is a medium between Heaven and Hell, where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be characteristic of heavenly enjoyment.

Un no rompido sueno -

Un dia puro - allegre - libre

Quiera -

Libre de amor - de zelo -

De odio - de esperanza - de rezelo.

'Luis Ponce de Leon.'

Sorrow is not excluded from "Al Aaraaf," but it is that sorrow which the living love to cherish for the dead, and which, in some minds, resembles the delirium of opium.

The passionate excitement of Love and the buoyancy of spirit attendant upon intoxication are its less holy pleasures - the price of which, to those souls who make choice of "Al Aaraaf" as their residence after life, is final death and annihilation.

Footnote 27:

There be tears of perfect moan

Wept for thee in Helicon.


Footnote 28: It was entire in 1687 - the most elevated spot in Athens.

Footnote 29:

Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows

Than have the white breasts of the queen of love.


Footnote 30: Pennon, for pinion. - 'Milton'.