Tamerlane

Edgar Allan Poe - 1809-1849
     Kind solace in a dying hour!
         Such, father, is not (now) my theme—
     I will not madly deem that power
             Of Earth may shrive me of the sin
             Unearthly pride hath revell’d in—
         I have no time to dote or dream:
     You call it hope—that fire of fire!
     It is but agony of desire:
     If I can hope—Oh God! I can—
         Its fount is holier—more divine—
     I would not call thee fool, old man,
         But such is not a gift of thine.

     Know thou the secret of a spirit
         Bow’d from its wild pride into shame.
     O! yearning heart! I did inherit
         Thy withering portion with the fame,
     The searing glory which hath shone
     Amid the jewels of my throne,
     Halo of Hell! and with a pain
     Not Hell shall make me fear again—
     O! craving heart, for the lost flowers
     And sunshine of my summer hours!
     Th’ undying voice of that dead time,
     With its interminable chime,
     Rings, in the spirit of a spell,
     Upon thy emptiness—a knell.

     I have not always been as now:
     The fever’d diadem on my brow
         I claim’d and won usurpingly—
     Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
         Rome to the Caesar—this to me?
             The heritage of a kingly mind,
     And a proud spirit which hath striven
             Triumphantly with human kind.

     On mountain soil I first drew life:
         The mists of the Taglay have shed
         Nightly their dews upon my head,
     And, I believe, the winged strife
     And tumult of the headlong air
     Have nestled in my very hair.

     So late from Heaven—that dew—it fell
         (Mid dreams of an unholy night)
     Upon me—with the touch of Hell,
         While the red flashing of the light
     From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,
         Appeared to my half-closing eye
         The pageantry of monarchy,
     And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar
         Came hurriedly upon me, telling
             Of human battle, where my voice,
         My own voice, silly child!—was swelling
             (O! how my spirit would rejoice,
     And leap within me at the cry)
     The battle-cry of Victory!

     The rain came down upon my head
         Unshelter’d—and the heavy wind
         Was giantlike—so thou, my mind!—
     It was but man, I thought, who shed
         Laurels upon me: and the rush—
     The torrent of the chilly air
     Gurgled within my ear the crush
         Of empires—with the captive’s prayer—
     The hum of suiters—and the tone
     Of flattery ‘round a sovereign’s throne.

     My passions, from that hapless hour,
         Usurp’d a tyranny which men
     Have deem’d, since I have reach’d to power;
             My innate nature—be it so:
         But, father, there liv’d one who, then,
     Then—in my boyhood—when their fire
             Burn’d with a still intenser glow,
     (For passion must, with youth, expire)
         E’en then who knew this iron heart
         In woman’s weakness had a part.

     I have no words—alas!—to tell
     The loveliness of loving well!
     Nor would I now attempt to trace
     The more than beauty of a face
     Whose lineaments, upon my mind,
     Are—shadows on th’ unstable wind:
     Thus I remember having dwelt
     Some page of early lore upon,
     With loitering eye, till I have felt
     The letters—with their meaning—melt
     To fantasies—with none.

     O, she was worthy of all love!
     Love—as in infancy was mine—
     ‘Twas such as angel minds above
     Might envy; her young heart the shrine
     On which my ev’ry hope and thought
         Were incense—then a goodly gift,
             For they were childish—and upright—
     Pure—as her young example taught:
         Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
             Trust to the fire within, for light?

     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.

     Young Love’s first lesson is—the heart:
         For ‘mid that sunshine, and those smiles,
     When, from our little cares apart,
         And laughing at her girlish wiles,
     I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,
         And pour my spirit out in tears—
     There was no need to speak the rest—
         No need to quiet any fears
     Of her—who ask’d no reason why,
     But turn’d on me her quiet eye!

     Yet more than worthy of the love
     My spirit struggled with, and strove,
     When, on the mountain peak, alone,
     Ambition lent it a new tone—
     I had no being—but in thee:
         The world, and all it did contain
     In the earth—the air—the sea—
         Its joy—its little lot of pain
     That was new pleasure—the ideal,
         Dim, vanities of dreams by night—
     And dimmer nothings which were real—
         (Shadows—and a more shadowy light!)
     Parted upon their misty wings,
             And, so, confusedly, became
             Thine image, and—a name—a name!
     Two separate—yet most intimate things.

     I was ambitious—have you known
             The passion, father? You have not:
     A cottager, I mark’d a throne
     Of half the world as all my own,
             And murmur’d at such lowly lot—
     But, just like any other dream,
             Upon the vapour of the dew
     My own had past, did not the beam
             Of beauty which did while it thro’ 
     The minute—the hour—the day—oppress
     My mind with double loveliness.

     We walk’d together on the crown
     Of a high mountain which look’d down
     Afar from its proud natural towers
         Of rock and forest, on the hills—
     The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers
         And shouting with a thousand rills.

     I spoke to her of power and pride,
         But mystically—in such guise
     That she might deem it nought beside
         The moment’s converse; in her eyes
     I read, perhaps too carelessly—
         A mingled feeling with my own—
     The flush on her bright cheek, to me
         Seem’d to become a queenly throne
     Too well that I should let it be
         Light in the wilderness alone.

     I wrapp’d myself in grandeur then,
         And donn’d a visionary crown—
             Yet it was not that Fantasy
             Had thrown her mantle over me—
     But that, among the rabble—men,
             Lion ambition is chain’d down—
     And crouches to a keeper’s hand—
     Not so in deserts where the grand
     The wild—the terrible conspire
     With their own breath to fan his fire.

     Look ‘round thee now on Samarcand!—
         Is not she queen of Earth? her pride
     Above all cities? in her hand
         Their destinies? in all beside
     Of glory which the world hath known
     Stands she not nobly and alone?
     Falling—her veriest stepping-stone
     Shall form the pedestal of a throne—
     And who her sovereign? Timour—he
         Whom the astonished people saw
     Striding o’er empires haughtily
         A diadem’d outlaw—

     O! human love! thou spirit given,
     On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!
     Which fall’st into the soul like rain
     Upon the Siroc wither’d plain,
     And failing in thy power to bless
     But leav’st the heart a wilderness!
     Idea! which bindest life around
     With music of so strange a sound
     And beauty of so wild a birth—
     Farewell! for I have won the Earth!

     When Hope, the eagle that tower’d, could see
         No cliff beyond him in the sky,
     His pinions were bent droopingly—
         And homeward turn’d his soften’d eye.
     ‘Twas sunset: when the sun will part
     There comes a sullenness of heart
     To him who still would look upon
     The glory of the summer sun.
     That soul will hate the ev’ning mist,
     So often lovely, and will list
     To the sound of the coming darkness (known
     To those whose spirits hearken) as one
     Who, in a dream of night, would fly
     But cannot from a danger nigh.

     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.

     I reach’d my home—my home no more—
         For all had flown who made it so—
     I pass’d from out its mossy door,
         And, tho’ my tread was soft and low,
     A voice came from the threshold stone
     Of one whom I had earlier known—
         O! I defy thee, Hell, to show
         On beds of fire that burn below,
         A humbler heart—a deeper wo—

     Father, I firmly do believe—
         I know—for Death, who comes for me
             From regions of the blest afar,
     Where there is nothing to deceive,
             Hath left his iron gate ajar,
         And rays of truth you cannot see
         Are flashing thro’ Eternity—
     I do believe that Eblis hath
     A snare in ev’ry human path—
     Else how, when in the holy grove
     I wandered of the idol, Love,
     Who daily scents his snowy wings
     With incense of burnt offerings
     From the most unpolluted things,
     Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
     Above with trelliced rays from Heaven
     No mote may shun—no tiniest fly
     The light’ning of his eagle eye—
     How was it that Ambition crept,
         Unseen, amid the revels there,
     Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
         In the tangles of Love’s very hair?

More by Edgar Allan Poe

El Dorado

   Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
   Had journeyed long,
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old,
   This knight so bold,
And o'er his heart a shadow
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow;
   "Shadow," said he,
   "Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

   "Over the mountains
   Of the moon,
Down the valley of the shadow,
   Ride, boldly ride,"
   The shade replied,--
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
    The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece.
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
    How statue-like I see thee stand!
    The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!

Ulalume

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll—
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
Our memories were treacherous and sere,—
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)—
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here)—
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn—
As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said: "She is warmer than Dian;
She rolls through an ether of sighs—
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies—
To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said: "Sadly this star I mistrust—
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:
Ah, hasten! —ah, let us not linger!
Ah, fly! —let us fly! -for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until 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.

I replied: "This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendour is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty tonight!—
See!—it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright—
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom—
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said: "What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied: "Ulalume -Ulalume—
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere—
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: "It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed—I journeyed down here!—
That I brought a dread burden down here—
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."