Monday, March 20, 2006

To One in Paradise

Edgar Allan Poe


Thou wast all that to me, love,
For which my soul did pine:
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope, that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
"On! on!"—but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast.

For, alas! alas! with me
The light of Life is o'er!
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 gray eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams—
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.

What better antidote to all that Larkin and Stevens than this sort of overblown romanticism?

At one level, this is an almost grotesquely over the top poem - to the point where it's hard to read the 'fairy fruits and flowers' line without wincing a little. What rescues it, I think, is the rhythm of it, the verbal music, the way the sound ebbs and flows, falls and rises. Those two central stanzas are pregnant with a sense of struggle, products of a mind torn and tortured into repetition and digression. So that the easy flow of the last stanza feels more authentically like peace, like consolation, like transcendence.

2 notes on the text:

1. If you listened carefully to my fairly awkward rendition of the poem, you would have noticed that it doesn't quite match the text. That's because when I recorded the poem it was from memory, and I only accessed the text later. And because I'm too lazy to go back and re-record.

2. In searching for a version of this text online (the one here comes from Bartleby) I came upon this alternate version of the poem which contrasts with both my memory and the Bartleby version and anyway doesn't scan as well.

Finally, fun fact: There's an episode of the original 1966 Batman Series where Batman quotes the last stanza of this poem to Catwoman (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the allusions section). Holy Poetry Batman!


Anonymous sa re ga ma said...

1. considered reading out the comments section aloud?
2. Could I please request - dreams within dreams by Poe?

3/21/2006 02:15:00 PM  

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