"To Elizabeth" (1835)
Edgar Allan Poe
Elizabeth, it surely is most fit
[Logic and common usage so commanding]
In thy own book that first thy name be writ,
Zeno and other sages notwithstanding;
And I have other reasons for so doing
Besides my innate love of contradiction;
Each poet - if a poet - in pursuing
The muses thro' their bowers of Truth or Fiction,
Has studied very little of his part,
Read nothing, written less - in short's a fool
Endued with neither soul, nor sense, nor art,
Being ignorant of one important rule,
Employed in even the theses of the school-
Called - I forget the heathenish Greek name
[Called anything, its meaning is the same]
"Always write first things uppermost in the heart."
To F——s S. O——d (1835 / 1845)
Originally a poem called "To Elizabeth," dedicated to Poe's cousin Elizabeth Herring and written in an album of hers. It was then published in a revised version in the September 1835 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger as "Lines Written in an Album" and apparently addressed to Eliza White. The poem in this version began, "Eliza! let they generous heart / From its present pathway part not." White was the then 18-year old daughter of Thomas Willis White, Poe's employer while he worked at the Messenger. Poe may have considered pursuing a relationship with her before his marriage to his cousin Virginia. One story suggests that Virginia's mother Maria expedited Poe's marriage to Virginia in order to prevent Poe's involvement with Eliza White. T. W. White's apprentice in old age would later say that Poe and Eliza were nothing more than friends.
The poem was renamed to the ambiguous "To —" in the August 1839 issue of Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine. With minor revisions, it was finally renamed in honor of Frances Sargent Osgood (above) and published in the 1845 collection The Raven and Other Poems.
The speaker asks the addressee, "Thou wouldst be loved?" and suggest she stay on her current path to achieve that goal.