Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poe's Valentines: Romance (1829)

Romance (1829)
"Romance" first appeared as "Preface" in the 1829 collection Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems then, in 1831, as "Introduction" in Poems By Edgar A. Poe. It took the title "Romance" in the February 25, 1843 issue of the Philadelphia Saturday Museum. The early versions made some allusion to alcohol with lines like, "drunkenness of the soul" and "the glories of the bowl." In the poem, the speaker refers to some exotic bird that has been with him his whole life. He also says, "I could not love except where Death / Was mingling his with Beauty's breath," a line often termed autobiographical as many of the women in Poe's love life were ill (an early love Jane Stanard died of tuberculosis, as did his wife Virginia; also, his later love Sarah Helen Whitman had a weak heart, etc.).

Edgar Allan Poe

Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
With drowsy head and folded wing,
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted paroquet
Hath been—a most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say—
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.

Succeeding years, too wild for song,
Then roll'd like tropic storms along,
Where, tho' the garish lights that fly
Dying along the troubled sky,
Lay bare, thro' vistas thunder-riven,
The blackness of the general Heaven,
That very blackness yet doth fling
Light on the lightning's silver wing.

For, being an idle boy lang syne,
Who read Anacreon, and drank wine,
I early found Anacreon rhymes
Were almost passionate sometimes-
And by strange alchemy of brain
His pleasures always turn'd to pain-
His naivete to wild desire-
His wit to love-his wine to fire-
And so, being young and dipt in folly
I fell in love with melancholy,
And used to throw my earthly jest
And quiet all away in jest-
I could not love except where Death
Was mingling his with Beauty's breath-
Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny
Were stalking between her and me.

O, then the eternal Condor years
So shook the very Heavens on high,
With tumult as they thunder'd by;
I had no time for idle cares,
Thro' gazing on the unquiet sky!

Or if an hour with calmer wing
Its down did on my spirit fling,
That little hour with lyre and rhyme
To while away-forbidden thing!
My heart half fear'd to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the string.

But now my soul hath too much room-
Gone are the glory and the gloom-
The black hath mellow'd into grey,
And all the fires are fading away.

My draught of passion hath been deep-
I revell'd, and I now would sleep-
And after-drunkenness of the soul
Succeeds the glories of the bowl-
An idle longing night and day
To dream my very life away.

But dreams-of those who dream as I,
Aspiringly, are damned, and die:
Yet should I swear I mean alone,
By notes so very shrilly blown,
To break upon Time's monotone,
While yet my vapid joy and grief
Are tintless of the yellow leaf-
Why not an imp the greybeard hath,
Will shake his shadow in my path-
And even the greybeard will o'erlook
Connivingly my dreaming-book.

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