From the Crypt

The Sleeper

  Edgar Allan Poe  (1809-1849)

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin molders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!- and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

O, lady bright! can it be right-
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop-
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully- so fearfully-
Above the closed and fringed lid
‘Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come O’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress,
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
For ever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold-
Some vault that oft has flung its black
And winged panels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls,
Of her grand family funerals-

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portal she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone-
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.




    Multitudes of spirits appeared beneath the umbrage, and luminous mantles were folded about rapidly moving form. Some wore crowns upon their heads; others tiaras; and others decorations of which I knew not the name, but which appeared to be wrought of clusters of jewels, wreaths of golden coin, and cloth of gold and silver tissue. Others, wore towering helmets; and others circlets filled with glistening and waving plumes. A pale phosphorescence was emitted by every object, and all appeared a splendid masquerade. The apparel worn by these busy myriads corresponded with the ornaments of the head; hence every variety of sumptuous apparel was displayed upon their forms. Kings and queens appeared arrayed in the gorgeous robes of coronation. Groups of nobility of both sexes, also decorated with all the varieties of adornment displayed in the pageantry of kingly courts. Dense multitudes were visible in costume, proper to the highly cultivated nations; and as they passed by, I discovered similar groups composed of less civilized tribes, attired in barbaric ornaments of every form. While some appeared clothed in the habiliments of the present day, others were in ancient attire; but every class of spirits manifested, in the midst of variety of mode, a uniformity of external pride, pomp, and rapidly moving and dazzling luster.

from Scenes From Beyond the Grave
first published in 1865 by Marietta Davis.

Hell’s Thousand Thrones: Dim West

LO! Death has reared himself a throne

In a strange city lying alone

Far down within the dim West,

Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best

Have gone to their eternal rest.

There shrines and palaces and towers

(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)

Resemble nothing that is ours.

Around, by lifting winds forgot,

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down

On the long night-time of that town;

But light from out the lurid sea

Streams up the turrets silently —

Gleams up the pinnacles far and free —

Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —

Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —

Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers

Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers —

Up many and many a marvellous shrine

Whose wreathed friezes intertwine

The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

So blend the turrets and shadows there

That all seem pendulous in air,

While from a proud tower in the town

Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves

Yawn level with the luminous waves;

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol’s diamond eye —

Not the gaily-jewelled dead

Tempt the waters from their bed;

For no ripples curl, alas!

Along that wilderness of glass —

No swellings tell that winds may be

Upon some far-off happier sea —

No heavings hint that winds have been

On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!

The wave — there is a movement there!

As if the towers had thrown aside,

In slightly sinking, the dull tide —

As if their tops had feebly given

A void within the filmy Heaven.

The waves have now a redder glow —

The hours are breathing faint and low —

And when, amid no earthly moans,

Down, down that town shall settle hence.

Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,

Shall do it reverence.




     The City in the Sea

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 1849)

Classical Monsters

I am on (in?) a Classical groove today, having posted two favorite poems:
Poe’s To Helen  and Nerval’s Delfica.

They share many similar Hellenic traits (or is Hellenistic a better term? Someone explain the difference  please—it’s all Greek to me).  I find many rich associations in both poems. In To Helen , the image of those Odyssean triremes transports me to the ancient Aegean, where the the name Psyche combines with Delos to form “psychedelic” (a purely subjective association, I know).  By now I am hearing Cream’s Tales of Brave Ulysses in my mind—but I digress . . .

If you know French, I hope you will enjoy Delfica. Here is a translation into English by A.Z. Foresman if you don’t.

Psyche’s agate lamp has illuminated and inspired me ever since I first went on an E.A. Poe kick around the same time I got interested in Symbolist art during the mid 80’s.  But long before that, in 4th grade, I attempted to memorize The Raven. I can still make it up until the line “… sorrow for the lost Lenore”.  I was really into horror movies as a kid, which would explain some of what you find at this blog.  I had a subscription to Famous monsters of Filmland magazine in the early 70’s. Did any of you read Monster magazine as a kid? I was obsessed with creepy stuff. I used to BEG my parents to let me stay up late on Saturday night for Creature Feature and Tales of the Unknown. (Channel 56 if you grew up in the Boston area)

Back to the poems: Nerval’s Chimères have fascinated me ever since a college French professor turned me on to them. Nerval’s poetry takes neoclassical madness right up to the edge of Christianity (one thinks of  Paul before Festus and Agrippa  in Acts 26: 24 -28 ) but then leaves you hanging  in a philosophical void. The French seem to have been hanging in this void for a long time, ever since their Revolution turned into a blood bath which in turn paved the way for Napoleon.  Gérard de Nerval was also left hanging apparently . . .

I wonder whether Nerval was a Christian or not.
Le Christ Aux Oliviers is so entwined with classical Greek paganism it is hard to tell.

I have tendency to blather. Gotta post this and move on.  I thought it would be about Classical Greek allusions but it turned into a monster somewhere.

Hope you found something in the poems.