Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Jan. 19, 1809 - Oct 7, 1849

 

To Helen (I saw thee once...)

by Edgar Allan Poe

I saw thee once -- once only -- years ago:
I must not say how many -- but not many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,
With quietude and sultriness and slumber,
Upon the upturned faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe:
Fell on the upturned faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death:
Fell on the upturned faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.

Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
I saw thee half reclining; while the moon
Fell on the upturned faces of the roses,
And on thine own, upturned -- alas, in sorrow!

Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight --
Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow)
That bade me pause before that garden-gate
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept,
Save only thee and me -- O Heaven! O God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words! --
Save only thee and me. I paused, I looked,
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!)
The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses' odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
All, all expired save thee -- save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes,
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes:
I saw but them -- they were the world to me:
I saw but them, saw only them for hours,
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres;
How dark a woe, yet how sublime a hope;
How silently serene a sea of pride;
How daring an ambition; yet how deep,
How fathomless a capacity for love!

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained:
They would not go -- they never yet have gone;
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since;
They follow me -- they lead me through the years;

They are my ministers -- yet I their slave;
Their office is to illumine and enkindle
My duty, to be saved by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire;
They fill my soul with beauty (which is hope),
And are, far up in heaven, the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still -- two sweetly scintillant
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun.

Source:

The Works Of Edgar Allan Poe
Volume 10: Poems
Copyright 1895
Stone & Kimball, Chicago
 
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