The Complete poems of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe

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Written while Poe was at West Point, “Israfel” is a poem in eight stanzas of varying lengths that was first published in April 1831 in Poems of Edgar A. Poe. It was re-worked and republished for the August 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger. In an introduction to the poem, Poe says that Israfel is described in the Koran as an angel whose heart is a lute and who has “the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures.” His song quiets the stars, the poem says, while the Earth-bound poet is limited in his own “music.” Poe’s friend Thomas Holley Chivers said “Israfel” comes the closest to matching Poe’s ideal of the art of poetry. Hervey Allen likened Poe himself to Israfel and titled his 1934 biography Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe.

In Heaven a spirit doth dwell

“Whose heart-strings are a lute”;

None sing so wildly well

As the angel Israfel,

And the giddy stars (so legends tell),

Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell

Of his voice, all mute.

Tottering above

In her highest noon,

The enamored moon

Blushes with love,

While, to listen, the red levin

(With the rapid Pleiads, even,

Which were seven,)

Pauses in Heaven.

And they say (the starry choir

And the other listening things)

That Israfeli’s fire

Is owing to that lyre

By which he sits and sings —

The trembling living wire

Of those unusual strings.

But the skies that angel trod,

Where deep thoughts are a duty —

Where Love’s a grown-up God —

Where the Houri glances are

Imbued with all the beauty

Which we worship in a star.

Therefore thou art not wrong,

Israfeli, who despisest

An unimpassioned song;

To thee the laurels belong,

Best bard, because the wisest!

Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above

With thy burning measures suit —

Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love,

With the fervor of thy lute —

Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this

Is a world of sweets and sours;

Our flowers are merely — flowers,

And the shadow of thy perfect bliss

Is the sunshine of ours.

If I could dwell

Where Israfel

Hath dwelt, and he where I,

He might not sing so wildly well

A mortal melody,

While a bolder note than this might swell

From my lyre within the sky.

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http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/poe/edgar_allan/p74p/poem27.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:10