Written in 1847 for Marie Louise Shew, voluntary nurse of Poe’s wife Virginia, it was not published until March 1848 in Columbian Magazine as “To ——.” Poe never pursued a romantic relationship with Shew, and the poem has no strong romantic overtones. It discusses the writer’s inability to write, distracted by the thought of “thee.” The poem also references an earlier poem of Poe, “Israfel.”
Not long ago, the writer of these lines,
In the mad pride of intellectuality,
Maintained “the power of words”— denied that ever
A thought arose within the human brain
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue:
And now, as if in mockery of that boast,
Two words — two foreign soft dissyllables —
Italian tones, made only to be murmured
By angels dreaming in the moonlit “dew
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,”
Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart,
Unthought-like thoughts that are the souls of thought,
Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions
Than even seraph harper, Israfel,
(Who has “the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures,”)
Could hope to utter. And I! my spells are broken.
The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand.
With thy dear name as text, though bidden by thee,
I cannot write — I cannot speak or think —
Alas, I cannot feel; for ’tis not feeling,
This standing motionless upon the golden
Threshold of the wide-open gate of dreams.
Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista,
And thrilling as I see, upon the right,
Upon the left, and all the way along,
Amid empurpled vapors, far away
To where the prospect terminates — thee only.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53