'Al Aaraaf' by Edgar Allan Poe

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O! nothing earthly save the ray
(Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye,
As in those gardens where the day
Springs from the gems of Circassy-
O! nothing earthly save the thrill
Of melody in woodland rill-
Or (music of the passion-hearted)
Joy's voice so peacefully departed
That like the murmur in the shell,
Its echo dwelleth and will dwell-
Oh, nothing of the dross of ours-
Yet all the beauty- all the flowers
That list our Love, and deck our bowers-
Adorn yon world afar, afar-
The wandering star.

'Twas a sweet time for Nesace- for there
Her world lay lolling on the golden air,
Near four bright suns- a temporary rest-
An oasis in desert of the blest.
Away- away- 'mid seas of rays that roll
Empyrean splendor o'er th' unchained soul-
The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)
Can struggle to its destin'd eminence,-
To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode
And late to ours, the favor'd one of God-
But, now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm,
She throws aside the sceptre- leaves the helm,
And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns,
Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.

Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth,
Whence sprang the "Idea of Beauty" into birth,
(Falling in wreaths thro' many a startled star,
Like woman's hair 'mid pearls, until, afar,
It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt)
She looked into Infinity- and knelt.
Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled-
Fit emblems of the model of her world-
Seen but in beauty- not impeding sight
Of other beauty glittering thro' the light-
A wreath that twined each starry form around,
And all the opal'd air in color bound.

All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed
Of flowers: of lilies such as rear'd the head
On the fair Capo Deucato, and sprang
So eagerly around about to hang
Upon the flying footsteps of- deep pride-
Of her who lov'd a mortal- and so died.
The Sephalica, budding with young bees,
Upreared its purple stem around her knees:-
And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam'd-
Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham'd
All other loveliness:- its honied dew
(The fabled nectar that the heathen knew)
Deliriously sweet, was dropp'd from Heaven,
And fell on gardens of the unforgiven
In Trebizond- and on a sunny flower
So like its own above that, to this hour,
It still remaineth, torturing the bee
With madness, and unwonted reverie:
In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf
And blossom of the fairy plant in grief
Disconsolate linger- grief that hangs her head,
Repenting follies that full long have Red,
Heaving her white breast to the balmy air,
Like guilty beauty, chasten'd and more fair:
Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light
She fears to perfume, perfuming the night:
And Clytia, pondering between many a sun,
While pettish tears adown her petals run:
And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth,
And died, ere scarce exalted into birth,
Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing
Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king:
And Valisnerian lotus, thither flown"
From struggling with the waters of the Rhone:
And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante!
Isola d'oro!- Fior di Levante!
And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever
With Indian Cupid down the holy river-
Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given
To bear the Goddess' song, in odors, up to Heaven:

"Spirit! that dwellest where,
In the deep sky,
The terrible and fair,
In beauty vie!
Beyond the line of blue-
The boundary of the star
Which turneth at the view
Of thy barrier and thy bar-
Of the barrier overgone
By the comets who were cast
From their pride and from their throne
To be drudges till the last-
To be carriers of fire
(The red fire of their heart)
With speed that may not tire
And with pain that shall not part-
Who livest- that we know-
In Eternity- we feel-
But the shadow of whose brow
What spirit shall reveal?
Tho' the beings whom thy Nesace,
Thy messenger hath known
Have dream'd for thy Infinity
A model of their own-
Thy will is done, O God!
The star hath ridden high
Thro' many a tempest, but she rode
Beneath thy burning eye;
And here, in thought, to thee-
In thought that can alone
Ascend thy empire and so be
A partner of thy throne-
By winged Fantasy,
My embassy is given,
Till secrecy shall knowledge be
In the environs of Heaven."

She ceas'd- and buried then her burning cheek
Abash'd, amid the lilies there, to seek
A shelter from the fervor of His eye;
For the stars trembled at the Deity.
She stirr'd not- breath'd not- for a voice was there
How solemnly pervading the calm air!
A sound of silence on the startled ear
Which dreamy poets name "the music of the sphere."
Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call
"Silence"- which is the merest word of all.
All Nature speaks, and ev'n ideal things
Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings-
But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high
The eternal voice of God is passing by,
And the red winds are withering in the sky:-

"What tho 'in worlds which sightless cycles run,
Linked to a little system, and one sun-
Where all my love is folly and the crowd
Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud,
The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath-
(Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?)
What tho' in worlds which own a single sun
The sands of Time grow dimmer as they run,
Yet thine is my resplendency, so given
To bear my secrets thro' the upper Heaven!
Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly,
With all thy train, athwart the moony sky-
Apart- like fire-flies in Sicilian night,
And wing to other worlds another light!
Divulge the secrets of thy embassy
To the proud orbs that twinkle- and so be
To ev'ry heart a barrier and a ban
Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!"

Up rose the maiden in the yellow night,
The single-mooned eve!- on Earth we plight
Our faith to one love- and one moon adore-
The birth-place of young Beauty had no more.
As sprang that yellow star from downy hours
Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers,
And bent o'er sheeny mountains and dim plain
Her way, but left not yet her Therasaean reign.

High on a mountain of enamell'd head-
Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed
Of giant pasturage lying at his ease,
Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees
With many a mutter'd "hope to be forgiven"
What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven-
Of rosy head that, towering far away
Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray
Of sunken suns at eve- at noon of night,
While the moon danc'd with the fair stranger light-
Uprear'd upon such height arose a pile
Of gorgeous columns on th' unburthen'd air,
Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile
Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,
And nursled the young mountain in its lair.
Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall
Thro' the ebon air, besilvering the pall
Of their own dissolution, while they die-
Adorning then the dwellings of the sky.
A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down,
Sat gently on these columns as a crown-
A window of one circular diamond, there,
Look'd out above into the purple air,
And rays from God shot down that meteor chain
And hallow'd all the beauty twice again,
Save, when, between th' empyrean and that ring,
Some eager spirit Flapp'd his dusky wing.
But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen
The dimness of this world: that greyish green
That Nature loves the best Beauty's grave
Lurk'd in each cornice, round each architrave-
And every sculptur'd cherub thereabout
That from his marble dwelling peered out,
Seem'd earthly in the shadow of his niche-
Achaian statues in a world so rich!
Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis-
From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss
Of beautiful Gomorrah! O, the wave
Is now upon thee- but too late to save!

Sound loves to revel in a summer night:
Witness the murmur of the grey twilight
That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco,
Of many a wild star-gazer long ago-
That stealeth ever on the ear of him
Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim,
And sees the darkness coming as a cloud-
Is not its form- its voice- most palpable and loud?

But what is this?- it cometh, and it brings
A music with it- 'tis the rush of wings-
A pause- and then a sweeping, falling strain
And Nesace is in her halls again.
From the wild energy of wanton haste
Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart;
And zone that clung around her gentle waist
Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart.
Within the centre of that hall to breathe,
She paused and panted, Zanthe! all beneath,
The fairy light that kiss'd her golden hair
And long'd to rest, yet could but sparkle there.

Young flowers were whispering in melody
To happy flowers that night- and tree to tree;
Fountains were gushing music as they fell
In many a star-lit grove, or moon-lit dell;
Yet silence came upon material things-
Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings-
And sound alone that from the spirit sprang
Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:

"'Neath the blue-bell or streamer-
Or tufted wild spray
That keeps, from the dreamer,
The moonbeam away-
Bright beings! that ponder,
With half closing eyes,
On the stars which your wonder
Hath drawn from the skies,
Till they glance thro' the shade, and
Come down to your brow
Like- eyes of the maiden
Who calls on you now-
Arise! from your dreaming
In violet bowers,
To duty beseeming
These star-litten hours-
And shake from your tresses
Encumber'd with dew
The breath of those kisses
That cumber them too-
(O! how, without you, Love!
Could angels be blest?)
Those kisses of true Love
That lull'd ye to rest!
Up!- shake from your wing
Each hindering thing:
The dew of the night-
It would weigh down your flight
And true love caresses-
O, leave them apart!
They are light on the tresses,
But lead on the heart.

Ligeia! Ligeia!
My beautiful one!
Whose harshest idea
Will to melody run,
O! is it thy will
On the breezes to toss?
Or, capriciously still,
Like the lone Albatros,
Incumbent on night
(As she on the air)
To keep watch with delight
On the harmony there?

Ligeia! wherever
Thy image may be,
No magic shall sever
Thy music from thee.
Thou hast bound many eyes
In a dreamy sleep-
But the strains still arise
Which thy vigilance keep-
The sound of the rain,
Which leaps down to the flower-
And dances again
In the rhythm of the shower-
The murmur that springs
From the growing of grass
Are the music of things-
But are modell'd, alas!-
Away, then, my dearest,
Oh! hie thee away
To the springs that lie clearest
Beneath the moon-ray-
To lone lake that smiles,
In its dream of deep rest,
At the many star-isles
That enjewel its breast-
Where wild flowers, creeping,
Have mingled their shade,
On its margin is sleeping
Full many a maid-
Some have left the cool glade, and
Have slept with the bee-
Arouse them, my maiden,
On moorland and lea-
Go! breathe on their slumber,
All softly in ear,
Thy musical number
They slumbered to hear-
For what can awaken
An angel so soon,
Whose sleep hath been taken
Beneath the cold moon,
As the spell which no slumber
Of witchery may test,
The rhythmical number
Which lull'd him to rest?"

Spirits in wing, and angels to the view,
A thousand seraphs burst th' Empyrean thro',
Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight-
Seraphs in all but "Knowledge," the keen light
That fell, refracted, thro' thy bounds, afar,
O Death! from eye of God upon that star:
Sweet was that error- sweeter still that death-
Sweet was that error- even with us the breath
Of Science dims the mirror of our joy-
To them 'twere the Simoom, and would destroy-
For what (to them) availeth it to know
That Truth is Falsehood- or that Bliss is Woe?
Sweet was their death- with them to die was rife
With the last ecstasy of satiate life-
Beyond that death no immortality-
But sleep that pondereth and is not "to be'!-
And there- oh! may my weary spirit dwell-
Apart from Heaven's Eternity- and yet how far from Hell!
What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim,
Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn?
But two: they fell: for Heaven no grace imparts
To those who hear not for their beating hearts.
A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover-
O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over)
Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known?
Unguided Love hath fallen- 'mid "tears of perfect moan."
He was a goodly spirit- he who fell:
A wanderer by moss-y-mantled well-
A gazer on the lights that shine above-
A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:
What wonder? for each star is eye-like there,
And looks so sweetly down on Beauty's hair-
And they, and ev'ry mossy spring were holy
To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.
The night had found (to him a night of woe)
Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo-
Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky,
And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie.
Here sat he with his love- his dark eye bent
With eagle gaze along the firmament:
Now turn'd it upon her- but ever then
It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.

"Ianthe, dearest, see- how dim that ray!
How lovely 'tis to look so far away!
She seem'd not thus upon that autumn eve
I left her gorgeous halls- nor mourn'd to leave.
That eve- that eve- I should remember well-
The sun-ray dropp'd in Lemnos, with a spell
On th' arabesque carving of a gilded hall
Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall-
And on my eyelids- O the heavy light!
How drowsily it weigh'd them into night!
On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran
With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan:
But O that light!- I slumber'd- Death, the while,
Stole o'er my senses in that lovely isle
So softly that no single silken hair
Awoke that slept- or knew that he was there.

"The last spot of Earth's orb I trod upon
Was a proud temple call'd the Parthenon;
More beauty clung around her column'd wall
Than ev'n thy glowing bosom beats withal,
And when old Time my wing did disenthral
Thence sprang I- as the eagle from his tower,
And years I left behind me in an hour.
What time upon her airy bounds I hung,
One half the garden of her globe was flung
Unrolling as a chart unto my view-
Tenantless cities of the desert too!
Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then,
And half I wish'd to be again of men."

"My Angelo! and why of them to be?
A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee-
And greener fields than in yon world above,
And woman's loveliness- and passionate love."

"But, list, Ianthe! when the air so soft
Fail'd, as my pennon'd spirit leapt aloft,
Perhaps my brain grew dizzy- but the world
I left so late was into chaos hurl'd-
Sprang from her station, on the winds apart.
And roll'd, a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart.
Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar
And fell- not swiftly as I rose before,
But with a downward, tremulous motion thro'
Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto!
Nor long the measure of my falling hours,
For nearest of all stars was thine to ours-
Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth,
A red Daedalion on the timid Earth."

"We came- and to thy Earth- but not to us
Be given our lady's bidding to discuss:
We came, my love; around, above, below,
Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go,
Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod
She grants to us, as granted by her God-
But, Angelo, than thine grey Time unfurl'd
Never his fairy wing O'er fairier world!
Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes
Alone could see the phantom in the skies,
When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be
Headlong thitherward o'er the starry sea-
But when its glory swell'd upon the sky,
As glowing Beauty's bust beneath man's eye,
We paused before the heritage of men,
And thy star trembled- as doth Beauty then!"

Thus, in discourse, the lovers whiled away
The night that waned and waned and brought no day.
They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts
Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Exploring the Depths of Poe's Al Aaraaf

Edgar Allan Poe is often regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the 19th century. His works have been celebrated for their intricate use of language, vivid imagery, and haunting themes. Among his vast collection, one of the most intriguing and lesser-known pieces is the poem Al Aaraaf, which was published in 1829. In this literary criticism, we will explore the depths of this mysterious and enigmatic work, analyzing its themes, structure, and symbolism.

Background and Context

Before delving into the poem, it is necessary to provide some context and background on Poe and his works. Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809 and spent most of his life in poverty. He was known for his dark and melancholic personality, which is reflected in his literary works. Poe's literary career began in 1827 with the publication of his first book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems. However, he gained widespread fame and recognition after the publication of his short story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in 1841.

Poe's works were heavily influenced by his personal experiences, his love for literature, and his obsession with death and the supernatural. He was also greatly influenced by the Romanticism movement, which emphasized emotion, imagination, and individualism. Poe's works, including Al Aaraaf, are characterized by their use of symbolism, allegory, and a strong sense of atmosphere.

Overview of Al Aaraaf

Al Aaraaf is a long poem, consisting of 66 stanzas of varying lengths. It tells the story of a group of spirits who reside on a planet called Al Aaraaf, which lies between the earth and the moon. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores different themes and ideas.

In the first part, Poe describes the spirits of Al Aaraaf as being in a state of limbo, neither completely good nor completely evil. He also introduces a character named Ligeia, who reappears later in the poem. In the second part, Poe explores the idea of beauty and its relationship to death. The spirits of Al Aaraaf are described as being obsessed with beauty, and they believe that it is the only thing that can save them from their eternal state of limbo. The third part of the poem deals with the theme of love and its power to transcend even death.

Analysis of Themes

One of the most prominent themes in Al Aaraaf is the idea of limbo or purgatory. The spirits of Al Aaraaf are neither completely good nor completely evil, and they are trapped in a state of eternal indecision. This theme is reminiscent of Dante's Inferno, in which the souls of the damned are also stuck in a state of limbo. However, Poe takes this idea further by suggesting that even the spirits of Al Aaraaf, who are not necessarily evil, are still trapped in this eternal state of indecision.

Another theme in the poem is the idea of beauty and its relationship to death. The spirits of Al Aaraaf are obsessed with beauty, and they believe that it is the only thing that can save them from their state of limbo. This obsession with beauty is similar to the idea of the Aesthetic Movement, which emerged in the late 19th century and emphasized the importance of beauty and art above all else. However, Poe suggests that this obsession with beauty is ultimately futile, as it cannot save the spirits from their state of limbo.

Finally, the theme of love is also prominent in Al Aaraaf. Poe suggests that love has the power to transcend even death, as evidenced by the relationship between the characters Ligeia and her lover. This theme is also present in other works by Poe, such as The Raven and Annabel Lee, which explore the idea of love and loss.

Analysis of Structure and Symbolism

The structure of Al Aaraaf is complex and layered, with multiple interweaving narratives and themes. The use of stanzas of varying lengths and rhyme schemes adds to the poem's sense of unpredictability and mystery. However, there are several key symbols and motifs that recur throughout the poem, adding to its coherence and depth.

One of the most prominent symbols in the poem is the planet of Al Aaraaf itself. This planet serves as a symbol of limbo or purgatory, representing the state of indecision and uncertainty that the spirits are trapped in. The planet is also described as being beautiful and serene, which reinforces the idea of the spirits' obsession with beauty.

Another symbol in the poem is the character of Ligeia. Ligeia is described as being beautiful and mysterious, and her presence in the poem adds to its sense of intrigue and complexity. However, Ligeia also serves as a symbol of love and its power to transcend death. Her relationship with her lover is one of the few examples of true love in the poem, and it serves as a contrast to the spirits' obsession with beauty.

Finally, the use of imagery and language in the poem is also highly symbolic. Poe's use of vivid and often disturbing imagery adds to the poem's sense of darkness and mystery. The use of language, such as the repeated use of the word "stilly" to describe the quietness of Al Aaraaf, reinforces the poem's sense of otherworldliness and strangeness.


In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe's Al Aaraaf is a complex and enigmatic work that explores themes of limbo, beauty, and love. Through its intricate structure, vivid imagery, and symbolic language, the poem creates a sense of mystery and intrigue that invites readers to explore its depths. While not as well-known as some of Poe's other works, Al Aaraaf remains an important and thought-provoking piece of American literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Al Aaraaf: A Masterpiece of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most celebrated poets of all time. His works are known for their dark and mysterious themes, and his use of language is unparalleled. One of his most famous works is the poem "Al Aaraaf," which was first published in 1829. This poem is a masterpiece of Poe's literary genius, and it is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry.

The poem "Al Aaraaf" is a long narrative poem that tells the story of a group of spirits who reside in a place called Al Aaraaf. This place is a sort of purgatory between heaven and hell, and the spirits who live there are waiting for judgment day. The poem is divided into three parts, and each part tells a different story.

The first part of the poem introduces us to the spirits who live in Al Aaraaf. These spirits are described as being beautiful and ethereal, and they are compared to angels. They are waiting for judgment day, and they spend their time singing and playing music. The main character of this part of the poem is a spirit named Ligeia, who is described as being the most beautiful of all the spirits in Al Aaraaf.

The second part of the poem tells the story of a young man named Ianthe, who is in love with a spirit named Astarte. Astarte is also one of the spirits who live in Al Aaraaf, and she is described as being the most beautiful of all the spirits. Ianthe is desperate to be with Astarte, but he is unable to reach her because she is in Al Aaraaf. This part of the poem is a love story, and it is one of the most beautiful and haunting love stories ever written.

The third part of the poem is a philosophical meditation on the nature of life and death. Poe uses this part of the poem to explore the idea that life is fleeting and that death is inevitable. He also explores the idea that there is a spiritual realm beyond the physical world, and that this realm is where the spirits in Al Aaraaf reside.

One of the most striking things about "Al Aaraaf" is Poe's use of language. His descriptions of the spirits in Al Aaraaf are incredibly vivid, and he uses a lot of imagery to create a sense of otherworldliness. For example, he describes the spirits as having "eyes like the diamond" and "hair like the meteor's flame." These descriptions create a sense of beauty and wonder, but they also create a sense of unease. The spirits in Al Aaraaf are not quite human, and this makes them both fascinating and terrifying.

Another thing that makes "Al Aaraaf" so powerful is its themes. The poem explores the idea of love, death, and the afterlife, and it does so in a way that is both beautiful and haunting. Poe's exploration of these themes is both philosophical and emotional, and it is this combination that makes the poem so powerful.

In conclusion, "Al Aaraaf" is a masterpiece of Edgar Allan Poe's literary genius. It is a haunting and beautiful poem that explores the themes of love, death, and the afterlife. Poe's use of language is unparalleled, and his descriptions of the spirits in Al Aaraaf are incredibly vivid. This poem is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry, and it is a testament to Poe's enduring legacy as one of the greatest poets of all time.

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