'Tamerlane' by Edgar Allan Poe

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Kind solace in a dying hour!
Such, father, is not (now) my theme-
I will not madly deem that power
Of Earth may shrive me of the sin
Unearthly pride hath revell'd in-
I have no time to dote or dream:
You call it hope- that fire of fire!
It is but agony of desire:
If I can hope- Oh God! I can-
Its fount is holier- more divine-
I would not call thee fool, old man,
But such is not a gift of thine.

Know thou the secret of a spirit
Bow'd from its wild pride into shame.
O yearning heart! I did inherit
Thy withering portion with the fame,
The searing glory which hath shone
Amid the jewels of my throne,
Halo of Hell! and with a pain
Not Hell shall make me fear again-
O craving heart, for the lost flowers
And sunshine of my summer hours!
The undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,
Rings, in the spirit of a spell,
Upon thy emptiness- a knell.

I have not always been as now:
The fever'd diadem on my brow
I claim'd and won usurpingly-
Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
Rome to the Caesar- this to me?
The heritage of a kingly mind,
And a proud spirit which hath striven
Triumphantly with human kind.

On mountain soil I first drew life:
The mists of the Taglay have shed
Nightly their dews upon my head,
And, I believe, the winged strife
And tumult of the headlong air
Have nestled in my very hair.

So late from Heaven- that dew- it fell
(Mid dreams of an unholy night)
Upon me with the touch of Hell,
While the red flashing of the light
From clouds that hung, like banners, o'er,
Appeared to my half-closing eye
The pageantry of monarchy,
And the deep trumpet-thunder's roar
Came hurriedly upon me, telling
Of human battle, where my voice,
My own voice, silly child!- was swelling
(O! how my spirit would rejoice,
And leap within me at the cry)
The battle-cry of Victory!

The rain came down upon my head
Unshelter'd- and the heavy wind
Rendered me mad and deaf and blind.
It was but man, I thought, who shed
Laurels upon me: and the rush-
The torrent of the chilly air
Gurgled within my ear the crush
Of empires- with the captive's prayer-
The hum of suitors- and the tone
Of flattery 'round a sovereign's throne.

My passions, from that hapless hour,
Usurp'd a tyranny which men
Have deem'd, since I have reach'd to power,
My innate nature- be it so:
But father, there liv'd one who, then,
Then- in my boyhood- when their fire
Burn'd with a still intenser glow,
(For passion must, with youth, expire)
E'en then who knew this iron heart
In woman's weakness had a part.

I have no words- alas!- to tell
The loveliness of loving well!
Nor would I now attempt to trace
The more than beauty of a face
Whose lineaments, upon my mind,
Are- shadows on th' unstable wind:
Thus I remember having dwelt
Some page of early lore upon,
With loitering eye, till I have felt
The letters- with their meaning- melt
To fantasies- with none.

O, she was worthy of all love!
Love- as in infancy was mine-
'Twas such as angel minds above
Might envy; her young heart the shrine
On which my every hope and thought
Were incense- then a goodly gift,
For they were childish and upright-
Pure- as her young example taught:
Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
Trust to the fire within, for light?

We grew in age- and love- together,
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather-
And when the friendly sunshine smil'd,
And she would mark the opening skies,
I saw no Heaven- but in her eyes.

Young Love's first lesson is- the heart:
For 'mid that sunshine, and those smiles,
When, from our little cares apart,
And laughing at her girlish wiles,
I'd throw me on her throbbing breast,
And pour my spirit out in tears-
There was no need to speak the rest-
No need to quiet any fears
Of her- who ask'd no reason why,
But turn'd on me her quiet eye!

Yet more than worthy of the love
My spirit struggled with, and strove,
When, on the mountain peak, alone,
Ambition lent it a new tone-
I had no being- but in thee:
The world, and all it did contain
In the earth- the air- the sea-
Its joy- its little lot of pain
That was new pleasure- the ideal,
Dim vanities of dreams by night-

And dimmer nothings which were real-
(Shadows- and a more shadowy light!)
Parted upon their misty wings,
And, so, confusedly, became
Thine image, and- a name- a name!
Two separate- yet most intimate things.

I was ambitious- have you known
The passion, father? You have not:
A cottager, I mark'd a throne
Of half the world as all my own,
And murmur'd at such lowly lot-
But, just like any other dream,
Upon the vapour of the dew
My own had past, did not the beam
Of beauty which did while it thro'
The minute- the hour- the day- oppress
My mind with double loveliness.

We walk'd together on the crown
Of a high mountain which look'd down
Afar from its proud natural towers
Of rock and forest, on the hills-
The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers,
And shouting with a thousand rills.

I spoke to her of power and pride,
But mystically- in such guise
That she might deem it nought beside
The moment's converse; in her eyes
I read, perhaps too carelessly-
A mingled feeling with my own-
The flush on her bright cheek, to me
Seem'd to become a queenly throne
Too well that I should let it be
Light in the wilderness alone.

I wrapp'd myself in grandeur then,
And donn'd a visionary crown-
Yet it was not that Fantasy
Had thrown her mantle over me-
But that, among the rabble- men,
Lion ambition is chained down-
And crouches to a keeper's hand-
Not so in deserts where the grand-
The wild- the terrible conspire
With their own breath to fan his fire.

Look 'round thee now on Samarcand!
Is not she queen of Earth? her pride
Above all cities? in her hand
Their destinies? in all beside
Of glory which the world hath known
Stands she not nobly and alone?
Falling- her veriest stepping-stone
Shall form the pedestal of a throne-
And who her sovereign? Timour- he
Whom the astonished people saw
Striding o'er empires haughtily
A diadem'd outlaw!

O, human love! thou spirit given
On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!
Which fall'st into the soul like rain
Upon the Siroc-wither'd plain,
And, failing in thy power to bless,
But leav'st the heart a wilderness!
Idea! which bindest life around
With music of so strange a sound,
And beauty of so wild a birth-
Farewell! for I have won the Earth.

When Hope, the eagle that tower'd, could see
No cliff beyond him in the sky,
His pinions were bent droopingly-
And homeward turn'd his soften'd eye.
'Twas sunset: when the sun will part
There comes a sullenness of heart
To him who still would look upon
The glory of the summer sun.
That soul will hate the ev'ning mist,
So often lovely, and will list
To the sound of the coming darkness (known
To those whose spirits hearken) as one
Who, in a dream of night, would fly
But cannot from a danger nigh.

What tho' the moon- the white moon
Shed all the splendour of her noon,
Her smile is chilly, and her beam,
In that time of dreariness, will seem
(So like you gather in your breath)
A portrait taken after death.
And boyhood is a summer sun
Whose waning is the dreariest one-
For all we live to know is known,
And all we seek to keep hath flown-
Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall
With the noon-day beauty- which is all.

I reach'd my home- my home no more
For all had flown who made it so.
I pass'd from out its mossy door,
And, tho' my tread was soft and low,
A voice came from the threshold stone
Of one whom I had earlier known-
O, I defy thee, Hell, to show
On beds of fire that burn below,
A humbler heart- a deeper woe.

Father, I firmly do believe-
I know- for Death, who comes for me
From regions of the blest afar,
Where there is nothing to deceive,
Hath left his iron gate ajar,
And rays of truth you cannot see
Are flashing thro' Eternity-
I do believe that Eblis hath
A snare in every human path-
Else how, when in the holy grove
I wandered of the idol, Love,
Who daily scents his snowy wings
With incense of burnt offerings
From the most unpolluted things,
Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
Above with trellis'd rays from Heaven,
No mote may shun- no tiniest fly-
The lightning of his eagle eye-
How was it that Ambition crept,
Unseen, amid the revels there,
Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
In the tangles of Love's very hair?

Editor 1 Interpretation

Tamerlane: A Masterful Exploration of Life, Death, and Love

In 1827, a young Edgar Allan Poe published a collection of poems titled "Tamerlane and Other Poems", which included his first published work, the eponymous "Tamerlane". This poem is a stunning exploration of life, death, and love, woven together in a masterful tapestry of language and imagery that showcases Poe's exceptional talent as a poet.

The Themes of Tamerlane

At its core, "Tamerlane" is a meditation on mortality and the transience of life. The eponymous conqueror, who is often associated with death and destruction, serves as a metaphor for the inevitability of our own mortality. The poem's narrator, who is unnamed, reflects on the fleeting nature of life, saying:

I saw him not; but I was near
The house he slept in, and my tear
Fell on his chamber floor.

The idea of shedding a tear for someone you have never met is a powerful one, and it speaks to the universal human experience of mourning for those who have passed before us. The fact that the narrator's tear falls on Tamerlane's chamber floor suggests a sense of connection between the two, despite the fact that they have never met.

The poem also touches on the theme of love and its ability to triumph over death. The narrator's love for his beloved, who is unnamed, is so strong that it transcends the boundaries of life and death. In the final stanza, the narrator says:

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine—
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.

The imagery here is dreamlike and ethereal, and it suggests that the narrator's love for his beloved is not bound by the laws of the physical world. The fact that the narrator describes his love as a "fountain and a shrine" suggests that it is something sacred and eternal, something that will endure long after he himself has passed away.

The Language and Imagery of Tamerlane

One of the things that makes "Tamerlane" such a powerful poem is the way in which it uses language and imagery to convey its themes. Poe was a master of language, and his use of metaphor and symbolism in this poem is nothing short of brilliant.

For example, the image of Tamerlane as a conqueror who spreads death and destruction wherever he goes is a powerful metaphor for the inevitability of death. Tamerlane is often associated with the Grim Reaper, the personification of death, and this association adds to the poem's overall sense of foreboding and unease.

The imagery used to describe the narrator's love for his beloved is also incredibly powerful. The green isle in the sea, the fountain and shrine wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, and the fact that all the flowers were his – these are all images that suggest a kind of paradise, a place of perfect beauty and peace. The fact that the narrator's love is compared to this paradise suggests that it is something pure, something that exists beyond the corrupting influences of the physical world.

The Structure of Tamerlane

Another aspect of "Tamerlane" that is worth examining is its structure. The poem is divided into five stanzas, each of which contains eight lines. The rhyme scheme is consistent throughout the poem, with each stanza following an ABABCCDD pattern.

The use of a consistent rhyme scheme and stanza structure helps to give the poem a sense of unity and coherence. It also allows Poe to create a kind of musicality in the poem, with each stanza flowing into the next like a series of musical notes.


In "Tamerlane", Edgar Allan Poe has created a masterpiece of poetry that explores some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Through his use of language, imagery, and structure, he has created a poem that is both beautiful and haunting, a poem that speaks to the very heart of what it means to be alive.

Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply someone who appreciates great writing, "Tamerlane" is a must-read. It is a timeless classic that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Edgar Allan Poe is a name that resonates with every literature enthusiast. He is known for his dark and mysterious tales, but his poetry is equally captivating. One of his earliest works, Tamerlane, is a masterpiece that showcases his poetic prowess. In this analysis, we will delve into the world of Tamerlane and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.

Tamerlane is a narrative poem that tells the story of a conqueror who is haunted by his past deeds. The poem is divided into four parts, each representing a different phase of Tamerlane's life. The first part introduces us to Tamerlane as a young man who is driven by his ambition to conquer the world. He is portrayed as a fearless warrior who is willing to do anything to achieve his goals. The second part takes us to Tamerlane's middle age, where he has already conquered many lands and is now ruling over them. However, he is plagued by the memories of his past and the people he has killed. The third part shows us Tamerlane in his old age, where he has lost his power and is now reflecting on his life. The final part is a dream sequence where Tamerlane is confronted by the ghosts of his past.

The theme of Tamerlane is the human desire for power and the consequences that come with it. Poe explores the idea that power corrupts and that those who seek it will ultimately be consumed by it. Tamerlane is a cautionary tale that warns us about the dangers of ambition and the importance of self-reflection.

Poe's use of language and literary devices is what makes Tamerlane a masterpiece. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which gives it a rhythmic flow. The use of rhyme and repetition adds to the musicality of the poem. Poe also uses imagery to create a vivid picture of Tamerlane's world. For example, in the first part of the poem, he describes Tamerlane's army as "a sea of banners and a forest of spears." This creates a powerful image of the vastness of Tamerlane's army.

Another literary device that Poe uses in Tamerlane is allusion. He references historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to draw parallels between their lives and Tamerlane's. This adds depth to the poem and shows us that Tamerlane is not just a fictional character, but a representation of all conquerors throughout history.

The structure of Tamerlane is also noteworthy. The poem is divided into four parts, each representing a different phase of Tamerlane's life. This structure allows Poe to explore Tamerlane's character in depth and show us how he changes over time. The dream sequence at the end of the poem is also significant as it represents Tamerlane's final reckoning with his past.

In conclusion, Tamerlane is a masterpiece of poetry that showcases Edgar Allan Poe's literary genius. The poem explores the theme of power and its consequences, using language, literary devices, and structure to create a vivid and powerful narrative. Tamerlane is a cautionary tale that warns us about the dangers of ambition and the importance of self-reflection. It is a timeless work of art that continues to captivate readers to this day.

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