Last Update: Nov. 5, 1999      Navigation:  Main Menu      Index of Poems      Griswold - vol. II
[Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Tamerlane" (J), The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, 1850, vol. II, pp. 96-104.]


[page 96:]

       TAMERLANE.
 
       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!
Th' undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,

[page 97:]
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!
 

[page 98:] 

The rain came down upon my head
    Unshelter'd and the heavy wind
    Was giantlike so thou, my mind!
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 suiters 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.
 

[page 99:] 

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 ev'ry 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

[page 100:]
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

[page 101:]
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 chain'd 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
 

[page 102:]

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.

[page 103:]
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 wo
 

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 ev'ry 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 trelliced rays from Heaven

[page 104:]
No mote may shun no tiniest fly
The light'ning 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?
 


 
 
~~~ End of Text ~~~

[S:0 - Works, 1850]