Israfel

By Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849 Edgar Allan Poe

And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures. —KORAN

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 enamoured 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 fervour 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.

Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)

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Poet Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Religion, Music, Islam, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Edgar  Allan Poe

Biography

Poe’s stature as a major figure in world literature is primarily based on his ingenious and profound short stories, poems, and critical theories, which established a highly influential rationale for the short form in both poetry and fiction. Regarded in literary histories and handbooks as the architect of the modern short story, Poe was also the principal forerunner of the “art for art’s sake” movement in nineteenth-century . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Music, Islam, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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