Three Poems: Then and Now (Summer 2023)

Catharine Savage Brosman

Lenore1 (1843)

Edgar Allan Poe 1809—1849

Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!—a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?—weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read—the funeral song be sung! —
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young—
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
"And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her—that she died!
"How shall the ritual, then, be read? —the requiem how be sung
"By you—by yours, the evil eye, —by yours, the slanderous tongue
"That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?"

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride—
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes—
The life still there, upon her hair—the death upon her eyes.

"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
"But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
"Let no bell toll! —lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
"Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
"To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven—
"From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven—
"From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven."

A Dream Within a Dream (1849)

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if Hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! Yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?


The Raven Grill

Catharine Savage Brosman2

i

It’s not historic—old by just a score
of years—nor otherwise impressive. Still,
it wears its name, poetic, well. The door
invites us by an inkstand, scroll, and quill

to parse its sense. Within, the famous bird
presides in bronze and charcoal, finely drawn,
evoking fleeting days by that one word
it quoth. The past is foreign, always gone,

and nevermore to come again. Thank God;
what would one do with it, a vacant breath?
—We order potent spirits, with a nod
to Poe, his genius, drinking, raving death.

ii

No music; cultured conversation in its hum
prevails. And no one’s using a device,
manically thumbing, deaf and dumb,
confined in solipsistic paradise.

Outside, the wind is skipping over grass.
I feel its passing, dark—a raven’s sign.
Enough; I shall not have a second glass.
The evening gathers all in its design,

as if—it’s strange—the wing of poetry,
however grim the tale, or commonplace,
were beating at the portal. Words may be—
I pause—the medium of an eerie grace.


1 In “Lenore,” which dates from 1843 but incorporates much of an earlier poem, words spoken ostensibly by one Guy de Vere express his grief over the death of his beloved, Lenore. The poem may reflect Poe’s suffering; his wife, Virginia, was ill. The name Lenore reappears in “The Raven” (1845), where a speaker laments “the lost Lenore”—“the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

2 Catharine Savage Brosman is professor emerita of French at Tulane University; [email protected]. She is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, the latest of which is Arm in Arm: Poems (2022) from Mercer University Press.


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