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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889


By Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

[From Works. 1850.]

  • 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 fervor 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.