Favourite Poets: Edgar Allen Poe, Israfel

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.
I’m not sure beautiful is the best word to describe how I feel about this poem. I’ve read through it twice – three times now before I started adding my two-lines worth of thoughts, and I just sincerely love it. The angel theme in some poems often puts me off, but here, I want to meet and observe Israfel and see all that is hinted at in these lines, get to know why he inspires such… rapture, I guess. Love 🙂

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