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By Edgar Allan Poe

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)

Poet Bio

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Richmond, Virginia, by a foster family. In his poetry and fiction, Poe explored the dark inner workings of the mind. He is credited with being a forerunner of horror fiction and of the short story as a literary form. After years of depression and alcoholism, Poe died mysteriously at age 40.

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