TO -- -- --. ULALUME: A BALLAD
by: Edgar Allan Poe


The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir--
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul--
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll--
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole--
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere--
Our memories were treacherous and sere--
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year--
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber--
(Though once we had journeyed down here)--
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn--
As the star-dials hinted of morn--
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn--
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said--"She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs--
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies--
To the Lethean peace of the skies--
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes--
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said--"Sadly this star I mistrust--
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:--
Oh, hasten! oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly!--let us fly!--for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings till they trailed in the dust--
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust--
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied--"This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night:--
See!--it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright--
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom--
And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb--
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said--"What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied--"Ulalume--Ulalume--
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere--
As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried--"It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed--I journeyed down here--
That I brought a dread burden down here--
On this night of all nights in the year,
Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber--
This misty mid region of Weir--
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber--
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

Said we, then--the two, then--"Ah, can it
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls--
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls--
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds--
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds--
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
From the limbo of lunary souls--
This sinfully scintillant planet
From the Hell of the planetary souls?"

"Ulalume" by Edgar Allan Poe is about a man who wishes to be with his dead lover, in Heaven. In an excerpt of the poem (from lines 42-82) the narrator speaks of mourning for a lost love, and wants to follow her to Heaven, or "the skies," as mentioned in line 4 (of the excerpt). But the Greek goddess Psyche, weeping implores him not to go. Poe tells the grieving goddess about the beauty of the night sky, and that surely "they" will make it to Heaven safely if they follow the stars. This assurance by Poe apparently allays Psyche's fears, and together they go on to a tomb. Psyche tells the narrator that within lies his "lost" Ulalume; this word choice is an allusion to death.

This work by Poe is fraught with figurative literary devices. The first line in the chosen excerpt of "Ulalume" refers to a "She;" this lady is Astarte, a beautiful goddess in mythology that deals with matters of the heart. While she is mentioned earlier in the poem, she has no actual mention in this excerpt. "She has seen that the tears are not dry on/These cheeks, where the worm never dies," says that Love,(and its goddess, Astarte) even knows that Poe has not stopped grieving for his dead love. Soon after he writes of the "Lethean peace" of the skies. This is an allusion to the River Lethe in Greek mythology, which was a river in Hades that allowed the dead to forget. Perhaps Poe needed a similar peace to forget the pain in his own life. Much of his work revolves around the death of a beloved woman. Though differently named, probably these lost loves are all one woman--Edgar Allan Poe's dead child bride Virginia Clemm. The title character "Ulalume," is most likely no exception, directly correlating with the universal "love and death" theme.

"Come up, in despite of the Lion,/To shine on us with her bright eyes--/Come up through the lair of the Lion,/With love in her luminous eyes," is a passage that several times refers to a "Lion;" this is an allusion to the lion sign of the Zodiac and constellation, 'Leo.' Other fictitious character references in the piece include those of Sibyl and Psyche, the latter whose curiosity caused her lover, Cupid, to flee from her forever, and who supposedly mourns her respective lost love for all eternity. I find it ironic that Poe chose to use the goddess Psyche in this piece as the one he has to convince to do his bidding. Psyche is the Greek word for "soul," which almost leads the reader to wonder if Poe is using both meanings of the word in this poem, convincing not a mythical woman, but himself.

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