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Tamerlane

by Edgar Allan Poe
  Kind solace in a dying hour!
  Such, father, is not (now) my theme–
  I will not madly deem that power
  Of Earth may shrive me of the sin
  Unearthly pride hath revelled in–
  I have no time to dote or dream:
  You call it hope–that fire of fire!
  It is but agony of desire:
  If I _can_ hope–O God! I can–
  Its fount is holier–more divine–
  I would not call thee fool, old man,
  But such is not a gift of thine.

  Know thou the secret of a spirit
  Bowed from its wild pride into shame
  O yearning heart! I did inherit
  Thy withering portion with the fame,
  The searing glory which hath shone
  Amid the Jewels of my throne,
  Halo of Hell! and with a pain
  Not Hell shall make me fear again–
  O craving heart, for the lost flowers
  And sunshine of my summer hours!
  The undying voice of that dead time,
  With its interminable chime,
  Rings, in the spirit of a spell,
  Upon thy emptiness–a knell.

  I have not always been as now:
  The fevered diadem on my brow
  I claimed and won usurpingly–
  Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
  Rome to the Cæsar–this to me?
  The heritage of a kingly mind,
  And a proud spirit which hath striven
  Triumphantly with human kind.
  On mountain soil I first drew life:
  The mists of the Taglay have shed
  Nightly their dews upon my head,
  And, I believe, the winged strife
  And tumult of the headlong air
  Have nestled in my very hair.

  So late from Heaven–that dew–it fell
  (‘Mid dreams of an unholy night)
  Upon me with the touch of Hell,
  While the red flashing of the light
  From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,
  Appeared to my half-closing eye
  The pageantry of monarchy;
  And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar
  Came hurriedly upon me, telling
  Of human battle, where my voice,
  My own voice, silly child!–was swelling
  (O! how my spirit would rejoice,
  And leap within me at the cry)
  The battle-cry of Victory!

  The rain came down upon my head
  Unsheltered–and the heavy wind
  Rendered me mad and deaf and blind.
  It was but man, I thought, who shed
  Laurels upon me: and the rush–
  The torrent of the chilly air
  Gurgled within my ear the crush
  Of empires–with the captive’s prayer–
  The hum of suitors–and the tone
  Of flattery ’round a sovereign’s throne.

  My passions, from that hapless hour,
  Usurped a tyranny which men
  Have deemed since I have reached to power,
  My innate nature–be it so:
  But, father, there lived one who, then,
  Then–in my boyhood–when their fire
  Burned with a still intenser glow
  (For passion must, with youth, expire)
  E’en _then_ who knew this iron heart
  In woman’s weakness had a part.

  I have no words–alas!–to tell
  The loveliness of loving well!
  Nor would I now attempt to trace
  The more than beauty of a face
  Whose lineaments, upon my mind,
  Are–shadows on th’ unstable wind:
  Thus I remember having dwelt
  Some page of early lore upon,
  With loitering eye, till I have felt
  The letters–with their meaning–melt
  To fantasies–with none.

  O, she was worthy of all love!
  Love as in infancy was mine–
  ‘Twas such as angel minds above
  Might envy; her young heart the shrine
  On which my every hope and thought
  Were incense–then a goodly gift,
  For they were childish and upright–
  Pure–as her young example taught:
  Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
  Trust to the fire within, for light?

  We grew in age–and love–together–
  Roaming the forest, and the wild;
  My breast her shield in wintry weather–
  And, when the friendly sunshine smiled.
  And she would mark the opening skies,
  _I_ saw no Heaven–but in her eyes.
  Young Love’s first lesson is—-the heart:
  For ‘mid that sunshine, and those smiles,
  When, from our little cares apart,
  And laughing at her girlish wiles,
  I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,
  And pour my spirit out in tears–
  There was no need to speak the rest–
  No need to quiet any fears
  Of her–who asked no reason why,
  But turned on me her quiet eye!

  Yet _more_ than worthy of the love
  My spirit struggled with, and strove
  When, on the mountain peak, alone,
  Ambition lent it a new tone–
  I had no being–but in thee:
  The world, and all it did contain
  In the earth–the air–the sea–
  Its joy–its little lot of pain
  That was new pleasure–the ideal,
  Dim, vanities of dreams by night–
  And dimmer nothings which were real–
  (Shadows–and a more shadowy light!)
  Parted upon their misty wings,
  And, so, confusedly, became
  Thine image and–a name–a name!
  Two separate–yet most intimate things.

  I was ambitious–have you known
  The passion, father? You have not:
  A cottager, I marked a throne
  Of half the world as all my own,
  And murmured at such lowly lot–
  But, just like any other dream,
  Upon the vapor of the dew
  My own had past, did not the beam
  Of beauty which did while it thro’
  The minute–the hour–the day–oppress
  My mind with double loveliness.

  We walked together on the crown
  Of a high mountain which looked down
  Afar from its proud natural towers
  Of rock and forest, on the hills–
  The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers
  And shouting with a thousand rills.

  I spoke to her of power and pride,
  But mystically–in such guise
  That she might deem it nought beside
  The moment’s converse; in her eyes
  I read, perhaps too carelessly–
  A mingled feeling with my own–
  The flush on her bright cheek, to me
  Seemed to become a queenly throne
  Too well that I should let it be
  Light in the wilderness alone.

  I wrapped myself in grandeur then,
  And donned a visionary crown–
  Yet it was not that Fantasy
  Had thrown her mantle over me–
  But that, among the rabble–men,
  Lion ambition is chained down–
  And crouches to a keeper’s hand–
  Not so in deserts where the grand–
  The wild–the terrible conspire
  With their own breath to fan his fire.

  Look ’round thee now on Samarcand!–
  Is she not queen of Earth? her pride
  Above all cities? in her hand
  Their destinies? in all beside
  Of glory which the world hath known
  Stands she not nobly and alone?
  Falling–her veriest stepping-stone
  Shall form the pedestal of a throne–
  And who her sovereign? Timour–he
  Whom the astonished people saw
  Striding o’er empires haughtily
  A diademed outlaw!

  O, human love! thou spirit given,
  On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!
  Which fall’st into the soul like rain
  Upon the Siroc-withered plain,
  And, failing in thy power to bless,
  But leav’st the heart a wilderness!
  Idea! which bindest life around
  With music of so strange a sound
  And beauty of so wild a birth–
  Farewell! for I have won the Earth.

  When Hope, the eagle that towered, could see
  No cliff beyond him in the sky,
  His pinions were bent droopingly–
  And homeward turned his softened eye.
  ‘Twas sunset: When the sun will part
  There comes a sullenness of heart
  To him who still would look upon
  The glory of the summer sun.
  That soul will hate the ev’ning mist
  So often lovely, and will list
  To the sound of the coming darkness (known
  To those whose spirits hearken) as one
  Who, in a dream of night, _would_ fly,
  But _cannot_, from a danger nigh.

  What tho’ the moon–tho’ the white moon
  Shed all the splendor of her noon,
  _Her_ smile is chilly–and _her_ beam,
  In that time of dreariness, will seem
  (So like you gather in your breath)
  A portrait taken after death.
  And boyhood is a summer sun
  Whose waning is the dreariest one–
  For all we live to know is known,
  And all we seek to keep hath flown–
  Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall
  With the noon-day beauty–which is all.
  I reached my home–my home no more–
  For all had flown who made it so.
  I passed from out its mossy door,
  And, tho’ my tread was soft and low,
  A voice came from the threshold stone
  Of one whom I had earlier known–
  O, I defy thee, Hell, to show
  On beds of fire that burn below,
  An humbler heart–a deeper woe.

  Father, I firmly do believe–
  I _know_–for Death who comes for me
  From regions of the blest afar,
  Where there is nothing to deceive,
  Hath left his iron gate ajar.
  And rays of truth you cannot see
  Are flashing thro’ Eternity—-
  I do believe that Eblis hath
  A snare in every human path–
  Else how, when in the holy grove
  I wandered of the idol, Love,–
  Who daily scents his snowy wings
  With incense of burnt-offerings
  From the most unpolluted things,
  Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
  Above with trellised rays from Heaven
  No mote may shun–no tiniest fly–
  The light’ning of his eagle eye–
  How was it that Ambition crept,
  Unseen, amid the revels there,
  Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
  In the tangles of Love’s very hair!

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