Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
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),        5
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
  Of his voice, all mute.
Tottering above
  In her highest noon,
  The enamoured moon        10
Blushes with love,
  While, to listen, the red levin
  (With the rapid Pleiads, even,
  Which were seven)
  Pauses in Heaven.        15
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—        20
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—        25
  Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
  Which we worship in a star.
Therefore, thou art not wrong,
  Israfeli, who despisest        30
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong,
  Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!
The ecstasies above        35
  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        40
  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        45
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        50
  From my lyre within the sky.

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