At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapour, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain-top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the mist about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see, the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not for the world awake.
All beauty sleeps! — and, lo! where lies
With casement open to the skies,
Irene with her destinies!
O, lady bright, can it be right,
This lattice open to the night?
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber, in and out,
And wave the curtain-canopy
So fitfully, so fearfully,
Above the closed and fringéd lid
‘Neath which thy slumbering soul lies hid,
That o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts, the shadows rise and fall.
O, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,
A wonder to our garden-trees!
Strange is thy pallor — strange thy dress —
Strange thy glorious length of tress,
And this all-solemn silentness!
The lady sleeps. O, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
This bed, being changed for one more holy,
This room for one more melancholy,
I pray to GOD that she may lie
Forever with uncloséd eye!
My love, she sleeps. O, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall tomb unfold —
Some tomb that oft hath flung its black
And wing-like pannels, fluttering back,
Triumphant o’er the crested palls
Of her grand family funerals, —
Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portal she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone, —
Some vault from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Nor thrill to think, poor child of sin,
It was the dead who groan’d within.
Edgar Allan Poe
Published in 1841. Earlier version titled “Irene” published in 1831.
Image by Edmund Dulac