Israfel

by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Massachusetts, and died at the young age of 40. In his lifetime, he was known for short stories and poems with their usually Gothic influences. Many people recognize him from poems such as The Raven, which is considered one of the best pieces of poetry in America.

Israfel 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.

Israfel by Edgar Allan Poe -- Narrated

Breaking Down Israfel

Israfel is a very unique poem for Edgar Allan Poe because he shifts his usual Gothic and dark themes towards an angel named Israfel. Israfel is a angel in Heaven whose voice is so beautiful that the other angels stop to listen to them. Poe is jealous of the angel and believes mortality is what is ultimately holding him down. Poe makes an excellently worded comparison when he says,


"And the shadow of thy perfect bliss

Is the Sunshine of ours."


This compares the shadow of Heaven, a break in the its light, as being equal to the brightest light on all of Earth. The comparison is very well done by Poe and does a great job of showing how much superior he believes Heaven is to Earth. In another section, Poe says,


"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."


As the reader can see Poe thinks if he were to switch with Israfel, Israfel "might not sing so wildly well" while Poe thinks "a bolder note than this might swell from my lyre within the sky". This section means that, if Israfel were to come to earth, he would not have as beautiful of a voice, and if Poe would sing much better in Heaven than on earth.


So, in conclusion, Poe believes mortality holds him down, and that if he could switch places with Israfel he could experience the true beauty of Heaven compared to the shadow of it he has lived with on Earth.

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