I am currently reading Penguin Classic Reader's edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales and Poems". I have always disregarded Poe as too generic or cheaply horror to ever appreciate him. But lately I have been encountering a whole lot of mention of him as an chief influence of some of my favorite poets, including the French symbolists, so I have decided to re-evaluate him. After reading much of his poetry in the above-mentioned collection, I stand in awe of his musical perfection, his spellbinding and impressionistic imagination, and the depth of his insight into the deepest recesses of the human psyche. His images and subjects are so vivid and lucid and yet at the same time fantastical it reminds me of looking at a van-gogh painting. Here is a poem that I read in-depth, and also some of Poe's and my own notes on the poem.
Notes on Poes Al Aaraaf:
The origin of beauty, a fairy tale, heavily symbolic rendering of vibrant life of the myriad beings of the natural world, the lifeline and interrelationship of flowers, fairies, music, stars and cosmos in ringing images, extended metaphors and musical symbols.
"the verie essence and, as it were, springheade and origine of all musiche is the verie pleasaunte sounde which the trees of the forest do make when they grow" Poes Notes to l. 282
It is, perhaps, not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has the effect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposed to its rays, to which circumstance the passage evidently alludes.
There is cultivated in the king's garden at Paris, a species of serpentine aloes without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odour of the vanilla, during the time of its expansion, which is very short — It does not blow till towards the month of July — you then perceive it gradually open its petals — expand them — fade and die. — St. Pierre.
Clytia — The Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ a better-known term — the turnsol which turns continually towards the sun, covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewy clouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heat of the day. — B. de. St. Pierre.
This flower is much noticed by Lewehoeck and Tournefort. The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.
"With Arabians there is a medium between heaven and hell where men suffer no punishment, but do not attain that tranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be characteristic of heavenly enjoyment" Note to l. 331
"The passoinate excitement of love and bouyancy of spirit attendant upon intoxication are its les holy pleasures, the price of which, to those souls who make the choice of "Al Aaraaf" as their residence after life is final death and annhilation:
Beyond that death no immortality-
But sleep that pondereth and is not 'to be"
And there- oh! may my weary spirit dwell-
Apart from heaven's eternity - and yet how far from
-Poem reflects attitude as in "sonnet to science' that science has made the fantastic realm of the faries and ideal forms inaccessible.
-for Poe, Poetry is the "rythymical creation of beauty" and truth, by whcih he meant moralizing, factual science, logic, -"the satisfaction of the intellect" -Readers Companion to World Literature, Poe article, p. 418
Al Aaraaf is a star that appeared "brilliantly surpassing Jupiter", then diasappeared just as soon. Poe envisions this as the locale for the arab concept of Al Aaraaf- afterlife between heaven and hell, a place of hedonistic earthly pleasures folowed by the terminal dissolution of the soul; Here lives a godess, fairy, angel, who kneels among a multitude of mythical and wonderful flowers, summons the angels to the earth to help humans, but two angels decide to stay in Al Aaraaf, Ianthe and Angelo (Michaelangelo) neglecting thier duty to God to indulge in their intoxicating passion.
FULL TEXT OF POEM: http://www.eapoe.org/works/POEMS/aaraafc.htm