The Poets

January 19, 2011

Sarah Helen Whitman

Sarah Helen Whitman was a romantic interest of Poe's. Coincidentally, not only is she a poet, she also shares Poe’s date of birth (January 19th, 1803).

They both met later in life when they were both widowed- he was 39, she was 45. Poe desperately wanted to marry her, and even though he had at one point convinced her to do so, she had the engagement broken off.

It is said by some that Poe’s Poem, To Helen*, was inspired by the infatuation he had for her. I personally don’t believe this to be the case, and I’ll explain my position perhaps tomorrow or the next day in a post.

Now whether Whitman inspired Poe’s Helen or not, what cannot be denied is this- that Poe inspired Whitman to compose a poem that she would openly dedicate to him. Here’s that poem below:

To Edgar Allan Poe

IF thy sad heart, pining for human love,
In its earth solitude grew dark with fear,
Lest the high Sun of Heaven itself should prove
Powerless to save from that phantasmal sphere
Wherein thy spirit wandered, -- if the flowers
That pressed around thy feet, seemed but to bloom
In lone Gethsemanes, through starless hours,
When all who loved had left thee to thy doom,--
Oh, yet believe that in that hollow vale
Where thy soul lingers, waiting to attain
So much of Heaven's sweet grace as shall avail
To lift its burden of remorseful pain,
My soul shall meet thee, and its Heaven forego
Till God's great love, on both, one hope, one Heaven bestow.

*You’ll notice if you click the link to this poem a picture of Whitman pops up with the poem beneath it- indicating that the poem was composed for her … again, I doubt this assertion (I’ll explain myself soon).

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