'Israfel' by Edgar Allan Poe

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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 enamored 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 fervor 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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry Analysis: "Israfel" by Edgar Allan Poe

Have you ever read a poem that transports you to a different world? One that makes you feel like you're soaring on the wings of imagination or drowning in a sea of emotions? Well, "Israfel" by Edgar Allan Poe is one such poem.

In this literary analysis, we'll take a deep dive into the world of "Israfel" and explore its themes, symbols, and style. We'll also examine how Poe uses language and imagery to create a vivid and mesmerizing atmosphere.

Background and Context

Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet and writer who lived in the 19th century. He was best known for his dark and mysterious tales and poems, which often explored themes of death, loss, and the supernatural. "Israfel" was first published in 1831, as part of Poe's collection of poems, "Poems by Edgar Allan Poe."

The poem is named after Israfel, an Islamic angel associated with music and poetry. According to Islamic belief, Israfel will blow a trumpet on the Day of Judgment to signal the end of the world. In Poe's poem, Israfel is portrayed as a divine musician whose music has the power to move mountains and stars.

Theme and Symbolism

At its core, "Israfel" is a poem about the power of poetry and music to transport us to a higher realm of existence. The speaker of the poem urges Israfel to play his music, saying:

Bring me the wine which is of tears,
The blood-red wine of remembrance,
I need it for my soul's faint rears,
Now that my earthly vision closes,
Israfel, to thy high repose.

This passage highlights the theme of transcendence, as the speaker seeks to escape the earthly realm and find solace in Israfel's music. The wine of tears and blood-red wine of remembrance represent the speaker's longing for a deeper connection with the divine.

Israfel himself is a symbol of the power of poetry and music to inspire and uplift us. The speaker describes Israfel's music as follows:

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.

Here, Israfel's music is so powerful that even the stars themselves stop singing to listen to him. The image of Israfel's heart-strings being a lute emphasizes the connection between music and the soul.

The poem also contains a sense of melancholy and longing, which is typical of Poe's works. The speaker yearns for a connection with the divine, but feels trapped in the earthly realm:

For with the sound of thy lyre,
My bosom within me burning,
The ardour of passion there fell like fire
And the voice of my spirit there ringing
With peace 'midst the din of the strife of living,
Israfel! To thy high repose.

The phrase "ardour of passion" suggests a desire that cannot be fulfilled in the earthly realm. The speaker finds peace in Israfel's music, but it is a temporary respite from the struggles of life.

Style and Imagery

Poe's use of language and imagery in "Israfel" is masterful. He creates a vivid and mesmerizing atmosphere that draws the reader into the world of the poem.

The poem is written in a lyrical and musical style, with a strong rhythm and rhyme scheme. This mirrors the theme of the poem, which is centered around the power of music and poetry.

Poe also uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of Israfel's music. For example, he writes:

And the people - ah, the people -
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone -
They are neither man nor woman -
They are neither brute nor human -
They are Ghouls: -

This passage creates a haunting and eerie atmosphere, as the tolling of the bells is combined with the image of ghouls. The repetition of the word "tolling" emphasizes the monotony and heaviness of the sound.

Poe also uses vivid descriptions of nature and the elements to convey the power of Israfel's music. He writes:

All the heavens resounding
With the hymn of the angels singing,
To the tops of the mountains bounding,
And the stars with deep emotion ringing,
And the sea with its waves all a-tossing,
And the woods with their echoes, soft and low,
Responding, responding, responding,
To Israfel's lyre and its wondrous glow.

These lines create a sense of wonder and awe, as nature itself is moved by Israfel's music. The repetition of the word "responding" emphasizes the idea that Israfel's music has a profound effect on everything around it.


"Israfel" by Edgar Allan Poe is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of music, poetry, and transcendence. Through vivid imagery and language, Poe creates a mesmerizing atmosphere that transports the reader to a higher realm of existence. The poem is a testament to the power of art to inspire and uplift us, even in the face of life's struggles and hardships.

So, have you been moved by the power of "Israfel" yet? If not, I highly recommend reading it again and immersing yourself in its world. Poe's masterful use of language and imagery will surely leave you spellbound.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Israfel: A Masterpiece of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, the master of horror and mystery, was also a brilliant poet. His poem "Israfel" is a classic example of his poetic genius. The poem is a tribute to the angel Israfel, who is believed to be the angel of music in Islamic mythology. Poe's poem is a beautiful and haunting tribute to the power of music and the human spirit.

The poem begins with a description of Israfel's music. Poe writes, "In Heaven a spirit doth dwell / 'Whose heart-strings are a lute'". This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The image of Israfel's heart-strings being a lute is a powerful one. It suggests that Israfel's music comes from deep within his soul, and that it is an expression of his innermost feelings.

Poe goes on to describe the effect that Israfel's music has on the universe. He writes, "And, as the wave of melody / By the calm lake of Cashmere / Was to the ear of the insomniac / So was that wave to me". This image of the wave of melody is a beautiful one. It suggests that Israfel's music is like a wave that washes over the universe, touching everything in its path.

Poe also describes the effect that Israfel's music has on the human spirit. He writes, "With ecstasy the poet gazed / Upon the vision of his lay". This line suggests that Israfel's music has the power to inspire and uplift the human spirit. It suggests that Israfel's music is not just beautiful, but also meaningful.

The poem also contains a warning. Poe writes, "But evil things, in robes of sorrow / Assailed the monarch's high estate". This line suggests that there are forces in the universe that seek to destroy beauty and goodness. It suggests that Israfel's music is not immune to these forces, and that it is up to us to protect and preserve it.

The poem ends with a call to action. Poe writes, "Let us build altars to the Beautiful / But the Beautiful is not always good". This line suggests that we should celebrate and honor beauty, but that we should also be aware of its potential dangers. It suggests that we should be vigilant in protecting and preserving the beauty in the world.

Overall, "Israfel" is a beautiful and haunting tribute to the power of music and the human spirit. It is a reminder that beauty is not just something to be admired, but also something to be protected and preserved. It is a call to action for all of us to celebrate and honor the beauty in the world, while also being aware of its potential dangers. Edgar Allan Poe's "Israfel" is a masterpiece of poetry, and a testament to his genius as a writer.

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