“The Valley of Unrest” by Edgar Allan Poe

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

This poem reminds me very much of “The City in the Sea,” though far gentler and shorter. The opening suggests the inhabitants of this empty Valley got caught up in world affairs and left home, a kind of negligence (rather than the evil we find in the City). In his signature style, Poe ushers in the imagery of death, although it is not clear if there are any graves or ghosts—perhaps just a suggestion of them in the flowers that grow in the Valley.

I love how he expresses a sense of space and time in his use of words: wars, towers, trees, seas, and Heaven. A sense of looking up—and also far down. The emptiness conveyed is only rescued from City-like dystopia by the emphasis on beauty, even in sorrow, along with perpetual movement. There is life after death and loss; voids shall be filled by new growth. Still, those who remember the Valley as it was before keep a piece of the old life in their hearts.

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