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  • The Echo of Promises in Poe’s “Bridal Ballad”
  • Jeffrey Savoye

At some point during the period of 1845–1849, Poe took the time to carefully revise several of his writings, penciling numerous changes in his personal copy of the double-bound issue of Tales (1845) and The Raven and Other Poems (1845). This unique and important book passed through the hands of Rufus Wilmot Griswold (1815–1857) and came into the possession of the noted collector James Lorimer Graham, Jr. (1835–1876), by whose name it is generally known. (It is currently in the Poe collection at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin.) Griswold had this material in hand in 1850, as he was preparing the posthumous edition of Poe’s writings, but for the most part made no use of the changes. (Indeed, for the poems, Griswold honored only the revisions Poe made in “The Raven,” otherwise reproducing the texts from the 1845 edition using the original stereoplates.) Among the poems with revisions that Griswold ignored is the “Bridal Ballad,” to which Poe made minor changes in punctuation to the third and fourth stanzas, and added two full lines to the fourth stanza. As originally printed in 1845, and repeated in 1850, the fourth stanza reads:

And thus the words were spoken,   And this the plighted vow, And, though my faith be broken, And, though my heart be broken, Behold the golden token   That proves me happy now!

Poe’s added lines are:

Here is a ring, as token   That I am happy now!—

which are written in pencil at the bottom of page 7, following the line “And, though my heart be broken.” The remaining lines of the poem continue on page 8, with no changes marked.

Subsequent editions merely adopted Griswold’s readings until 1895, when George Edward Woodberry and Edmund Clarence Stedman prepared the first scholarly edition of Poe’s works, revisiting the texts, applying Poe’s revisions [End Page 214] where they were known and providing a full bibliographical note, with variants. As such, Woodberry and Stedman were the first editors to really take advantage of the J. Lorimer Graham volume. Unfortunately, in the case of “Bridal Ballad,” they interpreted Poe’s changes as replacing rather than supplementing the last lines of the fourth stanza, so that it now read:

And thus the words were spoken;   And this the plighted vow; And, though my faith be broken, And, though my heart be broken, Here is a ring, as token   That I am happy now!—

James Albert Harrison essentially repeats this choice in his 1902 edition, stating the text as being from the 1845 edition, “with Lorimer Graham corrections,” but probably just copied from the rival Woodberry and Stedman edition. (One must wonder if Harrison, or rather Charles W. Kent, who was actually the somewhat under-acknowledged editor of the volume of poems, examined the Graham copy firsthand at all, although at that time it would have been available in the library of the Century Association, also known as the Century Club, in New York. It may be revealing that the Harrison edition, like Woodberry and Stedman, consistently refers to James Lorimer Graham, who was commonly known to his friends as “Lorry,” without his first name or initial, and that they make no acknowledgment of the Century Association. Graham’s library was presented to the club about January 17, 1894, when a special dinner was held in his memory and in recognition of the donation of his books and manuscripts. Among those who spoke at the dinner was E. C. Stedman. Harrison may have been unaware of the location of the collection in 1902.)

James Howard Whitty, in his 1911 collection of Poe’s poems, clearly reexamined the Graham copy of the poems and reinterpreted Poe’s changes, adding the new lines but also retaining the old ones, as do Killis Campbell (1917), Floyd Stovall (1965), and Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1969), so that the stanza now reads:

And thus the words were spoken;   And this the plighted vow; And, though my faith be broken, And, though my heart be broken, Here is a ring, as token [End Page 215] That...


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