Classic Poems Called "Irene"

Updated on December 3, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

19th Century Authors

Poems by two different, prominent 19th century Romantic authors are entitled "Irene." They are both very long poems of several stanzas each.

The first Irene is by Edgar Allan Poe (dark romanticism) and the second is by James Russell Lowell.

Aside from these two classic poems, several less known examples include in their titles a few more words than simply "Irene." One is Irene Wilde by Ian Hunter and comprises a set of song lyrics.

Another is My Love Irene by Paul Laurence Dunbar and also qualifies as a classic poem. Dunbar wrote in the Romantic style, but also wrote politically.

Good Night Irene is an Old American Standard tune that has accumulated three or four different sets of lyrics since it first appeared in the early 20th century, around 1930.

Leadbelly made it famous in the 30s and Pete Seegar revived it in 1950 for additional recognition and success. Later recorded by the famous popular singer Jo Stafford, the song Good Night Irene was also often featured on The Lawrence Welk Show.

Edgar Allen Poe

Poe's IRENE began as "Lady Irene" in 1830, was edited to become IRENE in 1831, and furnished material for another version in 1841 called "The Sleeper."

Poe (1809 - 1849)
Poe (1809 - 1849)

Who Is Irene?

The poem IRENE began as unpublished manuscript entitled Lady Irene sometime in 1830. In the year 1831, Edgar Allan Poe published the version he called IRENE. In various publications from 1841 - 1850, he published a variant of the poem to create THE SLEEPER.

In late October 2008, it was reported on American news services that the earliest manuscript of the famous Poe poem was found in rural Virginia in a "friendship album" a book similar to high school yearbooks and autograph books used by teens today. The original poem had been kept private by the family for whom Poe had written the piece, which he felt superior to The Raven.

Poe wrote Lady Irene for a female friend at the time of his life in which he was bordering on his dishonorable discharge from West Point military academy. In addition, he had just suffered the death of his foster mother and was not on good terms with his foster father.

The newly discovered, original poem was placed on auction in December 2008 by Bloomsbury Auctions: Important Books, Manuscripts, Literature, and Americana in an expected price range between $100,000 - $200,000. It is unknown whether the original poem, Lady Irene, will ever be shared with the general public.

It is unclear about whom this poem was written. However, it seems to be the first in a long line of poems written by the author to mourn the passing of beautiful women in his life, i.e. Anabelle Lee.

The Sleeper - Words & Video

Edgar Allan Poe

IRENE (1831)

[First and last stanzas]

'T is now (so sings the soaring moon)

Midnight in the sweet month of June,

When winged visions love to lie

Lazily upon beauty's eye,

Or worse — upon her brow to dance

In panoply of old romance,

Till thoughts and locks are left, alas!

A ne'er-to-be untangled mass.

Far in the forest, dim and old,

For her may some tall vault unfold,

Against whose sounding door she hath thrown,

In childhood, many an idle stone —

Some tomb, which oft hath flung its black

And vampyre-winged panels back,

Flutt'ring triumphant o'er the palls

Of her old family funerals.

The complete poem is maintained online at IRENE (1831). at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

This version of the poem is a beautiful, though dark, lament to a lost love. It is compelling in its imagery and emotional tone. It would be magnificent to see the original version in the friendship album of the as yet unpublicized young lady friend of the author. One hopes that a museum would have purchased it in order to place it on display.

James Russell Lowe

A Romantic Poet, James Russell Lowe was also an essayist, writing satirically about the Women's Movement.

American poet/professor James Russell Lowell Lowell (1819 - 1891), around 1890.
American poet/professor James Russell Lowell Lowell (1819 - 1891), around 1890.

James Russell Lowell


[First stanza]

Hers is a spirit deep, and crystal-clear;

Calmly beneath her earnest face it lies,

Free without boldness, meek without a fear,

Quicker to look than speak its sympathies;

Far down into her large and patient eyes

I gaze, deep-drinking of the infinite,

As, in the mid-watch of a clear, still night,

I look into the fathomless blue skies.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dunbar wrote "My Lady Irene" in Ohio.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906)
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906)

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dunbar was the first well known African American writer from Ohio in the 19th century.His verses are studied in most American Literature and Black History classes.

Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872, Dunbar was a classmate of Orville Wright and a friend of the older brother, Wilbur Wright.Their houses were located close together in Dayton and now are part of the Wright-Dunbar Historic District and the National Aviation Heritage Trail.

In the short 33 years that Dunbar lived, he wrote in every available genre, using both standard English and the African American dialect of the era. Of dozens of poems he authored, there is one about a woman named "Irene."

My Love Irene

Farewell, farewell, my love Irene;

The pangs of sadness stir my breast;

Though many miles may intervene,

My soul's with thine, in East or West.

Go where thou wilt, to wealth or fame;

Win for thyself or praise or blame,

My love shall ever be the same,

My love Irene.

Farewell, farewell, my love Irene;

Oh, sad decree, that we must part!

The wound is deep, the pain is keen

That agitates mine aching heart.

My feverish eyes burn up their tears;

I cannot still my doubts and fears;

And this one sigh the night wind hears,

My love Irene.

Farewell, farewell, my love Irene;

The morning's gray now floods the sky;

The sun peeps from his misty screen;

Mine only love, good-bye, good-bye.

All love must fade, all life must die,

The smile must turn into the sigh.

Alas! how hard to say good-bye,

My love Irene.

Ian Hunter's Irene Wilde - Released 1976, "All American Alien Boy"

American Romantic Poets - Compelling Nature, Beauty, and Power

The works of the three American Romantic Period poets discussed above is powerful and as such, they are classics that are as definitively drawing today as they were when originally written in the 1800s.

Readers that can dispense with the lure of 21st century blood, gore, drugs, hypersex, and hypo-language that one often finds in the media can engage with the poetry of these authors in order to find a different world of meaning from that to which they may be accustomed. Biographies are listed at the following sites

Poe's Life - Sponsored by - One of the many sites devotes to the famous romance and horror writer. See the link to the Edgar Allan Poe Society above.

Biography of James Russell Lowell - A complete, informative biography of a Romantic poet that is not as well known as some others.

Paul Laurence Dunbar - Comprehensive site that furnishes a biography, discussion, works of poetry, student essays, and other materials of the famous poet who was a friend and neighbor of the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio.

Questions & Answers

    © 2008 Patty Inglish


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      • Tensiongentry profile image

        Tensiongentry 3 years ago

        Excellent poems. Makes a writer want to find an Irene to be his muse. I wonder if these writers actually knew an Irene or just used the name because it is so easy to rhyme with. Anyway, kudos Irene.

      • marimccants profile image

        marimccants 6 years ago

        Awesome poems. Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image

        mashial 6 years ago

        Wow! this is really awesome. I really love it. Thanx!

      • Anthea Carson profile image

        Anthea Carson 7 years ago from Colorado Springs

        Awesome hub! I love the name Irene, and I love Edgar Allen Poe, thank you for sharing this, I didn't know this information!

      • SwiftlyClean profile image

        SwiftlyClean 8 years ago from Texas

        Very well put together, poems have allways been my favorite.

        I wrote all through School.Lost a lot of them through life but I have'nt stop. thanks

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        It is interesting , indeed; and I've never known an Irene at all. Should look for one, perhaps.

      • WhiskeyChick profile image

        WhiskeyChick 8 years ago from North of Somewhere

        How interesting. What a fascinating subject to write. Ah, to go back through time and become a fly on the wall.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        Amazing, sixty - Hope you got a kick out of this Hub.

      • sixtyorso profile image

        Clive Fagan 9 years ago from South Africa

        Starngely enough I have had two Irenes in my life. My Aunt is called Irene and my ex-wifi's second name is Irene too. "Good night irene" was often sung in our household for these two Irenes.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        maven101, I really like reading about your experience with the Raven. I'm going to see what else you are writing now - on Hub Pages!

      • maven101 profile image

        maven101 9 years ago from Northern Arizona

        When I was in high school I read Poe's " The Raven ". This inspired me to start writing poetry for myself and friends. I remember always trying to find a way to insert " nevermore " into a conversation back

        Thank you so much for the very informative, interesting, and articulate hub...Staying tuned for more...Larry

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        That's a nice tradition to share, Eddie.

      • profile image

        Eddie Perkins 9 years ago

        I admire those who have the gift of poetry.  Barbie’s dad used to sing a song for every occasion. Goodnight Irene was one of those songs, so I played it for her.

        Thanks for your work on this hub. ~ eddie

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        B.T. - One of my favorites as well, and no surprise about your preference! - As you take over the government, you will no doubt lay paws on that original manuscript.

        sixty - thanks! - Videos of the singers of the past are always fun to find. I'm still wondering who all these "Irenes" were.

      • sixtyorso profile image

        Clive Fagan 9 years ago from South Africa

        Beautiful Hub. Well researched as always. Great videos!

      • B.T. Evilpants profile image

        B.T. Evilpants 9 years ago from Hell, MI

        Nice hub! Poe is one of my all-time favorites! Big surprise, eh?