meaning of some words in Marginalia : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I would like to know the meaning of some words in Poe's Marginalia. In an entry of June 1849, Poe writes as follows: "There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad humanity must assume the aspect of Hell; but the Imagination of Man is no Carathis, to explore with impunity its every cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful; but, like the Demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or they will devour us--they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish." I would appreciate it if someone can teach me what is "Carathis" and "Afrasiab," and the whole meaning of the passage. Thank you.

Keiko (

-- Anonymous, August 08, 2000



Well, the only "Carathis" that I know of is Princess Carathis, a character from William Beckford's fantasy-autobiography, "The History of the Caliph Vathek," published in 1786. Based upon Beckford's mother, Princess Carathis is a witch who is always mixing the powder of Egyptian mummies with frogs' warts, and running up and down the palace casting evil spells, much as she did in real life. It's possible that Poe was speaking of this character.

Afrasiab is in one of the oldest and most important cities amongst the many in the historic region of Central Asia known as Transoxiana. The city Samarkand is located on the hill known as "Afrasiab". Poets and historians of the past called it "Rome of the East", "The Beauty of Sublunary countries", and "The Pearl of the Eastern Moslem World."

Before the 13th century, Samarkand occupied a vast hilly territory, now called Afrasiab, and was sieged by troops of Alexander the Great, the Arab Caliphate, and Genghiz Khan. Over the past few years, the city gates, streets, and building of Afrasiab have been uncovered in excavations.

I believe that this city was named after a great Asian ruler of some sort, but I leave the rest of that research to you.


-- Anonymous, August 10, 2000

Approx. 6 years ago, I was informed over an email the meaning of Afrasiab. Although, I have not found it anywhere in a book, dictionary or internet sites, I would not be 100% sure if its the right meaning. I was told it means: "A place far away from Darkness, a place where evil cannot reach. The word Afrasiab is broken into 2 parts. Afra meaning 'high' and Siab meaning 'Darkness'". It took me 1.5 decades to get close to a meaning of my own name, till today I am not sure what my own name means. I am pretty sure it has something to do with EVIL though!!! I would highly appreciate if someone around the planet emails me the meaning of my name. :)

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2004

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