The Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe Including Essays on Poetry

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 149

general misrule served but to strengthen it by
opposition. Alas! we had fallen upon the most evil of all our evil
days. The great "movement"--that was the cant term--went on: a
diseased commotion, moral and physical. Art--the Arts--arose supreme,
and once enthroned, cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated
them to power. Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty
of Nature, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and
still-increasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked a
God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him. As might
be supposed from the origin of his disorder, he grew infected with
system, and with abstraction. He enwrapped himself in generalities.
Among other odd ideas, that of universal equality gained ground; and
in the face of analogy and of God--in despite of the loud warning
voice of the laws of _gradation_ so visibly pervading all things in
Earth and Heaven--wild attempts at an omniprevalent Democracy were
made. Yet this evil sprang necessarily from the leading evil,
Knowledge. Man could not both know and succumb. Meantime huge smoking
cities arose, innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot breath
of furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as with the ravages
of some loathsome disease. And methinks, sweet Una, even our
slumbering sense of the forced and of the far-fetched might have
arrested us here. But now it appears that we had worked out our own
destruction in the perversion of our _taste_, or rather in the blind
neglect of its culture in the schools. For, in truth, it was at this
crisis that taste alone--that faculty which, holding a middle position
between the pure intellect and the moral sense, could never safely
have been disregarded--it was now that taste alone could have led us
gently back to Beauty, to Nature, and to Life. But alas for the pure
contemplative spirit and majestic intuition of Plato! Alas for the
[Greek: mousichae] which he justly regarded as an all-sufficient
education for the soul! Alas for him and for it!--since both were most
desperately needed, when both were most entirely forgotten or despised
[1]. Pascal, a philosopher whom we both love, has said, how

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Text Comparison with The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition

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The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition [Illustration] [Illustration: _Copyright 1906 by The Harwell-Evans Co.
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Coming from Poe’s own hand, it directly avoids the charge of presumption; and written in Poe’s most felicitous style, it entirely escapes the defect—not uncommon in analytical treatises—of pedantry.
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Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before anything be attempted with the pen.
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For my own part, I have neither sympathy with the repugnance alluded to, nor at any time the least difficulty in recalling to mind the progressive steps of any of my compositions; and, since the interest of an analysis, or reconstruction, such as I have considered a desideratum, is quite independent of any real or fancied interest in the thing analyzed, it will not be regarded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the modus operandi by which some one of my own works was put together.
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Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which I deemed not above the popular, while not below the critical, taste, I reached at once what I conceived the proper length for my intended poem—a length of about one hundred lines.
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The universality of its employment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsic value, and spared me the necessity of submitting it to analysis.
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” In observing the difficulty which I at once found in inventing a sufficiently plausible reason for its continuous repetition, I did not fail to perceive that this difficulty arose solely from the pre-assumption that the word was to be so continuously or monotonously spoken by a human being—I did not fail to perceive, in short, that the difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony with the exercise of reason on the part of the creature repeating the word.
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” I had now to combine the two ideas, of a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a Raven continuously repeating the word “Nevermore.
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In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.
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I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also for the effect of contrast between the marble and the plumage—it being understood that the bust was absolutely suggested by the bird—the bust of Pallas being chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship of the lover, and, secondly, for the sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself.
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For example, an air of the fantastic—approaching as nearly to the ludicrous as was admissible—is given to the Raven’s entrance.
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It is this latter, in especial, which imparts to a work of art so much of that richness (to borrow from colloquy a forcible term) which we are too fond of confounding with the ideal.
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“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more.
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_] [Illustration] Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
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’” [Illustration] But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore— What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking “Nevermore.
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Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.