words, however, in explanation. _That_ pleasure which is at once
the most pure, the most elevating, and the most intense, is derived, I
maintain, from the contemplation of the Beautiful. In the contemplation
of Beauty we alone find it possible to attain that pleasurable
elevation, or excitement _of the soul_, which we recognize as the Poetic
Sentiment, and which is so easily distinguished from Truth, which is the
satisfaction of the Reason, or from Passion, which is the excitement of
the heart. I make Beauty, therefore--using the word as inclusive of the
sublime--I make Beauty the province of the poem, simply because it is an
obvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring as directly as
possible from their causes:--no one as yet having been weak enough to
deny that the peculiar elevation in question is at least _most readily_
attainable in the poem. It by no means follows, however, that the
incitements of Passion, or the precepts of Duty, or even the lessons of
Truth, may not be introduced into a poem, and with advantage; for they
may subserve incidentally, in various ways, the general purposes of the
work: but the true artist will always contrive to tone them down in
proper subjection to that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the real
essence of the poem.
I cannot better introduce the few poems which I shall present for your
consideration, than by the citation of the Proeem to Longfellow's "Waif":
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
That my soul cannot resist;
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating "'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door-- Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door; This it is and nothing more.Page 1
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.Page 2
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.Page 3
" Quoth the Raven,.Page 4
" "Be that our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting-- "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.