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

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 190

to produce continuously
novel effects, by the variation _of the application_ of the
_refrain_--the _refrain_ itself remaining, for the most part, unvaried.

These points being settled, I next bethought me of the _nature_ of my
_refrain_. Since its application was to be repeatedly varied, it was
clear that the _refrain_ itself must be brief, for there would have been
an insurmountable difficulty in frequent variations of application in
any sentence of length. In proportion to the brevity of the sentence
would of course be the facility of the variation. This led me at once to
a single word as the best _refrain_.

The question now arose as to the _character_ of the word. Having made up
my mind to a _refrain_, the division of the poem into stanzas was of
course a corollary, the _refrain_ forming the close to each stanza. That
such a close, to have force, must be sonorous and susceptible of
protracted emphasis, admitted no doubt, and these considerations
inevitably led me to the long _o_ as the most sonorous vowel in
connection with _r_ as the most producible consonant.

The sound of the _refrain_ being thus determined, it became necessary to
select a word embodying this sound, and at the same time in the fullest
possible keeping with that melancholy which I had predetermined as the
tone of the poem. In such a search it would have been absolutely
impossible to overlook the word "Nevermore." In fact, it was the very
first which presented itself.

The next _desideratum_ was a pretext for the continuous use of the one
word "nevermore." 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. Here,
then, immediately arose the idea of a _non_-reasoning creature capable
of speech; and very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance,
suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven as equally
capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended

I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven, the bird of
ill-omen, monotonously repeating the one word "Nevermore" at the
conclusion of each stanza in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length
about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object
_supremeness_ or perfection at

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Text Comparison with The Fall of the House of Usher

Page 0
The Fall of the House of Usher Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne.
Page 1
I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honoured as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain.
Page 2
Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments.
Page 3
Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable.
Page 4
For something of this nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his letter, than by reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical conformation and temperament.
Page 5
I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results.
Page 6
For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either Usher or myself: and during this period I was busied in earnest endeavours to alleviate the melancholy of my friend.
Page 7
By the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed attention.
Page 8
Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow; (This--all this--was in the olden Time long ago) And every gentle air that dallied, In that sweet day, Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, A winged odour went away.
Page 9
But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's high estate; (Ah,.
Page 10
And travellers now within that valley, Through the red-litten windows, see Vast forms that move fantastically To a discordant melody; While, like a rapid ghastly river, Through the pale door, A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh--but smile no more.
Page 11
The brother had been led to his resolution (so he told me) by consideration of the unusual character of the malady of the deceased, of certain obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part.
Page 12
The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.
Page 13
I struggled to reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me.
Page 14
The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our feet.
Page 15
" At the termination of this sentence I started, and for a moment, paused; for it appeared to me (although I at once concluded that my excited fancy had deceived me)--it appeared to me that, from some very remote portion of the mansion, there came, indistinctly, to my ears, what might have been, in its exact similarity of character, the echo (but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the very cracking and ripping sound which Sir Launcelot had so particularly described.
Page 16
I was by no means certain that he had noticed the sounds in question; although, assuredly, a strange alteration had, during the last few minutes, taken place in his demeanour.
Page 17
Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words.
Page 18
While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened--there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind--the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight--my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder--there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters--and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "House of Usher".