The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 157

specific gravity again becomes less
than that of the bulk of water which it displaces. This effect
is brought about by decomposition, or otherwise. The result of
decomposition is the generation of gas, distending the cellular tissues
and all the cavities, and giving the puffed appearance which is so
horrible. When this distension has so far progressed that the bulk of
the corpse is materially increased without a corresponding increase of
mass or weight, its specific gravity becomes less than that of the water
displaced, and it forthwith makes its appearance at the surface. But
decomposition is modified by innumerable circumstances--is hastened or
retarded by innumerable agencies; for example, by the heat or cold of
the season, by the mineral impregnation or purity of the water, by its
depth or shallowness, by its currency or stagnation, by the temperament
of the body, by its infection or freedom from disease before death.
Thus it is evident that we can assign no period, with any thing like
accuracy, at which the corpse shall rise through decomposition. Under
certain conditions this result would be brought about within an hour;
under others, it might not take place at all. There are chemical
infusions by which the animal frame can be preserved forever from
corruption; the Bi-chloride of Mercury is one. But, apart from
decomposition, there may be, and very usually is, a generation of gas
within the stomach, from the acetous fermentation of vegetable matter
(or within other cavities from other causes) sufficient to induce a
distension which will bring the body to the surface. The effect produced
by the firing of a cannon is that of simple vibration. This may either
loosen the corpse from the soft mud or ooze in which it is imbedded,
thus permitting it to rise when other agencies have already prepared
it for so doing; or it may overcome the tenacity of some putrescent
portions of the cellular tissue; allowing the cavities to distend under
the influence of the gas.

"Having thus before us the whole philosophy of this subject, we can
easily test by it the assertions of L'Etoile. 'All experience shows,'
says this paper, 'that drowned bodies, or bodies thrown into the water
immediately after death by violence, require from six to ten days for
sufficient decomposition to take place to bring them to the top of the
water. Even when a cannon is fired over a corpse, and it rises before at
least five or six days' immersion, it sinks again if let alone.'

"The whole of this paragraph must now appear a tissue of inconsequence
and incoherence. All experience does not show

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Text Comparison with The Raven

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Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore-- For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-- Nameless here for evermore.
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