The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

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a milk-and-water way.
Our capital city, unlike London or Paris, is not a great central heart
from which life and vigor radiate to the extremities, but resembles more
an isolated umbilicus stuck down as near as may be to the centre of the
land, and seeming rather to tell a legend of former usefulness than to
serve any present need. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, each has its
literature almost more distinct than those of the different dialects
of Germany; and the Young Queen of the West has also one of her own,
of which some articulate rumor barely has reached us dwellers by the

Perhaps there is no task more difficult than the just criticism of
contemporary literature. It is even more grateful to give praise where
it is needed than where it is deserved, and friendship so often seduces
the iron stylus of justice into a vague flourish, that she writes what
seems rather like an epitaph than a criticism. Yet if praise be given
as an alms, we could not drop so poisonous a one into any man's hat. The
critic's ink may suffer equally from too large an infusion of nutgalls
or of sugar. But it is easier to be generous than to be just, and we
might readily put faith in that fabulous direction to the hiding place
of truth, did we judge from the amount of water which we usually find
mixed with it.

Remarkable experiences are usually confined to the inner life of
imaginative men, but Mr. Poe's biography displays a vicissitude and
peculiarity of interest such as is rarely met with. The offspring of a
romantic marriage, and left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted
by Mr. Allan, a wealthy Virginian, whose barren marriage-bed seemed the
warranty of a large estate to the young poet.

Having received a classical education in England, he returned home and
entered the University of Virginia, where, after an extravagant course,
followed by reformation at the last extremity, he was graduated with
the highest honors of his class. Then came a boyish attempt to join the
fortunes of the insurgent Greeks, which ended at St. Petersburg, where
he got into difficulties through want of a passport, from which he
was rescued by the American consul and sent home. He now entered the
military academy at West Point, from which he obtained a dismissal
on hearing of the birth of a son to his adopted father, by a second
marriage, an event which cut off his expectations as an heir. The death
of Mr. Allan, in whose will his name was not

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Text Comparison with The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition

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Perrett The Decorations by Will Jenkins [Illustration] Paul Elder and Company San Francisco and New York Contents Foreword .
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If they be again correct, Poe’s genius as seen in the creation of “The Philosophy of Composition” is far more startling than it has otherwise appeared; and “robbed of his bay leaves in the realm of poetry,” he is to be “crowned with a double wreath of berried holly for his prose.
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” I cannot think this the precise mode of procedure on the part of Godwin—and indeed what he himself acknowledges, is not altogether in accordance with Mr.
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If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression—for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed.
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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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” Now I designate Beauty as the province of the poem, merely because it is an obvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring from direct causes—that objects should be attained through means best adapted for their attainment—no one as yet having been weak enough to deny that the peculiar elevation alluded to is most readily attained in the poem.
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In proportion to the brevity of the sentence, would, of course, be the facility of the variation.
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“And when,” I said, “is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?” From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious—“When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world—and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.
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Had I been able, in the subsequent composition, to construct more vigorous stanzas, I should, without scruple, have purposely enfeebled them, so as not to interfere with the climacteric effect.
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The next point to be considered was the mode of bringing together the lover and the Raven—and the first branch of this consideration was the locale.
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He speaks of him as a “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore,” and feels the “fiery eyes” burning into his “bosom’s core.
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The Raven, addressed, answers with its customary word, “Nevermore,” a word which finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the student, who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughts suggested by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl’s repetition of “Nevermore.
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[Illustration: _Copyright 1906 by The Harwell-Evans Co.
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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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” Then the bird said, “Nevermore.
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