The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 111

desire it. And because our reason violently deters us
from the brink, therefore do we the most impetuously approach it. There
is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him who,
shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a Plunge. To
indulge, for a moment, in any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably
lost; for reflection but urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I
say, that we cannot. If there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we
fail in a sudden effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss,
we plunge, and are destroyed.

Examine these similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting
solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them because we
feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this there is no intelligible
principle; and we might, indeed, deem this perverseness a direct
instigation of the Arch-Fiend, were it not occasionally known to operate
in furtherance of good.

I have said thus much, that in some measure I may answer your question,
that I may explain to you why I am here, that I may assign to you
something that shall have at least the faint aspect of a cause for my
wearing these fetters, and for my tenanting this cell of the condemned.
Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have misunderstood me
altogether, or, with the rabble, have fancied me mad. As it is, you will
easily perceive that I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp
of the Perverse.

It is impossible that any deed could have been wrought with a more
thorough deliberation. For weeks, for months, I pondered upon the
means of the murder. I rejected a thousand schemes, because their
accomplishment involved a chance of detection. At length, in reading
some French Memoirs, I found an account of a nearly fatal illness that
occurred to Madame Pilau, through the agency of a candle accidentally
poisoned. The idea struck my fancy at once. I knew my victim's habit
of reading in bed. I knew, too, that his apartment was narrow and
ill-ventilated. But I need not vex you with impertinent details. I need
not describe the easy artifices by which I substituted, in his bed-room
candle-stand, a wax-light of my own making for the one which I there
found. The next morning he was discovered dead in his bed, and the
Coroner's verdict was--"Death by the visitation of God."

Having inherited his estate, all went well with me for years. The idea
of detection never once entered my

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Text Comparison with The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition

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_ _Lenore_ ] [Illustration] The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition By Edgar Allan Poe Quarto Photogravure Edition Illustrated from Paintings by Galen J.
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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.
Page 2
Keeping originality always in view—for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest—I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?” Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone—afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.
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We commence, then, with this intention.
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It is, in fact, a hundred and eight.
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.
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” In fact, it was the very first which presented itself.
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I saw that I could make the first query propounded by the lover—the first query to which the Raven should reply “Nevermore”—that I could make this first query a commonplace one—the second less so—the third still less, and so on, until at length the lover—startled from his original nonchalance by the melancholy character of the word itself, by its frequent repetition, and by a consideration of the ominous reputation of the fowl that uttered it—is at length excited to superstition, and wildly propounds queries of a far different character—queries whose solution he has passionately at heart—propounds them half in superstition and half in that species of despair which delights in self-torture—propounds them not altogether because he believes in the prophetic or demoniac character of the bird (which, reason assures him, is merely repeating a lesson learned by rote) but because he experiences a phrenzied pleasure in so modeling his questions as to receive from the expected “Nevermore,” the most delicious because the most intolerable of sorrow.
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The fact is, that originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition.
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For this the most natural suggestion might seem to be a forest, or the fields—but it has always appeared to me that a close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident: it has the force of a frame to a picture.
Page 10
” The effect of the dénouement being thus provided for, I immediately drop the fantastic for a tone of the most profound seriousness—this tone commencing in the stanza directly following the one last quoted, with the line: But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only, etc.
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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] Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door— Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as “Nevermore.
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_] [Illustration] “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!— Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted— On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!” Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.
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_] [Illustration] “Be that word 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 hath 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.