The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 158

in
which the common understanding of the poetic sentiment has declared it
capable of expatiating. But Ellison maintained that the richest, the
truest, and most natural, if not altogether the most extensive province,
had been unaccountably neglected. No definition had spoken of the
landscape-gardener as of the poet; yet it seemed to my friend that the
creation of the landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most
magnificent of opportunities. Here, indeed, was the fairest field for
the display of imagination in the endless combining of forms of
novel beauty; the elements to enter into combination being, by a vast
superiority, the most glorious which the earth could afford. In the
multiform and multicolor of the flowers and the trees, he recognised the
most direct and energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness. And
in the direction or concentration of this effort--or, more properly,
in its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth--he
perceived that he should be employing the best means--laboring to the
greatest advantage--in the fulfilment, not only of his own destiny as
poet, but of the august purposes for which the Deity had implanted the
poetic sentiment in man.

"Its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth." In his
explanation of this phraseology, Mr. Ellison did much toward solving
what has always seemed to me an enigma:--I mean the fact (which none
but the ignorant dispute) that no such combination of scenery exists in
nature as the painter of genius may produce. No such paradises are to
be found in reality as have glowed on the canvas of Claude. In the most
enchanting of natural landscapes, there will always be found a defect
or an excess--many excesses and defects. While the component parts may
defy, individually, the highest skill of the artist, the arrangement
of these parts will always be susceptible of improvement. In short, no
position can be attained on the wide surface of the natural earth,
from which an artistical eye, looking steadily, will not find matter of
offence in what is termed the "composition" of the landscape. And
yet how unintelligible is this! In all other matters we are justly
instructed to regard nature as supreme. With her details we shrink from
competition. Who shall presume to imitate the colors of the tulip, or to
improve the proportions of the lily of the valley? The criticism which
says, of sculpture or portraiture, that here nature is to be exalted or
idealized rather than imitated, is in error. No pictorial or sculptural
combinations of points of human liveliness do more than approach the
living and breathing

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Text Comparison with The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition

Page 0
The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition [Illustration] [Illustration: _Copyright 1906 by The Harwell-Evans Co.
Page 1
It is indeed possible, as some critics assert, that this supposed analysis is purely fictitious.
Page 2
It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.
Page 3
I select “The Raven,” as most generally known.
Page 4
It appears evident, then, that there is a distinct limit, as regards length, to all works of literary art—the limit of a single sitting—and that, although in certain classes of prose composition, such as “Robinson Crusoe” (demanding no unity), this limit may be advantageously overpassed, it can never properly be overpassed in a poem.
Page 5
It by no means follows from anything here said, that Passion, or even Truth, may not be introduced, and even profitably introduced, into a poem—for they may serve in elucidation, or aid the general effect, as do discords in music, by contrast—but the true artist will always contrive, first, to tone them into proper subservience to the predominant aim, and, secondly, to enveil them, as far as possible, in that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the essence of the poem.
Page 6
The question now arose as to the character of the word.
Page 7
And here it was that I saw at once the opportunity afforded for the effect on which I had been depending—that is to say, the effect of the variation of application.
Page 8
My first object (as usual) was originality.
Page 9
I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also for the effect of contrast between the marble and the plumage—it being understood that the bust was absolutely suggested by the bird—the bust of Pallas being chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship of the lover, and, secondly, for the sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself.
Page 10
” This revolution of thought, or fancy, on the lover’s part, is intended to induce a similar one on the part of the reader—to bring the mind into a proper frame for the dénouement—which is now brought about as rapidly and as directly as possible.
Page 11
But in subjects so handled, however skilfully, or with however vivid an array of incident, there is always a certain hardness or nakedness which repels the artistical eye.
Page 12
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more.
Page 13
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore— Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;— ’Tis the wind and nothing more.
Page 14
” [Illustration: _Copyright 1906 by The Harwell-Evans Co.
Page 15
Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.