The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 55

metal, a piece of wood, a drop of
water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the luminiferous
ether. Now we call all these things matter, and embrace all matter in
one general definition; but in spite of this, there can be no two ideas
more essentially distinct than that which we attach to a metal, and that
which we attach to the luminiferous ether. When we reach the latter, we
feel an almost irresistible inclination to class it with spirit, or with
nihility. The only consideration which restrains us is our conception
of its atomic constitution; and here, even, we have to seek aid from
our notion of an atom, as something possessing in infinite minuteness,
solidity, palpability, weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic
constitution and we should no longer be able to regard the ether as an
entity, or at least as matter. For want of a better word we might term
it spirit. Take, now, a step beyond the luminiferous ether--conceive a
matter as much more rare than the ether, as this ether is more rare than
the metal, and we arrive at once (in spite of all the school dogmas) at
a unique mass--an unparticled matter. For although we may admit infinite
littleness in the atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness in the
spaces between them is an absurdity. There will be a point--there will
be a degree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are sufficiently numerous,
the interspaces must vanish, and the mass absolutely coalesce. But
the consideration of the atomic constitution being now taken away, the
nature of the mass inevitably glides into what we conceive of spirit. It
is clear, however, that it is as fully matter as before. The truth is,
it is impossible to conceive spirit, since it is impossible to
imagine what is not. When we flatter ourselves that we have formed
its conception, we have merely deceived our understanding by the
consideration of infinitely rarified matter.

_P._ There seems to me an insurmountable objection to the idea
of absolute coalescence;--and that is the very slight resistance
experienced by the heavenly bodies in their revolutions through space--a
resistance now ascertained, it is true, to exist in _some_ degree, but
which is, nevertheless, so slight as to have been quite overlooked by
the sagacity even of Newton. We know that the resistance of bodies
is, chiefly, in proportion to their density. Absolute coalescence
is absolute density. Where there are no interspaces, there can be no
yielding. An ether, absolutely dense, would put an infinitely more
effectual stop to the progress of a star than would an ether

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Text Comparison with The Raven Illustrated

Page 0
Eagerly I wished the morrow;-- Vainly I had tried 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.
Page 1
curtain Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic Terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating Of my heart, I stood repeating, "'Tis some visitor entreating Entrance at my chamber door-- Some late visitor entreating Entrance at my chamber door; This it is and nothing more.
Page 2
"Surely," said I, "surely that is Something at my window lattice; [Illustration: 0019] 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 3
Not the least obeisance made he; Not an instant stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, [Illustration: 8021] Perched above my chamber door-- Perched upon a bust of Pallas Just above my chamber door-- Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
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Nothing farther then he uttered; Not a feather then he fluttered-- Till I scarcely more than muttered, " Other friends have flown before-- On the morrow he will leave me, As my hopes have flown before.
Page 5
" But the Raven still beguiling All my sad soul into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in Front of bird and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking What this ominous bird of yore-- What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, Gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking " Nevermore.
Page 6
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee By these angels he hath sent thee Respite--respite and Nepenthe From thy memories of Lenore! Let me quaff this kind Nepenthe, And forget this lost Lenore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
Page 7
" "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!-- Prophet still, if bird or devil!-- By that Heaven that bends above us-- By that God we both adore-- Tell this soul with sorrow laden If, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden Whom the angels name Lenore-- [Illustration: 0032] Clasp a rare and radiant maiden Whom the angels name Lenore.
Page 8
And the lamplight o'er him streaming Throws his shadow on the floor, And my soul from out that shadow That lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted--nevermore! [Illustration: 0035].