The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 175

bed of death. I listened in an agony of superstitious
terror--but there was no repetition of the sound. I strained my vision
to detect any motion in the corpse--but there was not the slightest
perceptible. Yet I could not have been deceived. I had heard the noise,
however faint, and my soul was awakened within me. I resolutely and
perseveringly kept my attention riveted upon the body. Many minutes
elapsed before any circumstance occurred tending to throw light upon the
mystery. At length it became evident that a slight, a very feeble, and
barely noticeable tinge of color had flushed up within the cheeks,
and along the sunken small veins of the eyelids. Through a species of
unutterable horror and awe, for which the language of mortality has no
sufficiently energetic expression, I felt my heart cease to beat, my
limbs grow rigid where I sat. Yet a sense of duty finally operated to
restore my self-possession. I could no longer doubt that we had been
precipitate in our preparations--that Rowena still lived. It was
necessary that some immediate exertion be made; yet the turret was
altogether apart from the portion of the abbey tenanted by the
servants--there were none within call--I had no means of summoning them
to my aid without leaving the room for many minutes--and this I could
not venture to do. I therefore struggled alone in my endeavors to call
back the spirit ill hovering. In a short period it was certain, however,
that a relapse had taken place; the color disappeared from both eyelid
and cheek, leaving a wanness even more than that of marble; the lips
became doubly shrivelled and pinched up in the ghastly expression
of death; a repulsive clamminess and coldness overspread rapidly the
surface of the body; and all the usual rigorous illness immediately
supervened. I fell back with a shudder upon the couch from which I had
been so startlingly aroused, and again gave myself up to passionate
waking visions of Ligeia.

An hour thus elapsed when (could it be possible?) I was a second
time aware of some vague sound issuing from the region of the bed. I
listened--in extremity of horror. The sound came again--it was a sigh.
Rushing to the corpse, I saw--distinctly saw--a tremor upon the lips. In
a minute afterward they relaxed, disclosing a bright line of the pearly
teeth. Amazement now struggled in my bosom with the profound awe which
had hitherto reigned there alone. I felt that my vision grew dim, that
my reason wandered; and it was only by a violent effort that I at length
succeeded in nerving

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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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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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Here I say No, at once.
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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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The pleasure is deduced solely from the sense of identity—of repetition.
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The next desideratum was a pretext for the continuous use of the one word “Nevermore.
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Perceiving the opportunity thus afforded me—or, more strictly, thus forced upon me in the progress of the construction—I first established in mind the climax, or concluding query—that query to which “Nevermore” should be in the last place an answer—that in reply to which this word “Nevermore” should involve.
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And here I may as well say a few words of the versification.
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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.
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deepening the ultimate impression.
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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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seek a moral in all that has been previously narrated.
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[Illustration] Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, “Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore— Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!” Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.
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” [Illustration: _Copyright 1906 by The Harwell-Evans Co.
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