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The Poetical Works of Edgar A. Poe


This pocket edition of the Poetical Works of Edgar A. Poe is illustrated with a very much idealized portrait of the author. The poems are introduced by an original memoir, which, without eulogy or anathema, gives a clear and succinct account of that singular and wayward genius. The copies of verses are many in number, and most of them are chiefly remarkable for their art, rather than for their power of awakening either pleasing or profound emotion. It is one poem alone which makes an edition of these works emphatically called for. That poem, it is nearly superfluous to mention, is "The Raven," and truly it is unforgetable. In this weird and wonderful creation, art holds equal dominion with feeling. The form not only never yields to the sweep of the thought, but that thought, touching and fearful as is its tone, is made to turn and double fantastically, almost playfully, in many of the lines. The croak of the raven is taken up and moulded into rhyme by a nimble, if not a mocking spirit; and, fascinating as is the rhythmic movement of the verse, it appears like the dancing of the daughter of Herodias. This looks incongruous; and so do the words of the fool which Shakespeare has intermingled with the agonies and imprecations of Lear. In the tragedy, this is held to be a consummate stroke of art, and certainly the reader is grateful for the relief. Had Poe a similar design? Closely analyzed, this song seems the very ecstasy of fancy; as if the haunting apparition inspired the poet more than it appalled the man. We can call to mind no one who had ever played with an inexplicable horror more daintily or more impressively; and, whether premeditated or spontaneous, it is an epitome of the life of the writer, for the marked traits of his character are there, and almost the prevailing expression of his countenance.


The Atlantic Monthly; October, 1859; Volume 4, No. 24; page 522.
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