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Title: The Raven

Author: Edgar Allan Poe

Commentator: Edmund C. Stedman

Illustrator: Gustave Doré

Release Date: November 30, 2005 [EBook #17192]

Language: English

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Produced by Jason Isbell, Melissa Er-Raqabi and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net.

Transcriber’s Notes:

In the List of Illustrations I restored a missing single quote after “Lenore!”:
“‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!'”

The List of Illustrations uses ‘visitor’ where the poem and the actual
illustration use ‘visiter’.

* * * * *

THE RAVEN

BY
EDGAR ALLAN POE

ILLUSTRATED
BY GUSTAVE DORÉ

[Illustration]

WITH COMMENT BY EDMUND C. STEDMAN

NEW YORK

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE
1884

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1883, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

_All rights reserved._

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
WITH NAMES OF ENGRAVERS

Title-page, designed by Elihu Vedder. _Frederick Juengling._

“Nevermore.” _H. Claudius, G.J. Buechner._

ANANKE. _H. Claudius._

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”
_R.A. Muller._

“Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”
_R.G. Tietze._

“Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore.”
_H. Claudius._

“Sorrow for the lost Lenore.” _W. Zimmermann._

“For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.”
_Frederick Juengling._

“”T is some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.'”
_W. Zimmermann._

–“Here I opened wide the door;–
Darkness there, and nothing more.” _H. Claudius._

“Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
_F.S. King._

“‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.'”
_Frederick Juengling._

“Open here I flung the shutter.” _T. Johnson._

–“A stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he.”
_R. Staudenbaur._

“Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”
_R.G. Tietze._

“Wandering from the Nightly shore.” _Frederick Juengling._

“Till I scarcely more than muttered, ‘Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow _he_ will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'”
_Frank French._

“Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy.” _R. Schelling._

“But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er
_She_ shall press, ah, nevermore!”
_George Kruell._

“‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!'”
_Victor Bernstrom._

“On this home by Horror haunted.” _R. Staudenbaur._

“‘Tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–_is_ there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me, I implore!'”
_W. Zimmermann._

“‘Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore.'”
_F.S. King._

“‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting.”
_W. Zimmermann._

“‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!'”
_Robert Hoskin._

“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!”
_R.G. Tietze._

The secret of the Sphinx. _R. Staudenbaur._

COMMENT ON THE POEM.

The secret of a poem, no less than a jest’s prosperity, lies in the ear of
him that hears it. Yield to its spell, accept the poet’s mood: this, after
all, is what the sages answer when you ask them of its value. Even though
the poet himself, in his other mood, tell you that his art is but sleight
of hand, his food enchanter’s food, and offer to show you the trick of
it,–believe him not. Wait for his prophetic hour; then give yourself to
his passion, his joy or pain. “We are in Love’s hand to-day!” sings
Gautier, in Swinburne’s buoyant paraphrase,–and from morn to sunset we are
wafted on the violent sea: there is but one love, one May, one flowery
strand. Love is eternal, all else unreal and put aside. The vision has an
end, the scene changes; but we have gained something, the memory of a
charm. As many poets, so many charms. There is the charm of Evanescence,
that which lends to supreme beauty and grace an aureole of Pathos. Share
with Landor his one “night of memories and of sighs” for Rose Aylmer, and
you have this to the full.

And now take the hand of a new-world minstrel, strayed from some proper
habitat to that rude and dissonant America which, as Baudelaire saw, “was
for Poe only a vast prison through which he ran, hither and thither, with
the feverish agitation of a being created to breathe in a purer world,” and
where “his interior life, spiritual as a poet, spiritual even as a
drunkard, was but one perpetual effort to escape the influence of this
antipathetical atmosphere.” Clasp the sensitive hand of a troubled singer
dreeing thus his weird, and share with him the clime in which he
found,–never throughout the day, always in the night,–if not the Atlantis
whence he had wandered, at least a place of refuge from the bounds in which
by day he was immured.

To one land only he has power to lead you, and for one night only can you
share his dream. A tract of neither Earth nor Heaven: “No-man’s-land,” out
of Space, out of Time. Here are the perturbed ones, through whose eyes,
like those of the Cenci, the soul finds windows though the mind is dazed;
here spirits, groping for the path which leads to Eternity, are halted and
delayed. It is the limbo of “planetary souls,” wherein are all moonlight
uncertainties, all lost loves and illusions. Here some are fixed in trance,
the only respite attainable; others

“move fantastically
To a discordant melody:”

while everywhere are

“Sheeted Memories of the Past–
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by.”

Such is the land, and for one night we enter it,–a night of astral phases
and recurrent chimes. Its monodies are twelve poems, whose music strives to
change yet ever is the same. One by one they sound, like the chiming of the
brazen and ebony clock, in “The Masque of the Red Death,” which made the
waltzers pause with “disconcert and tremulousness and meditation,” as often
as the hour came round.

Of all these mystical cadences, the plaint of _The Raven_, vibrating
through the portal, chiefly has impressed the outer world. What things go
to the making of a poem,–and how true in this, as in most else, that race
which named its bards “the makers”? A work is called out of the void. Where
there was nothing, it remains,–a new creation, part of the treasure of
mankind. And a few exceptional lyrics, more than others that are equally
creative, compel us to think anew how bravely the poet’s pen turns things
unknown

“to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.”

Each seems without a prototype, yet all fascinate us with elements wrested
from the shadow of the Supernatural. Now the highest imagination is
concerned about the soul of things; it may or may not inspire the Fantasy
that peoples with images the interlunar vague. Still, one of these lyrics,
in its smaller way, affects us with a sense of uniqueness, as surely as the
sublimer works of a supernatural cast,–Marlowe’s “Faustus,” the “Faust” of
Goethe, “Manfred,” or even those ethereal masterpieces, “The Tempest” and
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” More than one, while otherwise unique, has
some burden or refrain which haunts the memory,–once heard, never
forgotten, like the tone of a rarely used but distinctive organ-stop.
Notable among them is Bürger’s “Lenore,” that ghostly and resonant ballad,
the lure and foil of the translators. Few will deny that Coleridge’s
wondrous “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” stands at their very head. “Le
Juif-Errant” would have claims, had Beranger been a greater poet; and, but
for their remoteness from popular sympathy, “The Lady of Shalott” and “The
Blessed Damozel” might be added to the list. It was given to Edgar Allan
Poe to produce two lyrics, “The Bells” and _The Raven_, each of which,
although perhaps of less beauty than those of Tennyson and Rossetti, is a
unique. “Ulalume,” while equally strange and imaginative, has not the
universal quality that is a portion of our test.

_The Raven_ in sheer poetical constituents falls below such pieces as “The
Haunted Palace,” “The City in the Sea,” “The Sleeper,” and “Israfel.” The
whole of it would be exchanged, I suspect, by readers of a fastidious cast,
for such passages as these:

“Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently–

* * *

Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

* * *

No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea–
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.”

It lacks the aerial melody of the poet whose heart-strings are a lute:

“And they say (the starry choir
And the other listening things)
That Israfeli’s fire
Is owing to that lyre
By which he sits and sings–
The trembling living wire
Of those unusual strings.”

But _The Raven_, like “The Bells” and “Annabel Lee,” commends itself to the
many and the few. I have said elsewhere that Poe’s rarer productions seemed
to me “those in which there is the appearance, at least, of
spontaneity,–in which he yields to his feelings, while dying falls and
cadences most musical, most melancholy, come from him unawares.” This is
still my belief; and yet, upon a fresh study of this poem, it impresses me
more than at any time since my boyhood. Close acquaintance tells in favor
of every true work of art. Induce the man, who neither knows art nor cares
for it, to examine some poem or painting, and how soon its force takes hold
of him! In fact, he will overrate the relative value of the first good work
by which his attention has been fairly caught. _The Raven_, also, has
consistent qualities which even an expert must admire. In no other of its
author’s poems is the motive more palpably defined. “The Haunted Palace” is
just as definite to the select reader, but Poe scarcely would have taken
that subtle allegory for bald analysis. _The Raven_ is wholly occupied with
the author’s typical theme–the irretrievable loss of an idolized and
beautiful woman; but on other grounds, also, the public instinct is correct
in thinking it his representative poem.

A man of genius usually gains a footing with the success of some one
effort, and this is not always his greatest. Recognition is the more
instant for having been postponed. He does not acquire it, like a miser’s
fortune, coin after coin, but “not at all or all in all.” And thus with
other ambitions: the courtier, soldier, actor,–whatever their parts,–each
counts his triumph from some lucky stroke. Poe’s Raven, despite augury, was
for him “the bird that made the breeze to blow.” The poet settled in
New-York, in the winter of 1844-’45, finding work upon Willis’s paper, “The
Evening Mirror,” and eking out his income by contributions elsewhere. For
six years he had been an active writer, and enjoyed a professional
reputation; was held in both respect and misdoubt, and was at no loss for
his share of the ill-paid journalism of that day. He also had done much of
his very best work,–such tales as “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of
Usher,” (the latter containing that mystical counterpart, in verse, of
Elihu Vedder’s “A Lost Mind,”) such analytic feats as “The Gold Bug” and
“The Mystery of Marie Roget.” He had made proselytes abroad, and gained a
lasting hold upon the French mind. He had learned his own power and
weakness, and was at his prime, and not without a certain reputation. But
he had written nothing that was on the tongue of everybody. To rare and
delicate work some popular touch must be added to capture the general
audience of one’s own time.

Through the industry of Poe’s successive biographers, the hit made by _The
Raven_ has become an oft-told tale. The poet’s young wife, Virginia, was
fading before his eyes, but lingered for another year within death’s
shadow. The long, low chamber in the house near the Bloomingdale Road is
as famous as the room where Rouget de l’Isle composed the Marseillaise.
All have heard that the poem, signed “Quarles,” appeared in the “American
Review,” with a pseudo-editorial comment on its form; that Poe received ten
dollars for it; that Willis, the kindest and least envious of fashionable
arbiters, reprinted it with a eulogy that instantly made it town-talk. All
doubt of its authorship was dispelled when Poe recited it himself at a
literary gathering, and for a time he was the most marked of American
authors. The hit stimulated and encouraged him. Like another and prouder
satirist, he too found “something of summer” even “in the hum of insects.”
Sorrowfully enough, but three years elapsed,–a period of influence, pride,
anguish, yet always of imaginative or critical labor,–before the final
defeat, before the curtain dropped on a life that for him was in truth a
tragedy, and he yielded to “the Conqueror Worm.”

“The American Review: A Whig Journal” was a creditable magazine for the
time, double-columned, printed on good paper with clear type, and
illustrated by mezzotint portraits. Amid much matter below the present
standard, it contained some that any editor would be glad to receive. The
initial volume, for 1845, has articles by Horace Greeley, Donald Mitchell,
Walter Whitman, Marsh, Tuckerman, and Whipple. Ralph Hoyt’s quaint poem,
“Old,” appeared in this volume. And here are three lyrics by Poe: “The City
in the Sea,” “The Valley of Unrest,” and _The Raven_. Two of these were
built up,–such was his way,–from earlier studies, but the last-named came
out as if freshly composed, and almost as we have it now. The statement
that it was not afterward revised is erroneous. Eleven trifling changes
from the magazine-text appear in _The Raven and Other Poems_, 1845, a book
which the poet shortly felt encouraged to offer the public. These are
mostly changes of punctuation, or of single words, the latter kind made to
heighten the effect of alliteration. In Mr. Lang’s pretty edition of Poe’s
verse, brought out in the “Parchment Library,” he has shown the instinct of
a scholar, and has done wisely, in going back to the text in the volume
just mentioned, as given in the London issue of 1846. The “standard”
Griswold collection of the poet’s works abounds with errors. These have
been repeated by later editors, who also have made errors of their own. But
the text of _The Raven_, owing to the requests made to the author for
manuscript copies, was still farther revised by him; in fact, he printed it
in Richmond, just before his death, with the poetic substitution of
“seraphim whose foot-falls” for “angels whose faint foot-falls,” in the
fourteenth stanza. Our present text, therefore, while substantially that of
1845, is somewhat modified by the poet’s later reading, and is, I think,
the most correct and effective version of this single poem. The most
radical change from the earliest version appeared, however, in the volume
in 1845; the eleventh stanza originally having contained these lines,
faulty in rhyme and otherwise a blemish on the poem:

“Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster–so, when Hope he would adjure,
Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure–
That sad answer, ‘Nevermore!'”

It would be well if other, and famous, poets could be as sure of making
their changes always improvements. Poe constantly rehandled his scanty show
of verse, and usually bettered it. _The Raven_ was the first of the few
poems which he nearly brought to completion before printing. It may be that
those who care for poetry lost little by his death. Fluent in prose, he
never wrote verse for the sake of making a poem. When a refrain of image
haunted him, the lyric that resulted was the inspiration, as he himself
said, of a passion, not of a purpose. This was at intervals so rare as
almost to justify the Fairfield theory that each was the product of a
nervous crisis.

What, then, gave the poet his clue to _The Raven_? From what misty
foundation did it rise slowly to a music slowly breathed? As usual, more
than one thing went to the building of so notable a poem. Considering the
longer sermons often preached on brief and less suggestive texts, I hope
not to be blamed for this discussion of a single lyric,–especially one
which an artist like Doré has made the subject of prodigal illustration.
Until recently I had supposed that this piece, and a few which its author
composed after its appearance, were exceptional in not having grown from
germs in his boyish verse. But Mr. Fearing Gill has shown me some
unpublished stanzas by Poe, written in his eighteenth year, and entitled,
“The Demon of the Fire.” The manuscript appears to be in the poet’s early
handwriting, and its genuineness is vouched for by the family in whose
possession it has remained for half a century. Besides the plainest germs
of “The Bells” and “The Haunted Palace” it contains a few lines somewhat
suggestive of the opening and close of _The Raven_. As to the rhythm of our
poem, a comparison of dates indicates that this was influenced by the
rhythm of “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.” Poe was one of the first to honor
Miss Barrett’s genius; he inscribed his collected poems to her as “the
noblest of her sex,” and was in sympathy with her lyrical method. The
lines from her love-poem,

“With a murmurous stir uncertain, in the air, the purple curtain
Swelleth in and swelleth out around her motionless pale brows,”

found an echo in these:

“And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.”

Here Poe assumed a privilege for which he roughly censured Longfellow, and
which no one ever sought on his own premises without swift detection and
chastisement. In melody and stanzaic form, we shall see that the two poems
are not unlike, but in motive they are totally distinct. The generous
poetess felt nothing but the true originality of the poet. “This vivid
writing!” she exclaimed,–“this power which is felt!… Our great poet, Mr.
Browning, author of ‘Paracelsus,’ &c., is enthusiastic in his admiration of
the rhythm.” Mr. Ingram, after referring to “Lady Geraldine,” cleverly
points out another source from which Poe may have caught an impulse. In
1843, Albert Pike, the half-Greek, half-frontiersman, poet of Arkansas, had
printed in “The New Mirror,” for which Poe then was writing, some verses
entitled “Isadore,” but since revised by the author and called “The Widowed
Heart.” I select from Mr. Pike’s revision the following stanza, of which
the main features correspond with the original version:

“Restless I pace our lonely rooms, I play our songs no more,
The garish sun shines flauntingly upon the unswept floor;
The mocking-bird still sits and sings, O melancholy strain!
For my heart is like an autumn-cloud that overflows with rain;
Thou art lost to me forever, Isadore!”

Here we have a prolonged measure, a similarity of refrain, and the
introduction of a bird whose song enhances sorrow. There are other trails
which may be followed by the curious; notably, a passage which Mr. Ingram
selects from Poe’s final review of “Barnaby Rudge”:

“The raven, too, * * * might have been made, more than we now see
it, a portion of the conception of the fantastic Barnaby. * * * Its
character might have performed, in regard to that of the idiot,
much the same part as does, in music, the accompaniment in respect
to the air.”

Nevertheless, after pointing out these germs and resemblances, the value of
this poem still is found in its originality. The progressive music, the
scenic detail and contrasted light and shade,–above all, the spiritual
passion of the nocturn, make it the work of an informing genius. As for the
gruesome bird, he is unlike all the other ravens of his clan, from the “twa
corbies” and “three ravens” of the balladists to Barnaby’s rumpled “Grip.”
Here is no semblance of the cawing rook that haunts ancestral turrets and
treads the field of heraldry; no boding phantom of which Tickell sang that,
when,

“shrieking at her window thrice,
The raven flap’d his wing,
Too well the love-lorn maiden knew
The solemn boding sound.”

Poe’s raven is a distinct conception; the incarnation of a mourner’s agony
and hopelessness; a sable embodied Memory, the abiding chronicler of doom,
a type of the Irreparable. Escaped across the Styx, from “the Night’s
Plutonian shore,” he seems the imaged soul of the questioner himself,–of
him who can not, will not, quaff the kind nepenthe, because the memory of
Lenore is all that is left him, and with the surcease of his sorrow even
that would be put aside.

_The Raven_ also may be taken as a representative poem of its author, for
its exemplification of all his notions of what a poem should be. These are
found in his essays on “The Poetic Principle,” “The Rationale of Verse,”
and “The Philosophy of Composition.” Poe declared that “in Music, perhaps,
the soul most nearly attains the great end for which, when inspired by the
Poetic Sentiment, it struggles–the creation of supernal Beauty…. Verse
cannot be better designated than as an inferior or less capable music”; but
again, verse which is really the “Poetry of Words” is “The Rhythmical
Creation of Beauty,”–this and nothing more. The _tone_ of the highest
Beauty is one of Sadness. The most melancholy of topics is Death. This must
be allied to Beauty. “The death, then, of a beautiful woman is,
unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world,–and equally is it
beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a
bereaved lover.” These last expressions are quoted from Poe’s whimsical
analysis of this very poem, but they indicate precisely the general range
of his verse. The climax of “The Bells” is the muffled monotone of ghouls,
who glory in weighing down the human heart. “Lenore,” _The Raven_, “The
Sleeper,” “To One in Paradise,” and “Ulalume” form a tenebrose
symphony,–and “Annabel Lee,” written last of all, shows that one theme
possessed him to the end. Again, these are all nothing if not musical, and
some are touched with that quality of the Fantastic which awakes the sense
of awe, and adds a new fear to agony itself. Through all is dimly outlined,
beneath a shadowy pall, the poet’s ideal love,–so often half-portrayed
elsewhere,–the entombed wife of Usher, the Lady Ligeia, in truth the
counterpart of his own nature. I suppose that an artist’s love for one “in
the form” never can wholly rival his devotion to some ideal. The woman near
him must exercise her spells, be all by turns and nothing long, charm him
with infinite variety, or be content to forego a share of his allegiance.
He must be lured by the Unattainable, and this is ever just beyond him in
his passion for creative art.

Poe, like Hawthorne, came in with the decline of the Romantic school, and
none delighted more than he to laugh at its calamity. Yet his heart was
with the romancers and their Oriental or Gothic effects. His invention, so
rich in the prose tales, seemed to desert him when he wrote verse; and his
judgment told him that long romantic poems depend more upon incident than
inspiration,–and that, to utter the poetry of romance, lyrics would
suffice. Hence his theory, clearly fitted to his own limitations, that “a
‘long poem’ is a flat contradiction in terms.” The components of _The
Raven_ are few and simple: a man, a bird, and the phantasmal memory at a
woman. But the piece affords a fine display of romantic material. What have
we? The midnight; the shadowy chamber with its tomes of forgotten lore; the
student,–a modern Hieronymus; the raven’s tap on the casement; the wintry
night and dying fire; the silken wind-swept hangings; the dreams and vague
mistrust of the echoing darkness; the black, uncanny bird upon the pallid
bust; the accessories of violet velvet and the gloating lamp. All this
stage effect of situation, light, color, sound, is purely romantic, and
even melodramatic, but of a poetic quality that melodrama rarely exhibits,
and thoroughly reflective of the poet’s “eternal passion, eternal pain.”

The rhythmical structure of _The Raven_ was sure to make an impression.
Rhyme, alliteration, the burden, the stanzaic form, were devised with
singular adroitness. Doubtless the poet was struck with the aptness of Miss
Barrett’s musical trochaics, in “eights,” and especially by the arrangement
adopted near the close of “Lady Geraldine”:

“‘Eyes,’ he said, ‘now throbbing through me! Are ye eyes that did undo me?
Shining eyes, like antique jewels set in Parian statue-stone!
Underneath that calm white forehead, are ye ever burning torrid
O’er the desolate sand-desert of my heart and life undone?'”

His artistic introduction of a third rhyme in both the second and fourth
lines, and the addition of a fifth line and a final refrain, made the
stanza of _The Raven_. The persistent alliteration seems to come without
effort, and often the rhymes within lines are seductive; while the refrain
or burden dominates the whole work. Here also he had profited by Miss
Barrett’s study of ballads and romaunts in her own and other tongues. A
“refrain” is the lure wherewith a poet or a musician holds the wandering
ear,–the recurrent longing of Nature for the initial strain. I have always
admired the beautiful refrains of the English songstress,–“The
Nightingales, the Nightingales,” “Margret, Margret,” “My Heart and I,”
“Toll slowly,” “The River floweth on,” “Pan, Pan is dead,” etc. She also
employed what I term the Repetend, in the use of which Poe has excelled all
poets since Coleridge thus revived it:

“O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.”

Poe created the fifth line of his stanza for the magic of the repetend. He
relied upon it to the uttermost in a few later poems,–“Lenore,” “Annabel
Lee,” “Ulalume,” and “For Annie.” It gained a wild and melancholy music, I
have thought, from the “sweet influences,” of the Afric burdens and
repetends that were sung to him in childhood, attuning with their native
melody the voice of our Southern poet.

“The Philosophy of Composition,” his analysis of _The Raven_, is a
technical dissection of its method and structure. Neither his avowal of
cold-blooded artifice, nor his subsequent avowal to friends that an
exposure of this artifice was only another of his intellectual hoaxes, need
be wholly credited. If he had designed the complete work in advance, he
scarcely would have made so harsh a prelude of rattle-pan rhymes to the
delicious melody of the second stanza,–not even upon his theory of the
fantastic. Of course an artist, having perfected a work, sees, like the
first Artist, that it is good, and sees why it is good. A subsequent
analysis, coupled with a disavowal of any sacred fire, readily enough may
be made. My belief is that the first conception and rough draft of this
poem came as inspiration always comes; that its author then saw how it
might be perfected, giving it the final touches described in his chapter on
Composition, and that the latter, therefore, is neither wholly false nor
wholly true. The harm of such analysis is that it tempts a novice to fancy
that artificial processes can supersede imagination. The impulse of genius
is to guard the secrets of its creative hour. Glimpses obtained of the
toil, the baffled experiments, which precede a triumph, as in the
sketch-work of Hawthorne recently brought to light, afford priceless
instruction and encouragement to the sincere artist. But one who
voluntarily exposes his Muse to the gaze of all comers should recall the
fate of King Candaules.

The world still thinks of Poe as a “luckless man of genius.” I recently
heard him mentioned as “one whom everybody seems chartered to misrepresent,
decry or slander.” But it seems to me that his ill-luck ended with his
pitiable death, and that since then his defence has been persistent, and
his fame of as steadfast growth as a suffering and gifted author could pray
for in his hopeful hour. Griswold’s decrial and slander turned the current
in his favor. Critics and biographers have come forward with successive
refutations, with tributes to his character, with new editions of his
works. His own letters and the minute incidents of his career are before
us; the record, good and bad, is widely known. No appellor has received
more tender and forgiving judgement. His mishaps in life belonged to his
region and period, perchance still more to his own infirmity of will.
Doubtless his environment was not one to guard a fine-grained, ill-balanced
nature from perils without and within. His strongest will, to be lord of
himself, gained for him “that heritage of woe.” He confessed himself the
bird’s unhappy master, the stricken sufferer of this poem. But his was a
full share of that dramatic temper which exults in the presage of its own
doom. There is a delight in playing one’s high part: we are all gladiators,
crying _Ave Imperator!_ To quote Burke’s matter of fact: “In grief the
pleasure is still uppermost, and the affliction we suffer has no
resemblance to absolute pain, which is always odious, and which we endeavor
to shake off as soon as possible.” Poe went farther, and was an artist even
in the tragedy of his career. If, according to his own belief, sadness and
the vanishing of beauty are the highest poetic themes, and poetic feeling
the keenest earthly pleasure, then the sorrow and darkness of his broken
life were not without their frequent compensation.

In the following pages, we have a fresh example of an artist’s genius
characterizing his interpretation of a famous poem. Gustave Doré, the last
work of whose pencil is before us, was not the painter, or even the
draughtsman, for realists demanding truth of tone, figure, and perfection.
Such matters concerned him less than to make shape and distance, light and
shade, assist his purpose,–which was to excite the soul, the imagination,
of the looker on. This he did by arousing our sense of awe, through
marvellous and often sublime conceptions of things unutterable and full of
gloom or glory. It is well said that if his works were not great paintings,
as pictures they are great indeed. As a “literary artist,” and such he was,
his force was in direct ratio with the dramatic invention of his author,
with the brave audacities of the spirit that kindled his own. Hence his
success with Rabelais, with “Le Juif-Errant,” “Les Contes Drolatiques,” and
“Don Quixote,” and hence, conversely, his failure to express the beauty of
Tennyson’s Idyls, of “Il Paradiso,” of the Hebrew pastorals, and other
texts requiring exaltation, or sweetness and repose. He was a born master
of the grotesque, and by a special insight could portray the spectres of a
haunted brain. We see objects as his personages saw them, and with the very
eyes of the Wandering Jew, the bewildered Don, or the goldsmith’s daughter
whose fancy so magnifies the King in the shop on the Pont-au-Change. It was
in the nature of things that he should be attracted to each masterpiece of
verse or prose that I have termed unique. The lower kingdoms were called
into his service; his rocks, trees and mountains, the sky itself, are
animate with motive and diablerie. Had he lived to illustrate Shakespeare,
we should have seen a remarkable treatment of Caliban, the Witches, the
storm in “Lear”; but doubtless should have questioned his ideals of Imogen
or Miranda. Beauty pure and simple, and the perfect excellence thereof, he
rarely seemed to comprehend.

Yet there is beauty in his designs for the “Ancient Mariner,” unreal as
they are, and a consecutiveness rare in a series by Doré. The Rime afforded
him a prolonged story, with many shiftings of the scene. In _The Raven_
sound and color preserve their monotone and we have no change of place or
occasion. What is the result? Doré proffers a series of variations upon the
theme as he conceived it, “the enigma of death and the hallucination of an
inconsolable soul.” In some of these drawings his faults are evident;
others reveal his powerful originality, and the best qualities in which, as
a draughtsman, he stood alone. Plainly there was something in common
between the working moods of Poe and Doré. This would appear more clearly
had the latter tried his hand upon the “Tales of the Grotesque and
Arabesque.” Both resorted often to the elf-land of fantasy and romance. In
melodramatic feats they both, through their command of the supernatural,
avoided the danger-line between the ideal and the absurd. Poe was the truer
worshipper of the Beautiful; his love for it was a consecrating passion,
and herein he parts company with his illustrator. Poet or artist, Death at
last transfigures all: within the shadow of his sable harbinger, Vedder’s
symbolic crayon aptly sets them face to face, but enfolds them with the
mantle of immortal wisdom and power. An American woman has wrought the
image of a star-eyed Genius with the final torch, the exquisite semblance
of one whose vision beholds, but whose lips may not utter, the mysteries of
a land beyond “the door of a legended tomb.”

EDMUND C. STEDMAN.

THE POEM.

[Illustration]

THE RAVEN.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘T is some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow:–vainly I had sought 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.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘T is some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;–
This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door;–
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, somewhat louder than before.
“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;–
‘T is the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

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.”

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.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further 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.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore–
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never–nevermore.'”

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.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er
_She_ shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“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.”

“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–
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“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.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
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]

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”

[Illustration]

“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

[Illustration]

“Eagerly I wished the morrow;–vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore.”

[Illustration]

“Sorrow for the lost Lenore.”

[Illustration]

“For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.”

[Illustration]

“‘T is some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door.”

[Illustration]

“Here I opened wide the door;–
Darkness there, and nothing more.”

[Illustration]

“Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

[Illustration]

“‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.'”

[Illustration]

“Open here I flung the shutter.”

[Illustration]

… “A stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he.”

[Illustration]

“Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”

[Illustration]

“Wandering from the Nightly shore.”

[Illustration]

“Till I scarcely more than muttered, ‘Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow _he_ will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'”

[Illustration]

“Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy.”

[Illustration]

“But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er
_She_ shall press, ah, nevermore!”

[Illustration]

“‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!'”

[Illustration]

“On this home by Horror haunted.”

[Illustration]

… “Tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–_is_ there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me, I implore!”

[Illustration]

“Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

[Illustration]

“‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting.”

[Illustration]

“‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!'”

[Illustration]

“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!”

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

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