Text: Richard H. Stoddard, “Edgar Allan Poe,” National Magazine, March 1853, 2:193-200


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­[page 193, unnumbered:]

THE

NATIONAL MAGAZINE.

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MARCH, 1853.

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Edgar Allan Poe

EDGAR ALLAN POE.

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TO write a satisfactory paper on Poe is no easy task, there is so much that is unsatisfactory in Poe himself. If we mention his vices, we are very likely to be blamed; and if we do not mention them, the chances are that we shall still be blamed. In this dilemma, the only alternative is either to write just what we think, or not write at all: it not suiting us to do the last, we shall try the first. We may err in our opinions — not being the Pope, we lay no claim to infallibility — but we are honest in them; not only in regard to Poe, but to all the literary men that we have written, or may hereafter write about. We shall give the facts of Poe’s life, barely and simply, with but little comment, a short critique on his writings, and, what [column 2:] seems to us, a fair and truthful estimate of his character. For the biographical part of the paper we claim no credit; it is mostly made up from the memoir in the collected edition of Poe’s works; but, wherever, in fact, we have found anything that would answer our purpose, we have used it.

Edgar Allan Poe was born at Baltimore, in the month of January, 1811. His family was one of the oldest and most respectable in the State. His grandfather was a quarter-master-general in the Revolution, and the friend of Lafayette. His great-grandfather married a daughter of McBride, the British admiral. Through him they are related to many of the most illustrious families in England. Edgar ­[page 194:] Poe’s father was several years a law-student in Baltimore, but becoming enamored of a beautiful actress named Elizabeth Arnold, he eloped with her, and was discarded by his friends. Then he went upon the boards himself; but neither he nor his wife possessing real talents for the stage, they lived very precariously. Playing in the principal cities of the South, they came at last to Richmond, where the lady became a favorite, more on account of her beauty than her acting, and where they both died of consumption within a few weeks of each other, leaving three children — Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie-in utter destitution. What became of the other two we have never heard; but Edgar was adopted by Mr. John Allan, a wealthy and kind-hearted merchant of Richmond. From his foster-father he derived his middle name, and it was generally understood that he was to be the heir to his estate, Mr. Allan having no children of his own. In 1816 he accompanied his new parents on a tour through England, Scotland, and Ireland. They returned to this country, leaving him at school at Stoke Newington, near London, where lie remained four or five years. In “ William Wilson,” one of his finest tales, lie gives an account of his life at this school, and, it is said, an accurate description of the school itself. In 1822 he returned to Richmond, and continued his studies, under the best masters which the city afforded, for two or three years more.

In 1825 he went to the University of Virginia. The university was at that time a most dissolute place, and Poe was known as the most dissolute youth in it. He was already a fine classical scholar, and he made rapid strides in mathematics, botany, and other branches of the natural sciences. But at the same time he drank, gambled, and indulged in other vices — was a “little wild” as the saying is — till he was expelled from the place. At this period of his life he was noted for feats of strength and agility, and on one occasion, a hot June day, he swam from Richmond to Warwick, a distance of seven miles and a half. He was expert at fencing, had some skill in drawing, and was a ready and eloquent declaimer. His allowance of money at college had been liberal, but what with drinking and gaming he quitted it very much in debt. On Mr. [column 2:] Allan’s refusing to settle with some of his creditors, he quarreled with him, and went off Quixotically to join the Greeks, then in the midst of their war with the Turks. He failed to reach his destination, and we know nothing of him for nearly a year. By the end of that time he had made his way to St. Petersburgh, where both his money and enthusiasm were exhausted, and he got into a quarrel with the Russian authorities — cause unknown. He was near adding some knowledge of the knout and Siberia to his already extensive knowledge of men and manners, and was glad enough to accept the intervention of the American Consul, and his aid to return home. His meeting with Mr. Allan was not cordial; but that gentleman declared himself willing to serve him in any way that should seem judicious; and, when Poe expressed a desire to enter tire Military Academy, he procured his appointment to a scholarship. Mrs. Allan, whom Poe regarded with much affection, and who had more influence over him than any one else, died in 1829, just before he left Richmond for West Point. For a short time he applied himself attentively to his studies, and became a favorite with his mess, and the officers and professors of the Academy. But his old habit of dissipation returned; he neglected his duties and disobeyed orders, and in ten months from his matriculation was cashiered. He went again to Richmond, and was again received into the family of Mr. Allan, who was still disposed to be his friend; but they soon parted in anger. Mr. Allan had married a young wife, and his foster-son is said to have behaved uncivilly to her. Be this as it may — there are many stories afloat in relation to the affair — they parted, and from that time Mr. Allan declined seeing, or in any way assisting him. Dying in 1834, he left three children to inherit his estate, and left Poe nothing.

Soon after leaving West Point, in 1831, Poe had published a small volume of verses, and the favorable manner in which it was received by the reviewers led him to believe that he might succeed in literature. It was the old story. He wrote for newspapers, compiled and translated for the booksellers, made up brilliant articles for the reviews, and spun tales for the magazines. But, although publishers willingly put them forth, they paid the ­[page 195:] they paid the author so little, that, in poverty and despair, he was likely to starve to death — the second old story. If he has sinned aforetime, he is being punished for it now. What worse punishment can he have had than that of being a poor author? If the old times were not better than these, there was certainly a deal of malice in the patriarch Job when he wished that his enemy would write a book!

Not gaining a living by literature, Poe is reported to have next enlisted in the army as a private soldier. He was recognized by officers who had known him at West Point, and efforts were made to obtain for him a commission, when it was discovered that he had deserted. This is the report; but as he was never afterward apprehended as a deserter, which would surely have been the case, he was so well known, and as the whole affair looks very much like an imitation of a similar freak of Coleridge, we have but little faith in its truth. When he next appears, he has a volume of MS. stories, which lie desires to print under the title of “Tales of the Folio Club. “ An offer of two prizes by the proprietor of the Baltimore Saturday Visitor, one for the best tale and one for the best poem, induced him to send half a dozen tales and a poem, “per order. “ A committee of literary men-among the rest John P. Kennedy, the author of “Horse-Shoe Robinson” — were appointed to judge the productions. Such affairs are commonly soon disposed of. The committee meet, have a talk, eat oysters and drink champagne as long as they can, and award the prize, somehow, without the bother of reacting the MSS. Then the decision is printed. The lucky one rejoices, the unlucky ones grumble, and so the affair ends. So, perhaps, it would have been in this case, but that one of the committee, taking up a small book written in the most beautiful hand, was tempted to read several pages; and being interested in what he read, called the attention of the company to the half-dozen compositions which it contained. The committee voted the premium “to the first of geniuses who had written legibly. “The confidential envelop was broken, and within it was found the then unknown name of Poe. The committee awarded him the premium for both the tale and poem, but subsequently altered their decision so as to exclude him from the second [column 2:] premium, in consequence of his having obtained the higher one. The tale was the “MSS. found in a Bottle,” and the poem “The Coliseum.” The next day — this, by-the-way, was in October 1833 — the publisher called upon Mr. Kennedy, and gave him an account of the author, which led him to see Poe. He was introduced; the prize-money had not yet been paid, and he was dressed in the seedy garments in which he had answered the advertisement. Thin and pale even to ghastliness, his whole appearance indicated sickness and destitution. A well-worn frock-coat concealed the absence of a shirt, and imperfect boots disclosed the want of stockings. But his eyes were full of intelligence, and his manners those of a gentleman. Kennedy took him to a clothing-store, gave him a good suit, and introduced him into society. His new friends were very kind to him, and embraced every opportunity to serve him. Near the close of 1834, Mr. T. W. White established the “Southern Literary Messenger. “ Applying to Kennedy for an article early in 1835, he was recommended to Poe, or rather Poe was recommended to him, and the consequence was that Poe became the nominal editor of the Messenger. He still continued, however, to reside at Baltimore, and it is probable that at first he was engaged only as a general contributor and critic. Removing to Richmond in the fall of 1835, he assumed the real editorial chair, at a salary of 1,500 per annum. On this income he immediately married his cousin, Virginia Clemm. His old habits returned, and Mr. White dismissed him. When he became himself he apologized, and was again received into his employ and confidence; but only for a short time. He was too irregular to be trusted long; and in January, 1837, he took his final leave of the Messenger as its editor. Then he went back to Baltimore, and from thence to Philadelphia and New-York. He had commenced in the Messenger a story of the sea, “Arthur Gordon Pym;” it was now published by the Harpers, but with no great success. Near the end of 1838 he settled in Philadelphia. He had no very definite purposes, but trusted for support to the chances of success as a magazinist and newspaper correspondent. Burton, the comedian, had recently established the “Gentleman’s Magazine;” to this he became ­[page 196:] a contributor, and in May, 1839, its chief editor. In the same month he agreed to furnish reviews for the “Literary Examiner,” a new magazine at Pittsburgh. But his more congenial pursuit was tale-writing, and he produced about this time some of his most characteristic creations. In the autumn he published all the prose stories that he had then written, in — two volumes — “The Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” They were not successful. He continued with Burton till June, 1840; was irregular, and at last discharged. In November of the same year, the “Gentleman’s Magazine” was merged into “The Casket,” owned by George R. Graham, and the new series received the name of its proprietor, who engaged Poe as its editor. His connection with “Graham’s Magazine” lasted about a year and a half, and was the most brilliant and active period of his literary life. In the spring of 1843 he wrote “The Gold Bug,” for which he was paid a prize of a hundred dollars. In the autumn of 1844 he removed to New-York. He had now written his most acute criticisms, and his most admirable tales — among others, “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” The “Mystery” was first published in 1842, during the excitement caused by the murder of Mary Rogers. Under pretense of relating the fate of a Parisian grisette, he went over the facts of the original murder, and showed his masterly power of analysis. This tale, and one or two others of a similar cast, the scenes of which were laid in France, brought his name before the law courts of Paris. In this wise: the Journal La Commerce gave a feuilleton, in which the “Murders of the Rue Morgue” appeared in translation. Afterward a writer for La Quotidienne served it up for that paper under the title of “L’Orang-Otang.” A third party accused La Quotidienne of plagiary from La Commerce, and in the course of the legal investigation which ensued, the feuilletoniste of La Commerce showed that he had himself stolen the tale from Poe, whose merits were soon after canvassed in the “Revue des Deux Mondes,” and whose best tales were upon this impulse translated. Shortly after he came to New-York Poe added to his reputation by the publication of the “Raven,” for which be was paid the magnificent sum of ten dollars! We hear of him next working [column 2:] Willis and Morris, as critic and assistant editor of “The Mirror.” He remained in this situation abut six months, when he became associated with C. F. Briggs, (“Harry Franco” and “Tom Pepper”) in “The Broadway Journal.” The Broadway Journal ceased in January, 1846, and Poe soon after commenced a series of papers entitled “The Literati of New-York City.” They were published in “The Lady’s Book. “ Their spirit, boldness, and causticity, caused them to be talked about, but they created Poe many enemies; mediocrity hates to be found out. In the autumn of 1846 we bear of his being in extreme destitution. He was then living at Fordbam, a few miles from New-York city, and his necessities were not generally known even among his acquaintances. They were made public by somebody in the newspapers, together with the dangerous illness of his wife, who shortly after died, and a subscription was raised in his behalf. For a year afterward he seldom came before the public; but early in 1848 he advertised to deliver several lectures, the money accruing from which — if there should happen to be any — to go toward the foundation of a new magazine. His first lecture was given at the Society Library in New-York. It was upon the “Cosmogony of the Universe,” and was afterward published as “Eureka, a Prose Poem.” In the summer of 1849 he left New-York for Virginia. Stopping at Philadelphia on his way, he is said to have spent all his money, and to have been indebted to charity for the means of reaching Richmond. During this visit, which lasted nearly two months, he was perfectly himself, neatly dressed, and exceedingly agreeable in his deportment. He delivered a couple of lectures worthy of himself in his best moods; they were well attended. Those who had not seen Edgar A. Poe since his obscurity, came in crowds to see their famous townsman. The cordiality of his reception pleased him, and he became anxious to make Richmond his permanent home. He joined the “Sons of Temperance,” and it was universally reported that he was about to be married. The lady was a widow, rich and beautiful, the ideal of his “Lenore. “ On the fourth of October he started for New-York to prepare for his marriage. Those who knew him in this ­[page 197:] last visit say that he was indisposed when he left Richmond. Still feeling unwell when he reached Baltimore, he took a small quantity of spirits for relief. It was the first that bad passed his lips for some months, but it was sufficient to rouse the appetite that ruined him. A day of excess brought on a fit of delirium tremens; and he was taken from the streets by the watchmen next morning in a state of stupor. Having no home, no friends, and no money, they conveyed him to the Hospital, and there, on the evening of Sunday, the seventh of October, 1849, he died, at the age of thirty-eight years.

Such was the life of Edgar Allan Poe, and such his death; the one broken and imperfect, the other untimely and terrible. Since the days of Otway and Savage, no literary man of any eminence has led so uncertain and nomadic a life. In his own person and destiny he realized all the sorrows and wants, and all the neglect of Grub-street, with a burning core in his heart that a habitué of Grub-street has seldom possessed — the unquenchable fire of genius. For a man of his genius to lead the life that he did; for him to be in want, as he generally was, there must have been some cause, or the world was harsher to him than to any other man of his class.

There is something to be said in behalf of the fallen poet; not to excuse or extenuate his faults, but to make both them and him more fully known. Thus far his memoirs have been singularly superficial, (our sketch, of course, comes under the same condemnation,) confined to merely outward facts, his body-life, and have been written by indifferent friends or open foes. They have been cruel, needlessly cruel. We dissect the dead, not to show our skill in anatomy, and how well we can cut and hack, but to detect the cause of their disease, that it may be a lesson and a warning to us. The most prominent of Poe’s vices is generally understood to have been drunkenness. For drunkenness there can be no good excuse. The only excuse, in Poe’s case, was his peculiar temperament, and the unfortunate circumstances of his early life. When the merest child, a fatherless and motherless babe, he was placed in the charge of strangers. At five years of age-if biographical dates are to be trusted — he was left at school in another hemisphere, away from his foster-parents, and their guardianship [column 2:] and watchfulness, where he remained for five or six years; the most important years of his life. Those of us who in youth attended large schools, at a distance from home, know too well their pernicious liabilities; and those of us who did not attend them, may gather some idea of what they are from the pages of Hood, Dickens, and Thackeray. Just when his strange mind, that needed so careful a training, was forming for good or ill, when he should have had a father’s care, a mother’s prayers and tears, Edgar Poe was alone in the world, a friendless child, confined in a large boarding-school, among all kinds of boys and masters, and exposed to their mingled influences. When he was eleven he was recalled to America, petted and flattered and caressed — he was so clever and handsome, — and cultivated intellectually to the utmost. When fourteen — which is seldom considered the age of discretion — he is placed in a university famous for its dissipation and want of morality. Before he was eighteen he wandered through Europe, living as be could; returning, he was placed in a military school, to learn the art of mathematical murder; before he was twenty he was a discarded son, as his father bad been before him, cut off without even the customary shilling; and during the rest of his life, not far from twenty years more, was a wanderer and poor author, living from hand to mouth, with not much in either at times — by the labors and profits of a fastidious taste and a slow pen, with a wife and mother-in-law to maintain; his literary worth by no means recognized as it should have been, but from its very nature unavoidably creating for him powerful enemies, and all the while, all the weary hopeless years, tortured by the unquenchable fire of genius. Let all these things — a many-tangled web of good and ill — be considered, for they had much to do with Poe’s drunkenness and unhappy end. They do not indeed excuse, but they in some degree account for his misconduct. But the real key of the mystery is after all to be found in his peculiar temperament, and in the analytical turn of his mind, which seems to have utterly lacked the moral sense. From all that we can gather from his writings, and all that we have been able to learn from those who knew him, he seems to have never had any practical knowledge of morality. He was an intellect, not a man; had a ­[page 198:] brain, but not a heart. We do not mean that he had not passions and affections, like other men, and powerful ones too when they were roused — he had the animal with the intellectual attributes of our nature, but no conscience, no respect or fear for the. laws of God or man. Intellectually he recognized no sin; his morality was, to do whatever he pleased, provided it did not offend his taste. Conscience seems seldom to have spoken to him in manhood — hardly to have existed at all. Doubtless in earliest life it might have been elicited and trained to virtue, but both his passions and his education were early combined to counteract and destroy it. He was an anomaly in this respect. Few men ever showed so little of the moral sense. With more reverence, says one of his critics, and one who apparently knew him personally, Poe would have been a mocker and a sneerer; but he wanted the perception of reverential things to give them sufficient importance to be mocked. The same fact accounts for an absence of that morbid remorse, and sense of duty unfulfilled, which marks so distinctly all the writings of Byron, and most authors of distinction. In Poe’s writings there is despair, hopelessness, and the echoes of a melancholy touching to those who read with a remembrance of his broken life; but nowhere in them does “conscience, roused, sit boldly on her throne. “The ideas of right and wrong are as feeble in his chains of thought as in the literature of ancient Greece. The radical depravity of a simply analytical mind, and the misfortunes of a broken life, made Poe sometimes a drunkard. That he was not a confirmed drunkard, however, is testified to by all his friends and acquaintances, and proved by the excellence and bulk of his writings. His nervous temperament was delicate to a degree. What would have hardly exhilarated another man, made him frantic, so frail was his physique. A single glass of wine would intoxicate him; he has even been known to have been intoxicated by strong coffee.

With most men drinking is a source of pleasure, a gratification of the appetite; with him, after he had tasted the first glass, it was a disease, a mania, a madness. When the poison had passed his lips, he would go at once to a bar and drink off glass after glass, as fast as it could be poured out, till his faculties were swallowed [column 2:] up, and his reason lost. That his intoxication and its consequent effects diminished the quantity of his intellectual products there can be but little doubt; but we do not believe that it at all impaired the force or beauty of his mind, any more than opium did that of Coleridge. The writings of both these extraordinary men are truthful representatives of their minds. Kublah Khan and the Ancient Mariner are the distempered creations of opium; and The Raven, Ulalume, and most of Poe’s prose tales, are the shadows of mania a potu. Over all that Poe has written hangs a starless night of desolation, the shadow of insanity. No thoroughly sane man in sound health could have written the tales of Poe. There is an air of sickness and morbidness about them, a feeling of incipient madness. His walk of life is not in towns and cities, but among tombs and sepulchers; his companions and dramatis personæ are not men and women, but spirits, specters, demons. In the hands of any but a profound artist most of Poe’s subjects would be simply extravagant and disgusting; in his hands, however, they are wonderfully effective and fine. The terrors of Mrs. Radcliffe and Monk Lewis are not to be compared with those we experience in reading his weird and witching creations; the most spiritual of their terrors have something childish in them, are too much akin to the blue fire and red-ochre blood of the cheap melodramas; while his are in the highest degree poetical, working upon the most spiritual and supernatural elements of our being. We cannot resist their unearthly beauty and sublimity; we shudder at it, fear it, know it to be evil, and yet are fascinated by it, and cannot leave it. “The book hath a demon.” There is a strange unearthly spirituality about Poe’s mind, witching like that of our dreams; we are powerless in his domain of thought. We do not overrate The Fall of the House of Usher when we say that it is the most admirable thing of the kind in the whole range of English literature. One cause of the power of Poe’s stories is their intensesupernatural ness, and another the artistic manner in which they are worked up, the effect being in all cases of the most legitimate order. If the world of letters has ever had a thorough and great artist, Poe is that man. No other modern, save Tennyson, is so versed in the philosophy ­[page 199:] of criticism, and so capable of bringing it to bear upon his own compositions. The only drawback with him is, that his walk is narrow, and by no means healthy. Of the between fifty and sixty stories, long and short, good, bad, and indifferent, in his volumes, we cannot call to mind a single one which is not perfect in itself — perfect in conception, and perfect in finish. His style is the only style, because no style at all — free from mannerisms and “pets;” a little cold and hard, it may be, but always clear, concise, and elegant, and, what is still better, always direct and to the point. There is no writing for the sake of writing; no saying fine things because they happened to come into his head: every paragraph is as close and as compact as if it had been pressed in a vice.

As a poet Poe ranks high, although most of his poetry is unreadable. Save the “Raven,” and one or two similar poems, the sooner the mass of it dies the better for his reputation. Where it is good, there is no mistake about it; it has the seal of immortality on it. When it accomplishes anything, it accomplishes all. Its power and excellence lies in its objective tendency. It is something beyond and above us, something real and tangible; it does not give us Poe’s subjectivity, his headaches, and heartaches, and deliriums; but shapes itself into distinct objective creations. Now into dark chambers and befitting sorrows, a mystic raven from the shores of Night, and the refrain of — Nevermore! a knell to the poet’s hope and heart; and now into ghoul-haunted wood-lands, Titanic alleys of cypress, and a mysterious legended tomb. There is a dim outline of stray in it, something which strikes upon our chords of suggestiveness, an artistic mist and vagueness which greatly adds to its really poetical power. Poe’s definition of poetry — that it is the rhythmical creation of beauty — is the only true one. His whole literary life was a battle for this great principle, and we hope not an entirely unsuccessful one. For we know not how long — but many a weary age — we have had all kinds of stuff and nonsense palmed upon us as poetry: agriculture and satire, politics and didactics, and whatever else happened to be in the addled brains of the versifier. One poet is fain to teach us how to sow wheat and turnips; another, how to hunt and shear sheep; [column 2:] and a third, how to cure colds and fevers! Have we not Armstrong’s “Art of Preserving Health,” and Garth’s “Dispensary?” “The Chase” and “Fleece,” of Dyer and Somerville? “The Seasons, a Poem,” by James Thomson, not to go back to our old friend Virgil, with his nice pastoral, “The Georgics?”

Against this false theory of use, the “didactic heresy,” as he called it, Poe was unsparing and bitter in his denunciations. To pretension and mediocrity be was merciless. Sifting from his criticism whatever is personal and local, it is generally accurate and profound, logical and convincing: it does not deal with men, but with principles, the provable mathematics of art. Its strongest point, the strong-point, in fact, of all Poe’s writings, is its singular power of analysis. If there is anything to be got at, Poe is pretty sure to get at it; and if there is really nothing, he can make us forget the fact by his sophistries, and can create shadows, which he passes off on us as substances. Students in composition should read his account of the manner in which be composed “The Raven.”

The school of literature to which Poe belongs, and of which he is certainly the master, is one that we thoroughly dislike. Traces of it are to be found among most modern nations; but it is of comparatively a recent growth. When and where it made its first appearance is not, perhaps, easy to determine; we should say that its birth-place was Germany, and its accoucheurs Goethe, Schiller, and Kotzebue; “The Sorrows of Werter” and “The Robbers” of the two first, and the many lugubrious dramas of the last, inoculating the reading-world, especially in England, the warranted country of fogs and “blues.” Upon this bitter fruit fed Mrs. Radcliffe and a host of forgotten imitators —— “The Minerva Press” — who were killed off by the healthy genius of Walter Scott. Monk Lewis was the last of the school who appeared openly, and the last to strike his death’s-head and cross-bones’ flag. In its more spiritual form of melancholy and misanthropy it infected the poetry of Byron and his host of imitators. In France it is the essential element of the most popular novels of Eugene Sue and George Sand; distorting their delineations of passion and the inner life of man. Brilliant they certainly are, those French ­[page 200:] novelists, but diseased with false sentiment and sensibility, and rotten to the core. In America it has touched much that Hawthorne has written, and breathes through nearly all the poems and tales of Poe. Since his death it has fastened upon our younger authors, the ladies especially: for instance, Alice Carey and Caroline Cheesebro, both of whose last books are decidedly unhealthy; the one regularly kills her characters at the end of the story, the other reduces them to mere abstractions in her metaphysical peine forte et dure. The tendency of this literature — we might call it the dyspeptic school — is to make its readers unhealthy and unhappy. It mercilessly exposes the depths and secrets of the heart, laying bare to the eyes of all what but few are strong enough to survey unharmed — the black gulfs and chasms of our spiritual nature. It confuses the boundaries of right and wrong, removes the ancient landmarks of faith and morality, and leagues itself with darkness generally, reversing the very life and mission of all literature and art, viz.: the promotion of joy and gladness, and undying faith in the good and beautiful. What we want is not darkness, but light; not thorns in our path, but roses, and everywhere dew and freshness. The literature which does not give us this, and does not make us happier and better is not true and good, but, in spite of its beauty and sublimity, false and pernicious. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

For Poe — to come back to the subject again — let us finish this paper by a copy of verses which we wrote upon hearing of his death. Faulty they certainly are, but they say what should be said on such an occasion: —

MISERRIUMS.

He has pass’d away

From a world of strife,

Fighting the wars of Time and Life;

The leaves will fall when the winds are loud,

And the snows of winter will weave his shroud,

But he will never, ah never know

Anything more

Of leaves or snow!

 

The summer tide

Of his life was past,

And his hopes were fading, fading fast;

His faults were many, his virtues few,

A tempest with flecks of heaven’s blue;

He might have soar’d to the gates of light,

But he built his nest

With the birds of night! [column 2:]

 

He glimmer’d apart

In solemn gloom,

Like a dying lamp in a haunted tomb;

But all the melodies breathed of hell,

Raising the afrits and the ghouls,

And the pallid ghosts

Of the damned souls!

 

But he lies in dust,

And the stone is roll’d

Over his sepulcher dark and cold;

He has cancel’d all he has done, or said,

And gone to the dear and holy dead!

Let us forget the path he trod,

And leave him now,

With his Maker — God!


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Notes:

Although unsigned, this article can be assigned to Richard H. Stoddard in part because he choses to quote (and accepts authorship of) his otherwise rather obscure poem “Misserimus,” first published in the New York Tribune.

Somewhat ironically, at the bottom of the last page on which this article was originally printed appears the following small bit of filler: “HARSH WORDS are like hailstones in summer, which, if melted, would fertilize the tender plant they batter down.”

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[S:0 - NM, 1853] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (R. H. Stoddard, 1853)