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more. Let the lover begin by a commonplace query,
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore ?' Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore l’
This stanza was to form the climax of the poem ; and no other was permitted to be so vigorous.
Originality in the rhythm and metre was also aimed at. And the author flattered himself that “nothing even remotely approaching’ the stanza of The Raven ‘ has ever been attempted.’
Where were the Raven and the lover to meet Not in the fields, for “circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident;-it has the force of a frame to a picture.” The meeting must be in the lover's chamber, which must be richly furnished.
The Raven must enter by the window. The night must be stormy. The bird must alight on a bust of Pallas—for contrast of marble and plumage, because the lover is a scholar, and because the name Pallas sounds well.
The narrative part of the poem being completed, two concluding stanzas are added, which serve to cast a meaning upon all that has gone before. The Raven becomes emblematical; “but it is not till the last line of the last stanza that the intention of making him emblematical of mournful and never-ending remembrance is permitted distinctly to be seen :’
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,
Had Poe been a person so reliable that we could feel assured that such was indeed the genesis of this celebrated poem, there would be much interest in the account of it which he gives us. For although it by no means follows that the process by which the mind of one man of genius matures a fine work, from the dawn of its first crude conception to the hour when it is finally turned out, totus, teres, et rotundus, shall be the same as that by which another man of equal genius should produce a similar piece of work; still it would be curious to know, from the confession of an author as intensely truthful as Dr. Arnold, for instance, how
it was that some admirable poem which bears with it all the marks of the true poetic inspiration was conceived, condensed, and elaborated. Unfortunately, in Poe’s case we have not the slightest assurance that there is a syllable of truth in the long story he has told us, beyond that which may be afforded by the story’s internal evidence of truthfulness. It is quite certain that if he thought it likely to ‘create a sensation' in the public mind, Poe would have related the particulars with equal circumstantiality although they had been entirely false. We must rest, therefore, altogether on the internal evidence which may be afforded by the narrative itself: and it appears to us that the ostentatious parade of reasons,—the affectation of strict logical sequence in all the steps of the process of manufacturing the poem,-are characteristics directly the contrary of those which we might expect in a true narrative, and bear a most suspicious resemblance to those of the highly circumstantial fictitious tales which proceeded from Poe's pen. The story, in short, is psychologically absurd and improbable in itself; and it derives no weight from the author's character, which may countervail its own unlikelihood. We believe that Poe, like all other authors, would have found it extremely hard to lay down the progressive steps by which any of his works was matured. We believe that nothing can be more anomalous or fortuitous than the manner in which this end is reached in various cases: the conception sometimes breaking sharply and suddenly upon the mental view, and at other times first looming indistinctly as a mountain through morning mist, and gradually settling into vivid outline and detail. There is a good deal of mannerism in Poe's versification. He is very fond of making use of the refrain; and he sometimes lingers on the same lines and cadences in a way which palls upon the ear. The poem entitled The Bells sets out with a peculiar music of its own; but before its close it has degenerated into something almost like nursery rhymes. Here is its first stanza:—
Hear the sledges with the bells—
The second stanza is given to wedding bells, the third to alarum bells, the fourth to bells tolled for the dead. It will require an admiration of Poe's poetry more enthusiastic than ours to discern anything but jingle and absurdity in the latter lines of this fourth verse. The “King of the Ghouls, it appears, “dances and yells’ To the throbbing of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
The flow of all Poe's verses is remarkable for ease and gracefulness : it is hardly ever hampered by the difficulties of rhyme and rhythm which exist to a great degree in the metres of which he makes use. The stanzas which we have already quoted from The Raven have afforded those readers who are not familiar with the poem some notion of the singular character of its measure. We shall quote another specimen of it:—
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
Of the four large volumes which contain Poe's works, only a small portion of one is taken up by his poetry. That occupies no more than one hundred pages out of two thousand. The first volume consists