Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Abijah M. Ide, Jr. — January 25, 1845 (LTR-190a)


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Jan. 25. 45

My Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 12fth reached me, in this city, only a few days ago. I am now living here.

I read the poem with great interest, and think it by much the best I have seen from your pen. Absolutely, also, I think it a remarkably fine poem. Some of the lines are, in all respects, admirable. For example —

Midnight in the silent city, midnight on the throbbing sea —

And the soft and silvery star-light fills the overhanging sky —

From the land beyond the ocean, on the rolling billows borne,

Comes the sunlight of the morning to the weary and the worn —

With the tribute and the treasure of the islands and the seas.

These are fine verses, independently of thought. Some of them are defective — for instance:

With foul shame to the weak-hearted, and the vanity of fear.

Your rhythm is trochaic — that is to say, composed of 2-syllable feet, in which the first is long, the second short. With and the, therefore are rhythmically long syllables, while naturally they are short. This contradiction should never exist. It exists in the line beginning — “With the tribute and the” &c. but not so glaringly. I am glad to see that you have altered “Oe’r the wild loud” into “Over the loud,” for although the is improperly made long, you avoid the contraction of over. Upon the whole, you have a vivid conception of rhythm and you have no idea how much I mean in saying (Over [page 2:] that.

I may be in error, but I do not believe you will be able to sell the poem anywhere. Its merits are far higher than those of many poems that are sold for high prices; but what is paid for is the name of the poet. You are yet young as well in letters as in years. By and bye you may be able to make your own terms.

If any one will pay you for it, it will be Graham.

I would counsel you, however, to revise the whole carefully. “To old Bunker” is in bad taste. “E’en to build up,” etc. is feeble — the contraction is bad. What do you mean by “like the river of a well”? — or by “the deepest scene of carnage”? You do not intend the scene to be deep but the carnage. Deep, at best, is not the right epithet. The whole of the last stanza, I think, should be omitted, although its 3d line is excellent.    

Very truly your friend,
Edgar A. Poe

A. M. Ide Jr

P. S. I shall very soon establish a Magazine in this city — “The Stylus”.

N. B. “To their strong heart’s muffled beating” will be immediately condemned as a plagiarism, from Longfellow’s

“Our hearts like muffled drums are beating.”


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Notes:

The original manuscript of this letter was sold at auction in November 2001 by Skinner-Bolton (Boston) for $34,500 (as lot 77).

The poem, as noted in Ide’s February 16, 1845 letter to Poe, was called “Bunker’s Hill.” (Ide may have intended to use “To Old Bunker” as the original title.) The final version ran 25 stanzas and was published in The Knickerbocker for August 1845 (XXVI, no. 2, pp. 116-118). In printing Ide’s poem, his name is not given, although it was ultimately listed in the index: “Bunker’s Hill. By A. M. Ide, Jr.” (It may have appeared in the table of contents for the issue on the paper wrappers, which were regularly removed in binding up the volumes.) In the “Editor’s Table,” there is a brief mention of “the spirited lines on ‘Bunker-Hill.” The lines quoted by Poe are, respectively, lines 2 (”Midnight in . . . .”), 4 (”And the soft . . . .”), 29-30 (”From the land . . . . [and] Comes the sunlight . . . .”), 64 (”With the tribute . . . .”), 32 (”With foul shame . . . .” which Ide changed to “Courage to the feeble-hearted, and the vanity of fear.” The phrase “Over the loud” appears in line 76. The phrase “like the river of a well” appears to have been changed to “like a fountain’s gushing tide” in line 91, and “the deepest scene of carnage” to “carnage of the day” in line 18. “To their strong heart’s . . . . “ seems to have been dropped entirely. It does seem, therefore, that Ide took Poe’s criticisms to heart.

Poe’s plans for “The Stylus” came to naught, but Ide’s name is noted twice on Poe’s list of subscribers and contributors (Rose & Savoye, 1986, p. 27).

The letter is addressed, on the back: “A. M. Ide, Jr. [[/]] Attleborough [[/]] Mass.” with Poe’s initials “EAP” in the lower left corner. The postmark reads “New-York, Jan 27.”


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to A. M. Ide, Jr. (LTR190a/RCL518a)