Text: Jesse Clement, “[Review of The Raven and Other Poems],” Western Literary Messenger (Buffalo, NY), vol. 5, no. 3, January 10, 1846, p. 360


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[page 360, column 1:]

For the Western Literary Messenger.

THE RAVEN AND OTHER POEMS.

BY EDGAR A. POE. WILEY AND PUTNAM, NEW YORK.

As a poet, Mr. Poe is a peculiar writer. His style and his manner of thinking are purely his own. He would sooner commit suicide than plagiarism. The only thing about his writings with, in any case, is not original, is the subject. But any thing common place he is sure to treat in a way quite new and unique. We have an instance of this in the “Raven.” Though other poets have preceded him on this subject, we do not often find a more original poem than this. It is needless to quote it here to show this, since it has already appeared in our columns. In artistic grace it is excelled by no poem ever composed in this country; and did more to elevate the reputation of the author as a poet, than all else he has written. It is a poem whose beauties every one can appreciate, and which every one likes to read. We wish as much could be said of the productions of the same pen generally; but the major quality, though they possess the genuine melody of high wrought verse, find no response in the reader’s heart. Their tone is foreign to the ordinary feeling of mankind. For this reason but few of them have been widely circulated through the medium of the newspaper press. The mass of readers, numbering many whose taste is to be respected, cannot even understand them. How few, for instance, can appreciate such lines as these, the commencement of a poem on “Dream Land:”

By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,

Where an Eidolon, named Night,

On a black throne reigns upright,

I have reached these lands but newly

From an ultimate dim Thule —

From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,

Out of Space — out of Time.

Among the eighteen or twenty poems which, with the “Raven,” composed the first part this volume, we find but two or three that approach the naturalness and simplicity which, when combined with fervor and strength, are so certain to move the universal heart. The best of the minor poems — minor as it regards length — is addressed “To One in Paradise.” The first verse is marked with unusual simplicity and ease, and contains the strongest essence of poetry. We will give room to the whole piece.

Thou wast all that to me, love,

For which my soul did pine —

A green isle in the sea, love,

A fountain and a shrine,

All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,

And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!

Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise

But to be overcast!

A voice from out the Future cries,

“On! on!” — but o’er the Past

(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies

Mute, motionless, aghast!

For, alas! alas! with me

The light of Life is o’er! [column 2:]

No more — no more — no more —

(Such language holds the solemn sea

To the sands upon the shore)

Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,

Or the stricken eagle soar!

And all my days are trances,

And all my nightly dreams

Are where thy dark eye glances,

And where thy footstep gleams —

In what ethereal dances,

By what eternal streams.

The second part of this volume contains eleven poems written in the author’s youth. Some were composed when he was not more than ten years of age They are here printed “verbatim — without alteration from the original edition.” The principal reason for their appearance in this manner, is because Mr. P. has been accused of imitating Tennyson. Two of these early effusions, “Al Aaraaf” and “Tamerlane,” are long and tedious; most of the others are short and tedious. In all of them, however, is here and there a line or brief passage, which is strikingly beautiful; and here is a complete poem which, though capable of being improved, would do no discredit to the older muse:

TO THE RIVER —.

Fair river! in thy bright, clear flow

Of crystal, wandering water,

Thou art an emblem of the glow

Of beauty — the unhidden heart —

The playful maziness of art

In old Alberto’s daughter;

But when within thy wave she looks —

Which glistens then, and trembles —

Why, then, the prettiest of brooks

Her worshipper resembles;

For in his heart, as in thy stream,

Her image deeply lies —

His heart which trembles at the beam

Of her soul-searching eyes.

As commander-in-chief of the American army of critics, Mr. Poe has marches into almost every quarter; and having, by his numerous assaults, gained some enemies, an effort has been made to depreciate his talent. But however piqued and prejudiced a few may be, the many are happy to acknowledge he is a great poet. The voice of fame cannot be hushed or drowned. His “Raven” will cease to croak “nevermore.” J. C.


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Notes:

“J. C.” was Jesse Clement (1815-1883), a devoted Baptist and author of several hymns. He was also the editor of the Western Literary Messenger.


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[S:0 - WLM, 1846] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review Poe's The Raven and Other Poems (J. Clement, 1846)