Anonymous, “Hypercriticism,” Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, DC), vol. XLVII, no. 22, January 26, 1846, p. 1, col. 5


[page 1, column 5, continued:]

HYPERCRITICISM. — Edgar A. Poe, in his “Marginal Notes,” published in Graham, gives the following just criticism on the opening stanza of the poem to Longfellow’s “Waif:”

“The day is done, and darkness

Falls from the wings of night,

As a feather is wafted downward

From an eagle in its flight.”

“The single feather here is imperfectly illustrative of the omni-prevalent darkness; but a more especial objection is the likening of one feather to the falling of another. Night is personified as a bird, and darkness — the feather of this bird — falls from it, hour — as another feather falls from another bird. Why it does this, of course. The illustration is identical — that is to say, null. It has no more force than an identical proposition in logic.”

This is certainly fair; now let’s try our hand at a varse of Edgar’s. The last stanza of that much admired poem, “The Raven,” produces the following jingle:

“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 that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light, 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 never more.”

Now query — If that raven sat on that pallid bust just above that chamber-door, where must that lamp be, in order to throw that shadow?

Simpkins suggests that Mr. Poe probably sleeps in the front room on the first floor, that there is a sash ventilator over his door and that the light streams over that raven from the hall lamp! Poe! nonsense! — Hartford Review.



The article from which this item was copies has not been located. The use of the word “varse” for “verse” seems to be an intentional mispelling.

The “Marginalia” entry is Item M134 from Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1845.


[S:0 - AG, 1846] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Hypercriticism (Anonymous, 1846)