Text: Anonymous, “[Review of The Raven and Other Poems],” The Critic (London, UK), vol. 3, no. 66, April 4, 1846, pp. 357-358


[page 357:]



The Raven, and other Poems. By EDGAR A. POE. New York: Wiley and Putnam.


IN an early number of THE CRITIC we presented to our readers a very remarkable poem, entitled The Raven, which had been sent to us from America. It was its first appearance in England, and it attracted a great deal of notice, and went the round of the provincial papers. Mr. POE, the author, has now published it in a volume, as the foremost of a collection of poems written by him for divers periodicals, and which his friends have deemed worthy of being rescued from the rapid oblivion of the journals.

Mr. POE is intensely American; but, unfortunately, we cannot employ this term in the same sense in which we use the words “German,” “English,” “French,” and so forth, as applied to literature. These latter mean a certain individuality of thought as well as of language; but when we speak of a literature or a style as American, we mean a strain of thought, utterly without nationality, and a style peculiarly its own. It is the fault of all the authors America has produced, with the exception of BRYANT, that, for aught in their subjects or the manner of treating them, they might have been born and brought up in any part of the world. Their country does not colour their thoughts or mould their imagery; they are essentially imitative; they echo the ideas wafted to them from England, and with the feebleness of echoes. The characteristic of American literature is, the absence of a character.

But we beg pardon — we must modify this assertion. The style is peculiar; it is marked by diffuseness, as if words were thoughts, and consequent feebleness. To weave smooth sentences and rounded periods appears to be the aim, as if they were ignorant of the force frequently [column 2:] obtained by the introduction of discords. It must, however, be conceded to them, that they have a musical ear, and that we seldom find in American poetry the sins against metre and rhyme so constantly offending in the works even of those of our own poets who may claim a respectable position. Mr. POE has not escaped the error of his countrymen. The poems before us are all marked by the peculiarities we have noticed. He is, as we gather from the indications afforded by the subjects selected and the manner of treating them, a young man, we suspect a very young man. If so, there is good stuff in him. He has the foundation of the poet, and industry and experience may raise a structure that will be an honour to his own country, and the admiration of ours. But to accomplish this, he must work hard, and aim at excellence; he must look at what he has done as only dim intimations of what he is to do — at the lowest steps of the ladder, he must climb before he will be admitted into the temple of fame. He must write much, and blot much, and burn much — without remorse or hesitation; and from this time forth resolve to give to the world only the best productions of his brain; and for these to rely upon the approval of a judicious friend, rather than upon his own judgment; the parent of a poem, like the father of a child, being apt to love best his most rickety bantling.

That Mr. POE has something in him, but that he wants pruning and training, will be apparent from the singular poem of The Raven, for which the reader is referred to the first volume of THE CRITIC, as from the following, which are among the most favourable specimens of his genius contained in the collection before us.

First, for a poem that reminds us forcibly of TENNYSON.


Once it smiled a silent dell

Where the people did not dwell;

They had gone unto the wars,

Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,

Nightly, from their azure towers,

To keep watch above the flowers,

In the midst of which all day

The red sun-light lazily lay.

Now each visiter shall confess

The sad valley's restlessness.

Nothing there is motionless —

Nothing save the airs that brood

Over the magic solitude.

Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees

That palpitate like the chill seas

Around the misty Hebrides!

Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven

That rustle through the unquiet Heaven

Uneasily, from morn till even,

Over the violets there that lie

In myriad types of the human eye —

Over the lilies there that wave

And weep above a nameless grave!

They wave: — from out their fragrant tops

Eternal dews come down in drops.

They weep: — from off their delicate stems

Perennial tears descend in gems.

Undoubtedly there is poetry in this. And the next is after the manner of COLERIDGE. Although we must acknowledge its beauty, it will be observed that it illustrates the remarks previously made as to the imitative character of American literature.


AT midnight, in the month of June,

I stand beneath the mystic moon.

An opiate vapour, dewy, dim,

Exhales from out her golden rim,

And, softly dripping, drop by drop,

Upon the quiet mountain top,

Steals drowsily and musically

Into the universal valley.

The rosemary nods upon the grave;

The lily lolls upon the wave;

Wrapping the fog about its breast,

The ruin moulders into rest;

Looking like Lethe, see! the lake

A conscious slumber seems to take,

And would not, for the world, awake.

All Beauty sleeps! — and lo! where lies

(Her casement open to the skies)

Irene, with her Destinies!

Oh, lady bright! can it be right —

This window open to the night?

The wanton airs, from the tree-top,

Laughingly through the lattice drop —

The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,

Flit through thy chamber in and out,

And wave the curtain canopy

So fitfully — so fearfully —

Above the closed and fringed lid

'Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,

That, o'er the floor and down the wall,

Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!

Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?

Why and what art thou dreaming here?

Sure thou art come o'er far-off seas,

A wonder to these garden trees!

Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!

Strange, above all, thy length of tress,

And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,

Which is enduring, so be deep!

Heaven have her in its sacred keep!

This chamber changed for one more holy,

This bed for one more melancholy,

I pray to God that she may lie

Forever with unopened eye,

While the dim sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,

As it is lasting, so be deep!

Soft may the worms about her creep!

Far in the forest, dim and old,

For her may some tall vault unfold —

Some vault that oft hath flung its black

And winged pannels fluttering back,

Triumphant, o'er the crested palls,

Of her grand family funerals —

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,

Against whose portal she hath thrown,

In childhood, many an idle stone —

Some tomb from out whose sounding door

She ne'er shall force an echo more,

Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!

It was the dead who groaned within.

There is power of painting in


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.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,

And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,

With forms that no man can discover

For the dews that drip all over;

Mountains toppling evermore

Into seas without a shore;

Seas that restlessly aspire,

Surging, unto skies of fire;

Lakes that endlessly outspread

Their lone waters — lone and dead, —

Their still waters — still and chilly

With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread

Their lone waters, lone and dead, —

Their sad waters, sad and chilly

With the snows of the lolling lily, —

By the mountains — near the river

Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, —

By the grey woods, — by the swamp

Where the toad and the newt encamp, —

By the dismal tarns and pools

Where dwell the Ghouls, —

By each spot the most unholy —

In each nook most melancholy, —

There the traveller meets aghast

Sheeted Memories of the Past —

Shrouded forms that start and sigh

As they pass the wanderer by —

White-robed forms of friends long given,

In agony, to the Earth — and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion

'Tis a peaceful, soothing region —

For the spirit that walks in shadow

'Tis — oh 'tis an Eldorado!

But the traveller, travelling through it,

May not — dare not openly view it;

Never its mysteries are exposed

To the weak human eye unclosed;

So wills its King, who hath forbid

The uplifting of the fringed lid;

And thus the sad Soul that here passes

Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,

Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,

On a black throne reigns upright,

I have wandered home but newly

From this ultimate dim Thule.

More than half the volume is occupied with “Poems written in youth.” They serve, at least, to mark the great progress the author has made; otherwise they are not worth the paper on which they are printed.

We shall be glad to meet Mr. POE again, both in prose and poetry. His volume of tales we reviewed some time since.







[S:0 - LLR, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of The Raven and Other Poems (Anonymous, 1845)