Text: Thomas Holley Chivers, “The Valley of Diamonds,” Georgia Citizen (Macon, GA), vol. I, no 16, July 12, 1850, p. 2, cols. 2-4


[page 2, column 2, continued:]





There is no doubt of one fact that the merits of any true work of art are entirely independent of their appreciation. But when we see any Poem universally imitated, it is prima facia evidence of its excellence. Not that the Popular Mind is at all qualified to judge of any superior work of Art, but that there are minds within the compass of the great sea of mind able so to judge of it, as, by their repeated imitations of it, to give it the name of a superior creation.

There is a vast difference between a Poem whose rhythm is written after a model, and one that is entirely original. What I mean by an original rhythm is, one that is not only not to be found in any of the English rhythms, but nowhere else. It is very easy to write after another man’s rhythm, but it is more than difficult to create one that does not exist any where. Byron wrote altogether in another man’s rhythm. So did Southey, Moore, and nearly all the English Poets. The great fault with American Poetry is, that its rhythm is copied after the old English rhythms.

An able writer in the April number of the “Literary Union,” published in Syracuse, N. Y., under the head of “The New School of Poetry,” says, “Such is the term which has been employed to indicate a variation in poetical style, introduced by the lately deceased author of “THE RAVEN” — that extraordinary Poem, which in the words of N. P. Willis, electrified the world of imaginative readers, and has become the type of a School of Poetry of its own.”

This writer further states, (which is only an echo of those who are no better informed, ) that Mr. Poe has”deliberately, powerfully, broken loose from conventional schools, and proved his independence by a series of Poems, the like where of, we venture to say, has never before been known. Not content with [column 3:] launching forth into strains of weird and unearthly grandeur, he has bid defiance to the dull pedantry of antiquated prosodists, and created for himself a measure and a style not at all in accordance with their dicta, and yet rich in melody and all potent in strength.”

This is, indeed, truly refreshing. It is a green oasis in the desert waste of life — a Rainbow of Hope to the weary soul thirsting for the healing Well-springs of Immortality. But what does it all amount to? What will all that will ever be said about the originality of “THE RAVEN, “and the “style of which it is the type” amount to, after this? Why, “merely this and nothing more” — namely, that the authors of such criticisms betray not only a deplorable ignorance of the current poetical Literature of the Day, but an entire ignorance of the subject matter in hand.

In 1843, I published a Poem in the “Southern Literary Messenger,” entitled “To Allegra Florence in Heaven.” It was written with a bleeding heart upon the death of my precious little daughter — “that blue-eyed child that was the load-star of my life!” The following verse will give the intelligent reader some idea of the nature of the Poem:

“And as God doth lift thy spirit

Up to Heaven there to inherit

Those rewards which it doth merit,

Such as none have reaped before;

Thy dear father will, to-morrow,

Lay thy body, with deep sorrow,

In the grave which is so narrow —

There to rest forevermore.”

Soon afterwards, another Poem appeared in the same Journal, entitled “Autumn, “under the nom de plume of “The Stranger.” I give one of the verses to show that it was modeled precisely, in every sense of the term, after the above Poem:

“Summer’s sunny days are ended,

And the Spring hath long descended

To the grave, where Seasons blended

With the dust of beauty lay;

And o’er lull and valley ringing,

Blithe some birds no more are singing,

But the feathered tribes are winging

Back to the mild South their way.”

A little while after, another Poem appeared in “The Broadway Journal,” entitled “The Departed,” modeled after the very same Poem, rhythm and everything. Here is the first verse:

“Where the river ever floweth,

Where the green grass ever groweth,

Where each star most faintly gloweth,

Do I wander on,

My thick pulses hastily beating,

My quick glances now retreating,

And with bold advance, now meeting

Shadows of the gone!”

Some time after, appeared another in”The Boston Weekly Museum,” entitled “To My Angel Daughter,” by J. W. Hanson. The following is the first verse:

“Now a sister have the Angels,

Chanting all their grand Evangels

Sweetest ‘mong the Star-crowned sisters,

Is the Angel Florence May!

With her songs of braided sweetness,

Her white wings of light-like fleetness,

And her joy sinfull completeness,

In that world of upper day.”

A short time after, a beautiful Poem appeared in the “National Era,” entitled a “Dirge,” by Miss Phebe Carey, the first verse of which I now give:

“Where the shadows dull are creeping

O’er the green mounds of the sleeping,

And the mournful night is weeping

For the beauty from us gone;

Years on years I would not number,

One earth’s cares no more will cumber,

Has been lying in that slumber

Never shaken by the dawn!”

The Poem of which this verse is a specimen, is; the best that has been quoted, except the one entitled “The Departed,” which possesses a peculiar sombre beauty, truly pleasing.

About this time a Poem appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, written in the very same rhythm, but not equal to either of the two last quoted.

Immediately after my Poem”TO ALLEGRA FLORENCE IN HEAVEN,” was written, I wrote Mr. Poe a letter in which I copied the following verse, requesting him to let me know how he liked it:

“Holy Angels now are bending

To receive thy soul ascending

Up to Heaven to joy sun ending,

And to bliss which is divine;

While thy pale cold form is fading

Under Death’s dark wings now shading

Thee with gloom which is pervading

This poor broken heart of mine!”

Not long after this, a Poem was published in “The American Review,” entitled “THE RAVEN,” the following of which is the first verse:

“Once upon a midnight dreary,

While I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious

Volume of forgottenlore;

While I nodded, nearly napping,

Suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping,

Rapping at my chamber door. &c.”

Here we see the same rhythm — precisely the same — and the consequent artistical finish. The only difference between my Poem and Mr. Poe’s, is, the Refrain, which he puts into the mouth of the Raven, of nevermore, which he took from a Poem of mine, entitled “LAMENT ON THE DEATH OF MY MOTHER,” and published in the Middletown “Sentinel,” in 1839. The following is one of the verses:

“Not in the mighty realms of human thought,

Nor in the kingdoms of the earth around;

Not where the pleasures of the world are sought.

Nor where the sorrows of the earth are found;

Nor on the borders of the great deep sea,

Wilt thou return again from Heaven to me —

No, never more!”

Write my Poem in Hexameter lines, (which by-the-by is the very way in which it is written,) and it will appear precisely in the form of Mr. Poe’s Poem, thus:

‘And as God doth lift thy spirit up to Heaven there to inherit

Those rewards which it doth merit, such as some have reaped before;

Thy dear father will, to-morrow, lay thy body with deep sorrow,

In the grave which is so narrow — there to rest forevermore!”

What pleased him in my Poem was, not only the original novelty of my rhythm, but the sonorousness of the words never more. Another thing which pleased him was, the peculiar novelty of my rhymes in the middle of the Hexameter line. So, in order to make it more apparent in his Poem, he wrote the lines long instead of short — as though drawing the Poem out in to one continuous line would change the nature of it at all.

Mr. Poe was a great genius. No man ever lived who possessed a higher sense of the Poetic Art, than he did. He was a consummate Artist. But he would never go to the trouble to invent wrote in another man’s rhythm. He was forever in search of something new, which, by his Ithuriel Pen, he could transmute or convert, into some thing bizzare. He always attempted to carryout the some what true adage that “To appropriate was the province of true genius!” He was, undoubtedly, the best Poetical Critic that ever lived.

This shows whether he was the author of the style of “THE RAVEN,” or not. That he possessed a most consummate power to appropriate and transmute, is proven by the chrysomelphonian Dialogue, which he uses in”THE RAVEN,” compared with the Poem from which it was taken. But that the form of my Poem is more admired than his is proven by the fact [column 4:] that it has five times as many imitators. The fact is, it is absolutely in vain for any man to wait for the fulfillment of the Prophecy — Magna est veritas, et prevalebit — for it never will be done this side of the grave — unless it is done by the right Seer. This every man under the sun has the right to do.



Chivers would continue this campaign for self-glorification in the Waverley Magazine in 1853.


[S:0 - NYM, 1842] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Edgar A. Poe (Anonymous, 1842)