Text: Anonymous, [Review of Eureka], Daily Tribune (New York, NY), vol. VIII, no. 99, August 3, 1848, p. 1, col. 4


[page 1, column 4:]

EUREKA: A Prose Poem. By EDGAR A. POE. George P. Putnam, 155 Broadway.

This is one of the most remarkable books we have read in a long time. As a poem, it has the quality of a bold and exhaustless force of imagination; as an essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe, which it would more properly be termed, it is marked with the keenest analysis and the most singular ingenuity. The greater part of the work, with the central Idea, around which the author's veiling web of argument is so skillfully twined, was contained in a lecture on “The Universe,” which he delivered last Winter, in this City. — It is here wrought out into a more perfect shape, with some additional illustrations. The most powerful mental passion, (we know not how else to express it,) to which the highest condition of Man's nature is subject, has been seized upon by the author and ministered to with the most startling propositions which a reasoning imagination ever conceived. The seriousness, and we doubt not sincerity, with which he asserts their truth, adds to the effect he desires to produce, and although the soul, from its very knowledge of abstract truth, (which he regards as superior to any logical demonstration,) rejects a great deal of his theory, there is no part of it which does not chain the attentive and excite the inquiring. The tenacity with which he pursues the subject along the farthest brink of finite knowledge, and the daring with which he throws aside all previous systems of philosophers and theologians, constitute the chief merit of the book. The preface is terse and striking, and the dedication, to Alexandre von Humboldt, exceedingly appropriate. We do not admire, however, the attempt at humor, in his description of the contents of a bottle floating in the Mare tenebrarum; it degrades the high aim with which the work sets out. His theory of the Universe is too intricate to be told in a few lines, and we will not do injustice to it by a partial description; but we will give the following wild conjecture with which the book concludes, recommending all who take an interest in the subject, to procure and read the whole of it:

On the Universal agglomeration and dissolution, we can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally different series of conditions may ensue — another creation and irradiation, returning into itself — another action and rëaction of the Divine Will. Guiding our imaginations by that omniprevalent law of laws, the law of periodicity, are we not, indeed, more than justified in entertaining a belief — let us say, rather, in indulging a hope — that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine?

And now — this Heart Divine — what is it? It is our own.

Let not the merely seeming irreverence of this idea frighten our souls from that cool exercise of consciousness — from that deep tranquillity of self-inspection — through which alone we can hope to attain the presence of this, the most sublime of truths, and look it leisurely in the face.

The phænomena on which our conclusions must at this point depend, are merely spiritual shadows, but not the less thoroughly substantial.

We walk about, amid the destinies of our world-existence, encompassed by dim but ever present Memories of a Destiny more vast — very distant in the by-gone time, and infinitely awful.

We live out a Youth peculiarly haunted by such dreams; yet never mistaking them for dreams. As Memories we know them. During our Youth the distinction is too clear to deceive us even for a moment.

So long as this Youth endures, the feeling that we exist, is the most natural of all feelings. We understand it thoroughly. That there was a period at which we did not exist — or, that it might so have happened that we never had existed at all — are the considerations, indeed, which during this youth [[Youth]], we find difficulty in understanding. Why we should not exist, is, up to the epoch of Manhood, of all queries the most unanswerable. Existence — self-existence — existence from all Time and to all Eternity — seems, up to the epoch of Manhood, a normal and unquestionable condition: — seems, because it is.





[S:0 - NYT, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of Eureka (Anonymous, 1848)