Text: Henry S. Cornwall, “Edgar A. Poe,” Waverley Magazine (Boston, MA), vol. III, no. 21, November 29, 1851, p. 331


[page 331, column 1, continued:]




BY the few who possess in their souls a love for the beautiful, the works of this’ author will ever be welcomed with enthusiasm. Admirers of true poetry will ever regard the genius of Edgar A. Poe as the fairest flower in the garland of American literature. His writings are certainly very remarkable productions, and in ideality, sublimity of a fine order, wild, and at times bold metaphysicianism they have rarely been surpassed — certainly not by any American author. His poem “The Raven,” exalted him at once to a most enviable position in the Temple of Fame, and startled a world of imaginative readers by its fine imagery, its subtlety of thought, its glorious ideality, but most of all, perhaps, for the exhibition of that creative faculty which we call originality. In this poem, the minutest points of composition seem never to have been overlooked, but to have been contemplated with the eye of a critic, the skill of an artist, and the soul of a poet.. The language is highly elaborate — almost bejewelled with the gems of thought, showing evidences of the greatest care, and a correct understanding of all the effects that lead the mind into the mystic regions of the ideal and sublime. This poem has been pronounced the most effective, single poetry ever published in this country. The subject is handled in a remarkable manner — equalled only by its ingenuity of versification — and from the author’s own account of its composition, we may judge of the labor necessary for its completion. The poem is no doubt familiar to all. In vain Save we sought for a verse which might be quoted separately, so perfect is the unity of the whole.

But, after all, it is to “Ulalum[[e]]” that we bow, awed, suppressed, enchanted by the spirit of Poesy that seems to have hovered over, and endowed the writer With power over pen and heart — a knowledge of effect, and the weirdness of a gloomy yet mighty intellect. No one with a soul capable of perceiving or appreciating the beautiful, can peruse such lines as the following without experiencing emotions strange and glorious: —

“Here once, through an alley Titanic

Of cypress, I roamed with my soul

Of cypress, with Psyche, my soul.

These were days when my heart was volcanic

As the scoriac rivers that roll —

As the lavas that restlessly roll

Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek.

In the ultimate climes of the pole — [column 2:]

That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek

In the realms of the boreal pole.”

The sonorous force of the allitteration [[alliteration]] “o” and “l,” in “roll,” “boreal pole, &c.,” will be immediately perceived. The plot of Ulalume is, briefly, this. The dead body of Ulalume is buried by her lover in a tomb, at night, in the “haunted woodland of Weir.” This is in the “lonely month of October.” Just one year from this time the lover, sadly musing on her whom he adored, unconsciously wanders in the vicinity of the tomb. Absorbed in thought and contemplation of the supernatural phenomenon of the locality, he arrives suddenly at the entrance of the tomb — “the door of a legended tomb.” While asking himself, or as he more beautifully expresses it — asking Psyche for an interpretation of the inscription, he is struck with a sudden reccollection [[recollection]] of the place; he remembers that the month, the date of the night — the hour, are the same as when he laid her cold form in its last resting place. It is here, that the ingenious effect — the power of the poem is developed. The agony of dear reccollections [[recollections]] crowds in upon, and causes his heart to shrink in his breast.

“Then my heart it grew ashen and sober

As the leaves that were crisped and sere,

As the leaves that were withering and sere,

And I cried — “It was surely October ,

On this very night of last year

That I journeyed — I journeyed down here —

That I brought a dread burden down here

On this night of all nights in the year,

Ah! what demon has tempted me here?

Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —

This misty mud-region of Weir —

Well I know, now, this dark tarn of Auber,

This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

The lines entitled “To Helen,” abound in passages of striking beauty — gems of thought, that sparkle like diamonds among the richest blooms of a luxuriant imagination. We cannot forbear quoting a few instances of unusual excellence: —

“——— a thousand

Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,

Fell on the upturned faces of these roses

That gave nut in return for the love-light

Their odorous souls in an extatic death.,, [[sic]]

“Clad all in white, upon a violet bank

I saw thee half reclining; while the moon

Fell on the upturned fares of these roses,

And on thine own upturned — alas, in sorrow!

——— “I paused — I looked —

And in an instant all things disappeared.

(Ah, hear in mind this garden was enchanted!)

The pearly lustre of the moon went out:

The mossy banks, and the meandering paths,

The happy flowers, and the repining tress

Were seen no more; the very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.”

“But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight

Into a western conch of thunder-cloud ;

And thou a ghost, amid the entombing trees

Didst glide away.”

His last poem “The Bells,” as an example of accordance of theme and movement, is perfect. The flow of ideas are, however, in this poem, wilder and less felicitious [[felicitous]] than in some of the former productions; but, judging from the innumerable imitation and parodies to which it has given rise, it is, perhaps, as generally appreciable as “The Raven.”

The genius of Poe seemed at all times to he enveloped and mystified in a glow of spirituality, through the halls of which it danced and sparkled like unearthly fires. Though his fluency of conversation and surprising eloquence eminently adapted him to the company of others, yet choosing communion with his own soul, rather than to move amid the affectations of society, he has been charged with misanthropy and conceit. The result is, that his genius is often suffered to pass unnoticed. We have a collection of notices upon American Poets, wherein not the slightest allusion is made to Poe.

Of his prose, especially his tales, it is nearly unnecessary to allude, they having had the good fortune to be so generally read. Their originality of plot, ingenuity of construction, and artistic arrangement, are worthy of being models to those who would excel in this species of composition. First, among the tales of Poe, we consider “The fall [[Fall]] of the House of Usher,” which, by its intenseness of interest, seizes and absorbs the mind of the reader, to the end. “Eleonora,” is a glorious conception and embodiment of all that is beautiful[[.]] At each repeated perusal new beauties, unnoticed before, start up at every period. The more original the idea — the greater the amount of labor bestowed in reducing it to a form readily appreciable, until once read it is never forgotten, but laid away in the recesses of the heart, to be recalled in after time for contemplative admiration. For beauty alone we think “Eleonora” the most perfect of his tales. It is, in fact, a prose poem, a highly colored picture, glowing from the masters hand.

Although in opposition to the opinion of his biographer, we consider his genius versatile. In almost every department of literature, he seems at home; yet it is, without doubt, in the tales that he displays most of that elaborate finish and intensity that make them so highly interesting, and which gained for him that eminent position for which his uncommon powers so well adapted him.

His life was like the shooting of a star — flashing through a brilliant career — a splendid wonder — then, with an erratic gleam, sinking forever from mortal eyes, inducing a strange sensation of sadness at its departure.

Thongh [[Though]] Genius, o’er his grave, mourns the doom of one of her most gifted sons — yet in the heart of every admirer of a classic style, will the memory of Poe find a home. The hand that wrote “The Raven,” and “Eleonora,” is stiff and cold — but the soul that dictated, is before the God who called it.

Sweet be the blooms above thee, poor Poe! In pace requiescat?




Henry Sylvester Cornwell (1831-1886) was a born in Charlestown, NH and resided in New London, CT. He graduated from Yale University in 1863. He wrote articles for various periodicals, particularly for the Waverley Magazine, and published a volume of his poems in 1878 (The Land of Dreams and Other Poems).


[S:0 - WM, 1851] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar A. Poe (H. S. Cornwell, 1851)