Text: Adolph Ernst Kroeger (translated), “Edgar A. Poe,” Daily Missouri Republican (St. Louis, Missouri), January 15, 1865, vol. XLIII, no. 13, p. 1, cols. 1-5


[page 1, column 1, continued:]

Translated from the German Monthly.





The strangest phenomenon in the history of literature; the darkest, saddest, weirdest picture of inner despair, lighted up by not even the faintest ray of divine peace; a cold, ghastly, haunted phantom-night, in which moon and stars and all cheerful life have died-out; a grinning demon, sporting but with misery and laughing but at the disgusting; at the same time one of the most gifted men that has ever lived; adorned with the noblest spirit of poetry; his heart full of infinite yearning for, and love of, the beautiful and sublime; with a remarkably acute perception of symmetry, order and harmony; in short, an organization in which reverence for the noble and elevated was combined with an overwhelming, truly demonic power of understanding: Such is EDGAR A. POE! In him the contradiction, the disharmony between the understanding and feeling, the original division of the human mind, which either cannot or will not recognize its identity, appears in its most gigantic character, and reaches that climax where, in despair, it borders on insanity. It is a terrible spectacle, irresistibly entrancing our attention, yet at the same time stirring up already uncomfortableness and disgust. Religious purity and beauty accompanies DANTE even in his descent to the regions “where hope enters not.” BYRON sets our soul in flames, but it is with the warmth of the sun; his despair is and remains human; POES despair is devilish. BYRON stirs up our blood with indignation at the world as it is; POES scornful grinning at the tragedy of human life calls up a sensation of disagreeable coldness, of toad-air and putrefaction. HEINE often laughs like a satyr, it is true; but POE grins like a ghoul and a vampyre. GOETHES Mephistophiles [[Mephistopheles]] is an angel in comparison to the devil lurking in POES heart. Only the terrible “Empire of the Mothers,” into which even Faust trembles to descend, may be compared to the comfortless desolation which reigned in the soul of POE.

In the middle ages lived some similar characters, of which HEGEL, in his History of Philosophy, furnishes very interesting characteristics — men who felt the terrible dualism of their nature too strongly to effect its reconciliation. A wild, restless life, exhausting sensual pleasure, overwhelming individuality, and a prominent adaptation for mathematics and abstruse sciences were the chief characteristics of these men. In the History of Necromancy we meet still more numerous instances of such unfortunates. But of all, of whom we have any report, no one touches us so deeply, so painfully, as the American poet, who, in “The Raven,” erected an immortal monument to himself and his despair.

He must have been a very handsome man, attractive and captivating in his whole appearance, well built, of middle-stature, agile and muscular, with nobly-shaped head, well covered with black curly hair; dark and piercing eyes; fine shaped mouth and nose; and with a forehead, which would have been beautiful but for its excessive prominence. This forehead expresses his whole character, overwhelming analytic reasoning powers. The opposition between life and speculations has been decided too much in favor or the latter. You have here an understanding, which aspires to penetrate everything, to absorb feeling altogether, and make itself life. The tree of knowledge has been tasted, and is now called upon to produce out of itself the fruit of the tree of life. Is it astonishing, that a cold, dead phantom-life is the result? Is it astonishing, that the suppressed animal life strives to emancipate itself from the slavery of the understanding, and to overcome its enemy by the aid of sensuality and intoxication?

POES personal appearance produced an impression never to be forgotten. Quiet and subdued — whenever he had not tasted wine — there was an inexpressible charm in the tones of his voice and the fire of his eyes. His beautiful voice he understood to modulate with exquisite art, and his eyes, accompanied with great expression the fervent poetry of his language. “The eloquence of his conversation was at times, as of another world. His similes he took from the regions, which only the eyes of genius sees.” “I shall never,” says Mrs. FRANCIS SARGENT OSGOOD, “forget our first meeting. His proud, fine head erect, his dark eyes glancing with the electric fire of earnest feeling and deep thought, and with a peculiar and inimitable mixture of tenderness and self-reliance in his expression, he greeted me calmly, earnestly, almost coldly; and yet with such marked earnestness, that I could not help feeling impressed by it. From that moment until his death, we were friends.” This calm, composed demeanor, so utterly opposed to his restless, volcanic character, mirrored itself even in POES dress, which was ever scrupulously neat, in the furniture of his house, and in all his actions. N. P. WILLIS knew him always only as “the same melancholy, quiet, and unassuming gentleman.” Dr. GRISWOLD, whom POE, before his death, had appointed his literary executor, draws a very ugly picture of POE. But then the whole biography is written in a spirit of hatred Before dwelling more at length upon this history, we will once more liste to Mrs. OSGOODS description of our poet; at the same time expressing our deepest regret, that we are not yet in possession of a better biography of this remarkable man, and especially, that his letters have never been published, of which Mrs. OSGOOD remarks, that they exhibit his genius far better than all his poetical and prose works.

“I have never,” says Mrs. OSGOOD, found him otherwise than mild, generous, and carefully refined in his behavior. For a sensitive and tenderly educated woman there lay a peculiar and irresistable charm in the chivalrous and almost tender reverence, with which he met all women, without exception, who won his esteem. I have been told that when cares and pecuniary difficulties had driven him to the use of stimulating liquors — of which a less tender organization than his might have partaken without harm — he was in the habit of speaking disrespectfully of the ladies of his acquaintance. It is difficulty for me to believe this; to me he never, during the years of our acquaintance, in which he often came to me for advice and kindness in his many cares and sorrows spoke disrespectfully of women, with one exception, and then it was to defend me.” “It was in his own simply, yet beautiful home, where the character of EDGAR POE appeared to me in its most beautiful light. Amiable, witty, and alternately compliant of self-willed, like a spoiled child, he had for his young, sweet and adoring wife, as well as for all who visited him, a loving smile and polite, tender attention, even in the midst of his most exhausting literary labors.”

His wife he seems indeed to have loved deeply, and this love was extended to his wife’s mother, and was intensely reciprocated by both. Without a murmur of complaint, nay, with joy and pride they bore the poverty in which he remained during his whole mature life. His mother-in[[-]]law was not even ashamed to beg for POE and his wife, when both were stricken down by sickness. He was always esteemed and valued by them. His beautiful poem “Annabel Lee” was written on the death of his beloved wife, and he also addressed some deeply-felt verses to her mother.

There is no doubt, that wonderfully beautiful, though always melancholy beautiful, as some of his writings are, a portion of his life has also been. It is wrong to make him out a mere devil. And though he never was a cheerful man, never a genuine sone of the earth, though the shadow of the Raven never altogether disappeared from his brow, he seems to have been a real demon only after drinking. A single glass of wine was sufficient to put him in a state of frenzy. Then “he walked through the streets insane or melancholy, his lips moved by indistinct curses or his eyes turned upwards in passionate prayer (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned,) but for the happiness of those whom he worshipped for the moment.” Or, “his glance sunk deep into the heart, torn by despair, and his face overshadowed by deep darkness, he would expose himself to the wildest storms, and all the night, his clothes dripping with the wet and his arms beating the air and the rain, would speak with the spirits, he could evoke only at such time from Aidenn.” * * * Then he became a true Satan. Then he found pleasure in the most disgusting and horrible. Then he hated and scorned all mankind. It is questionable whether he ever had moral feeling — conscience — for in spite of his boundless pride he had even no feeling of honor; but if he had, it certainly vanished in those gloomy, terrible hours.

POES parents were actors. He was born in 1811 in Baltimore. After the death of his parents he was adopted by a rich merchant, Mr. ALLAN, and very much spoiled on account of his talents and beauty. “His will was never broken,” as the Americans say. When he was five years old, he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. ALLAN to Europe, where he visited for four or five years a school in England. When Mr. ALLAN returned to the United States, he sent POE to the Virginia University, in Charlottesville, where the young man distinguished himself by talents and abilities as well as by dissipation. He left the University in debt, and when Mr. ALLAN refused to pay them, POE wrote his protector an abusive letter, and left the United States, with the mad intention of offering, like BYRON, his services to the Greeks. But he came no further than Petersburg, where he was involved in a quarrel. The American Minister, Mr. MIDDLETON, kindly protected him, and sent him back to Richmond. Mr. ALLAN forgave everything, and procured him an appointment in the West Point Academy. For a short time POE devoted himself industriously to his studies, but very soon the demon again took possession of him, and after a ten months stay he was ignominiously expelled. Mr. ALLAN once again received him kindly. But ALLAN’s first wife, for whom POE had felt a boundless reverence, had died in the meanwhile; and with the second wife POE had a disgraceful quarrel, which resulted in his expulsion from Mr. ALLANS house, and in his being totally disowned by Mr. ALLAN. POE now stood alone in the world. He had before — in his sixteenth year — published a small volume of poems, which had been rather favorably received. He now attempted to make a living by literary work, but was unsuccessful, and became so impoverished that he was forced to enlist in the army. He soon, however, deserted, and devoted himself again [column 2:] to literature; this time with better luck. He wrote some of his best tales and created attention, which was increased by his critical works. But, unhappily, he never could agree with the publishers of the magazine on which he was engaged, and his drunken habits led him into fierce and relentless quarrels. In 1837, he left Richmond for New York, having shortly before married his young and lively cousin, VIRGINIA CLEMM, on the strength of a salary of $10 a week. From New York he went to Philadelphia, where he had a quarrel with the publisher of Graham’s Magazine, and soon returned to New York. Here he now edited a daily paper with N. P. WILLIS. WILLIS was much taken by POES quiet, unassuming manner, and never left off cherishing of his memory. In New York, POE wrote “The Raven,” which made him at once the hero of the day. He was surrounded by admirers, and the most elegant circles of the city were opened to him. His fine appearance and captivating conversation, entranced everybody. A splendid career seemed to await him. But his evil habits again returned. He embroiled himself in disputes with other literary men, and alienated his best friends by his drunkenness. Money troubles were added, and when, in 1847, POES wife was thrown on the sick bed, and he himself felt ill, public appeals had to be made in his behalf in the New York papers. His wife died of her illness, and her death must have had a terrible effect on POE. For one whole year he kept himself aloof from public life and probably worked at the curious work, “Eureka,” which, in 1848, he read before an assembly of the most refined and noted men of New York, as “A Lecture on the Universe.” He seems to have been completely carried away by this work. “A sublime enthusiasm took possession of him whenever the conversation turned upon that subject.” In August, 1849, POE left New York to return to Virginia. He settled down in Richmond, joined a temperance society, and seemed resolved to enter an altogether new life. He renewed his acquaintance with a lady friend of his youth, and was engaged to be married to her. All things seemed to turn to a happy end. On the 4th he left Richmond to settle some business affairs in New York, and return for the wedding. Arrived at Baltimore, he was forced to stop a while at the station, to wait for the next train. Some “friends” found him and invited him to drink. He forgot all his good resolutions, joined them, and was beastly drunk a few hours afterwards. After a night of wild dissipation and exposure he was brought to a hospital, where he died Sunday evening, October 7th, 1849, at the age of 38 years.

Such was the life of this restless man. Let us now cast a glance at his writings. A remarkable mixture of unearthly haste and quiet tenderness; of gnawing despair and superhuman calm. With smiling composure he gazes upon the most horrible depression of mind, and analyses it with most artistical ease and quiet. The wildest woe he expresses in the correctest periods, every word, which cuts his heart, he choses [[chooses]] with most diligent carefulness, and the whole is written down in a neat handwriting, slowly and considerately, on regular slips of paper. Every thus be-written slip of paper is carefully rolled together and put aside in order read his account of the manner in which “The Raven” was composed. To be sure we regard the whole description as an invention, written down by his gloomy mind in cynical humor, for no other purpose than to destroy the delight men took in his glorious work — for POE often pleases himself, to excite the disgust and contempt of his readers, and to represent himself as a sort of demonic monster — but nevertheless it opens a deep insight into his inner life. It reveals the moral corruption of his understanding. Contrasting as this understanding does, so glaringly with that original sense for the beautiful, nature had so remarkably lavished upon him, POE now seeks to degrade this poetical spirit to the same level, by representing all its productions as mere works of the understanding, mere “pieces of mechanism.” A satanic smile settles on his lips, when he sees how he has thus toned down the enthusiasm of the public for his unapproachable ballad to disgust, and chuckling, he recounts how that divine ballad consists merely of so and so many feet of well sounding words, put together according to mere rules of the understanding. We shall dwell somewhat at length on this wonderful work, the greatest poetical production of America.

“The Raven” is the highest expression of “world-weariness” in its American shape, as “Faust,” is its highest German expression. But in POES poem this boundless woe is not resolved into heavenly peace as in the second part of “Faust;” on the contrary, the principle of darkness retains the upper-hand. The shadow of the Raven is lifted from his soul “nevermore!” The boundless yearning for the ideal, for the saintly maiden Lenore, is not only not satisfied, but is explicitly rejected by the implacable Nevermore. Nothing but damnation is left him; eternal damnation, without the faintest hope of future balm or happiness. He shall nevermore clasp her, who shall also nevermore press the violet velvet of his cushioned seat. Hope is completely killed off, every consolation taken away for all eternity. There moves on this poem that strange mixture of sensual unsatisfied love and of divine yearning for the pure joys of heaven, which have ever been the chosen element of worldweariness[[.]] Is it the lost Lenore whom he wishes back into his arms? Or is it the balm of Gilead, which his soul thirsts to drink? Alternatively the one and the other arise in prominence. But in one point the familiar American character of “the Raven” shows itself vividly in contrast with “Faust.” There is not a trace of longing-for knowledge. The unhappy master of the Raven does not thirst for knowing; he is no “Youth of Sais” longing to lift the veil from the ever hidden goddess; he represents the pure, indiscribably [[indescribably]], painful lifeweariness which thirsts for voluptuous forgetting in elysian beatitude.

It is not this lifeweariness, this looking upon life as a fever, from which there is no escape but in Lethe, peculiarly American. The same excessive sentimentality speaks to us in American music. Such nameless woe is known to no other nationality; and only the Roman history at the time of the advent of christianity furnishes a similar phenomenon. The American people have become so overwhelmingly a people of the understanding like the Romans, in spite of all their glorious energies and talents they must expect the same fate, unless an ideal, truly christian element joins and mixes with them and thus effeets [[effects]] a reconciliation.

And yet the midnight student does not fall down under the load of the eternal shadows. After all consolation has been denied, all hope taken away from him, after he has been told, that there is no balm in Gilead, and that he shall never more clasp his sainted maiden, he does not stagger broken-hearted, but in scornful dignity of man —

“Be that word” our sign of parting,

Bird of fiend, I shrieked upstarting —

Get the [[thee]] back into the tempest

And the night’s Plutonian shore;

Leave no black plume as a token

Of that lie thy sould hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!

Quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and

Take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven “nevermore.”

And the Raven remains! He laughs as the threats of this modern Promethues [[Prometheus]]; and with eyes of demon casts his shadow on the heart of the unfortunate, whose soul shall nevermore be lived [[lifted]] from out of it.

As a work of art, “The Raven” is nearly perfect. Not a single word could well be added or taken away. The meter is magnificent and has a wonderful effect. The energy of the subject rises with each verse in admirable gradation. The whole disposition and creation, indeed, show the master-artist. All the power and sonorous sound of the English language is thrown into this ballad. No other poem that we know, not even TENNYSONS “Locksley Hall” and “Lotus-eaters” shows so strikingly the incomparable majesty, music and energy of the English language.

Recently the London papers have published a letter from the celebrated tragedian MACREADY, which furnishes additional evidence, that “The Raven” was not manufactured by POE as a beautiful “piece of mechanism” to use Mr. MACREADYS expression MACREADY writes:

“I think the following fantastic poem written by the poet whilst experimenting towards the production of that wonderful and beautiful piece of mechanism (the Raven), may possibly interest your numerous readers. “The Fire Fiend” (the title of the poem I enclose), Mr. Poe considered incomplete, and threw it aside in disgust. Some months afterwards, finding it among his papers, he sent it in a letter to a friend labelled facetiously, ‘to be read by firelight at midnight, after thirty drops of laudanum.’ I was intimately acquainted with the mother-in-law of Poe, and have frequently to repeat verses of it to her, and ask her opinion of them, frequently making alterations and improvements according to the mood he chanced to be in at the time.”

POE, it therefore seems, labored many years, but in vain, to give fit expression to that utmost despair and hopelessness, which had taken possession of his soul. Finally, after many fruitless attempts, resulting often, no doubt, in the production of some of his minor published works, he succeeded in “The Raven.” It may be interesting, however, to compare this hitherto unpublished production, fragmentary as it is, which MACREADY hass [[has]] now made public, with his matured and final work, and accordingly we give it be below. The two last stanzas are of marvelous beauty, and appears to us to resolve the terrible subject of the poem in a more poetically beautiful and satisfactory ending, than POE has accomplished in any other poem:



In the deepest death of midnight, while the sad and solemn swell

Still was floating, faintly echoed from the forest chapel bell —

Faintly, faltering floating o’er the sable waves of air

That were thro’ the midnight rolling, chafed and billowy with the tolling

In my chamber I lay dreaming by the firelight’s fitful gleaming,

And my dreams were dreams foreshadowed on a heart foredoomed to care.

* * * * * * *


On the red hearth’s reddest centre, from a blazing knot of oak,

Seemed to jibe and grim this phantom, when in terror I awoke;

And my slumberous eyelids straining, as I staggered to the floor;

Still in that dread vision seeming, turned my gaze toward the gleaming

Hearth, and there! O God! I saw it! and from out its flaming jaw it

Spat a ceaseless, seething, hissing, bubble-gurgling steam of gore!

* * * * * * *


Then, as in Death’s scorning shadow, in the icy pall of Fear,

I lay, stricken, came a hoarse and hideous murmur to my ear —

Came a murmur like the murmur of assassins in their sleep;

Muttering “Higher! higher! higher! I am Demon of the Fire;

I am Arch-Fiend of the Fire, and each blazing roof’s my pyre;

And my sweetest incense is the blood and tears my victims weep. [column 3:]


“How I revel on the prairie! how I roar among the pines!

How I laugh when from the village o’er the snow the red flame shines:

And I hear the shrieks of terror, with a life in every breath!

How I scream with lambent laughter, as I hurl each crackling rafter

Down the fell abyss of fire until higher, higher, higher

Leap the high priest of my altar in their merry dance of death.”

In the presence of this hideous creation of his imagination he remained palsied with fear, till

— The martins, from the edges of its lichen-lidded ledges,

Skimmed thro’ the russet arches where the light in torn files marches,

Like a routed army, struggling thro’ the seried ranks of oak.


Thro’ my ivy-fretted casements filtered in a tremulous note,

From the tall and stately linden, where a robbin [[robin]] swelled his throat;

Querulous, Quaker-breasted robin, calling quaintly foe [[for]] his mate!

Then I started up, unbidden, from my slumber nightmare ridden;

With the memory of that fire-demon in my central fire,

On my eye’s interior mirror like a shadow of a fate!


Ah! the fiendish fire had smouldered to a white and formless heap,

And no knot of oak was flaming as it flamed upon my sleep;

But around its very centre, where the demon face had shone,

Forked shadows seem’d to linger, pointing as with spectral finger

To a bible, massive, golden, on a table carved and olden,

And I bowed, and said, “All power is of God, of God alone.”

POE has written few true poems. They may be counted. Besides the “Raven,” we would mention: “The Bells,” “Lenore,” “Ulalume,” [[“]Annabel Lee,” “The Haunted Palace,” “For Annie,” “To Helen,” and “The Bridal Ballad.”

His few other poems have little or no value; but all are penetrated by that bizarre, gloomy, ghastly tone, which characterizes him. “Annabel Lee,” is the loveliest and most popular of his productions. One sees in the naturalness and naive warmth, which give it character, that it was forced from him by the death of his beloved wife. “Ulalume,” on the contrary, has again that strictly artificial and indefinite mysterious tone, which POE self-consciously proposed to himself as the highest object of art. What character in this opening verse:

“The skies, there were ashen and sober

The leaves they were crisped and sere —

The leaves they were withering and sere,

It was night in the lonesome October

Of my most immemorial year;

It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,

In the misty mid region of Weir —

It was down by the dark carn of Auber,

In the ghost-haunted woodland of Weir.”

One must read these lines aloud, in that slow, sonorous, unimpassionate manner, which all the poems of POE require, in order to feel its full beauty. And what music and meaning in the following apostrophe to Astarte’s morning star:

And I said: “She is warmer than Dian,

She rolls through an ether of sighs —

She revels through a region of sighs;

She has seen that the tears are not dry on

These cheeks, where the worm never dies,

And has come past the stars of the Lion,

To point us the path in the skies —

To the Lethean peace of the skies —

Come up, in despite of the Lion

To shine on us with her bright eyes,

Come up through the lair of the Lion

With love in her luminous eyes.”

“For Annie,” is the wildest and ghastliest of his poetical composition. Lifeweariness finds here its most horrifying expression. It is the voice of a corpse from the grave, thanking God, that the fever, which men call life, is over at last.

POES prose writings are very numerous. They may be divided into three classes: critical and aesthetical, narrative, philosophical. His critical and aestherical, narrative, philosophical. His critical notices make up a whole volume; and through them it was that he first became generally known. Although most of them have at present little intrinsic interest, they show clearly the correct and fine taste with which he was gifted. Sensitive to excess, every offense against beauty was torture to him, and a false rhyme or note irritated him beyond conception. A truly beautiful poem, however, and particularly a beautiful phantastic poem, tilled his soul with unspeakable delight. A true poem, POE held, should have somewhat of an indefinite character — should extend, to some extent, beyond the human grasp. Perfect definiteness in poetry he considered a fault, a finity, of the earth earthy. The true poem has its highest character in the unspeakable. GOETHE held the same views respecting poetry. This merely suggested, produced by the sound and the position of the words, we know not how, of which we find it impossible to obtain a clear perception, and which give the poetry of GOETHE its peculiar character, and which, in the second part of “Faust,” draws us on with such irresistible force. In the form, POE demands the utmost art can attain. Hence, TENNYSON was his ideal of an artist, while he recognized in HOOD the more phantastic, warm-hearted, humane poet. But he could equally appreciate THOMAS MOORE — one of the greatest poets, never yet sufficiently recognized — of BYRON and FRANCES SARGENT OSGOOD. Whatever was beautiful was sure to find favor with him; his strongly pronounced character did not prevent his appreciating the beautiful even in what was heterogenous to it. His aesthetical convictions are clearly laid down in three small essays: “The Poetic Principle,” “The Rationale of Verse,” and “The Philosophy of Composition.” The first of these writings explains his views most fully. Very correctly he remarks: “A long poem is simply a flat contradiction in terms. I need scarcely observe, that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ration of this elevating excitement. But all excitements are, through a physical necessity, transient. That degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout any composition of great length. After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags, fails — a revolution ensues — and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such.” Equally correctly he remarks — and this applies well to HEINE — “But a poem may also be improperly brief. Undue brevity degenerates into mere epigrammatism. A very short poem, while now and then producing a brilliant of vivid , never produces a profound or enduring effect.” POE continues: “While the epic mania has, for some years past, been gradually dying out of the public mind, by mere dint of its own absurdity — we find it succeeded by a heresy too palpably false to be long tolerated, but one which, in the brief period it has already endured, may be said to have accomplished more in the corruption of our Poetical Literature than all its other enemies combined. I allude to the heresy of The Didactic. It has been assumed, tacitly and avowedly, directly and indirectly, that the ultimate object of all true Poetry is truth. Every poem, it is said, should inculcate at moral; and by this moral is the poetical merit of the work to be adjudged. To write a poem simply for the poem’s sake, we have taken it into our heads, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity of force; but the simple fact is, that, would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls, we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist, any work more thoroughly dignified — more supremely noble than this very poem — this poem per se — this poem which is a poem and nothing more — this poem written expressly for the poem’s sake.”

“With as deep a reverence for the true as ever inspired the bosom of man, I would, nevertheless, limit, in some measure, its mode of inculcation. I would limit to enforce them. I would not enfeeble them by dissipation. The demands of truth are severe. She has no sympathy with the myrtles. All that which is so indispensable in song, is precisely all that with which she has nothing whatever to do. It is but making her a flaunting paradox, to wreathe her in gems of flowers. In enforcing a truth, we need severity rather than efflorescence of language. We must be simple, precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, unimpassioned. In a word, we must be in that mood, which, as nearly as possible, is the exact converse of the poeticals.”

“An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms and sounds and odors and sentiments, amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the more oval or written repetition of these forms and sounds and colors and odors and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight. But this mere repetition is not poetry. He who shall simply sing, with however glowing enthusiasm, or with however vivid a truth of description, of the sights and sounds and odors and colors and sentiments, which greet him in common with all mankind, — he, I say, has yet failed to prove his divine title. There is still a third unquenchable, to allay which he has not shown us the crystal springs. This thirst belongs to the immortality of man. It is at once a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us, but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an exstatic [[ecstatic]] prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we strangle, by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of time, to attain a portion of that lovliness [[loveliness]], whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone.

And thus when by Poetry — or when by Music, the most entrancing of the Poetic moods, — we find ourselves melted into tears — we weep not — through excess of pleasure, as they Abbate Gravina suppose, but through a certain, perpetual impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and forever, those divine and rapturour joys, of which through the poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses. This struggle to apprehend the supernal loveliness — this struggle, on the part of souls fittingly constituted — has given to the world all that, which it has ever been enabled at once to understand and feel as poetic.”

“It is in music, perhaps, that the soul most nearly attains the great end for which, when inspired by the Poetic Sentiment, it straggles — the creation of supernal Beauty. It may be, indeed, that here this subiline [[sublime]] ennuis, now and the, attained in fact. We are often made to feel, with a shivering delight, that from an earthly harp are stricken notes which cannot have been ufamiliar [[unfamiliar]] to the angels. And thus there can be but little doubt, that in the union of Poetry with Music, in its popular sense, we shall find the widest field for the Poetic development.”

We also, — deeply penetrated by the conviction, that all art, which but asserts a claim to this name has no other purpose, than to represent that, which we always ourselves are and yet never become (never fully make visible on life,) — consider music the highest and most cultivating of all so-called arts, (“So-called” arts. For the highest art, that is to say, the problem, submitted to mankind, of representing here upon earth, in plastic shape, — in the form of the state, of family life, &c — the Divine Reason, as it is, or in other words, to erect the Kingdom of God — is unhappily never regarded as an art. This problem we turn over to the hands of that curious thing called chance, i. e. the most perfect un-reason.) And this highest art music is from the reason, that, what we alway and originally are, is a Happy Life — without division into subject — objectively: a life and not speculation; and excitement of [column 4:] Being, and not a mere schematizing of Being in thinking. The highest development of musical expression, however, is song.

If we possess nothing of POE, but his few poems and his æsthetical writings, we should find it extremely difficult to understand his life and character. It is only in his wild tales and extravaganzas, that his whole moral corruption, his endless misery and his — we might almost say — criminal character glares forth. The phantastic nature of these stories often approach hidden insanity. We become disgusted in reflecting, that the human imagination could produce pictures so abominable. They not only make us shudder with disgust, with loathing and horror. We feel as if we were walking in a picture gallery of criminals and saw those abominably grinning countenance, which characterize man in his beastliest state. A truly satanic physiognomy! Writings, so devilish, should not be printed. BULWERS story of “the Haunted House” is surely not especially calculated for midnight reading, but it is like opium in comparison with some of POES writings.

Where POE does not fall into this ghastly tone, he is at least always weird. You do not feel at home with him; there is a repulsive power in all his immense magnetic attraction. He is the snake charming the bird. You cannot escape, in spite of our loathing, your disgust your wretchedness; and he knows it and laughs at you for it. He is so full of “odic” power, as REICHENBACH would say, of “telluric” power as Dr. KIESER would express it, that the very superabundance thereof crushes your own little miserable odic or telluric self into nothingness. Even his best tasks “the Fall of the House of Usher” [[,]] “Hans Pfaal” [[, “]]Arthur Gordon Pymm [[Pym]]” and the “Golden Bag [[The Gold-Bug]]” create a peculiar sensation of uncomfortableness and repugnance. This is still increased by POES wonderful style, which grows the clearer, purer and more precise, as the subject he treats of becomes more unbearable. His style is truly a masterly style, transparent as crystal, and yet of marvelous power. There is no peculiarity about it, nor originality and individual characteristic; and yet no one could imitate it. We consider POES prose the purest and best of the English language, and what is perhaps impossible with the style of another writer; you may take POES style as a model. Everybody may try to appropriate POES style, without running the risk of copying another individual’s peculiarity.

Many of POES tales have been translated into foreign languages. His genius is unmistakable, and can not be denied. A wonderful though gloomy beauty is revealed, for instance, in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The majesty of the language, and the solemn development of the subject are incomparable. How far does this work of a true genius reach, yet above the productions of a WILKE [[WILKIE]] COLLINS, who also like POE, loves to deal of the criminal, the horrible, the depraved; and who also, like POE, evinces a total want of moral feelings in his writings. (It seems to us, indeed, as if modern novel literature were near its departure from life. In choosing altogether the criminal and horrible for portraiture, it has ceased to belong to art, and dug its own grave.)

We said before, that “The Raven” was not characterized by the thirst for knowledge which “Faust” reveals. It would be wrong, however, to infer that POE was not parched by this thirst. In the first period of his life he perhaps did like most men do, eve we Germans, i. e., throw the problem of life into the dustcorner, as something useless, of which it were any way useless to seek a key. But at a later period, particularly after the death of his beloved wife, the thought arose in him that knowledge, must also posses the faculty, fully to grasp and comprehend itself; that it were insanity, to speak of incomprehensibilty in knowledge. POE had no speculative philosophical culture, but a very extensive knowledge of other sciences. Hence his philosophical views received a strong coloring of the “Philosophy of Nature,” and often remind of SCHELLING and HEGEL, though they have a poetical complexion altogether their own. For POE was essentially of a poetic nature, and thus called his chief philosophical work “Eureka,” a prose poem stating in the preface that it was true because it was beautiful. POE saw clearly enough that certainty arises only from seeing, from intellectual contemplation. Truth is not grasped in pure thinking, in the mere producing of a scheme. This thinking must be joined by absolute contemplation, and the union of both alone is absolute certainty and unmistakeable [[unmistakable]] conviction. And since this seeing with the eye of intellect, this highest faculty of the pure Ego, has the same character as poetic Genius. POE concluded that only the poet possessed truth, and that the poetic faculty was the highest of all human faculties. It is very true a philosopher is not a philosopher unless he is possessed of this faculty, and that every philosophy, in its highest form, bears a poetic character. But it is equally true that the philosopher stands above the poet, as above every artist, because he also clearly comprehends what the artist merely is.

In this prose poem, which treats of the world creation, POE remarks very justly that the manifestation of God can be only ONE; but instead of representing this manifestation as eternally and absolutely united with God, he — in true artist fashion — represents it in plastic form, in time, and not as knowledge, carries within itself the forms of Subjective, Objectivity, Space, Matter, &c.,) but as Matter, Ether; which, to be sure, may as well be called Spirit, if Spirit means something else than the pure Ego.

This created — i. e. by free will produced — pure manifestation of God, POE represents as the expansion of the Ether into Atoms — which are nothing but the visibility of the Ether throughout the universe; and this expansion occurred from the centre of the universe in all possible directions into as phere [[a sphere]] of Space, according to the law, which we now call the law of graviation. For the force of the velocity with which these atoms streamed forth into the universe, diminished in the ratio of their distance from the centre, and this ration was that of the square of the distances. POE then beautifully describes the origin of the heavenly bodies according to the theory of LAPLACE. When the gushing forth of the atoms ceases the reaction enters, and all atoms now begin to manifest a tendency to gather again in a unity point, where they whuld [[would]] once more cease to be matter. This tendency is our present law of gravitation. POE thus beautifully describes the process of the universe as a “return from the condition as it should not be, to the condition as it originally was and should be.” His only fault is, that he does not view the universe as a Spiritual Empire, and that he lacks the infinite progress. We have not the space to discuss this curious work now at length. In place thereof we subjoin one of this minor productions, “The Power of Words,” which reveals the same thoughts, and with which we can perhaps close mst fitly this sketch of a very remarkable man, the riddle of whose character we were never able fully to solve from the want of a faithful and minute biography.




Adolph Ernest Kroeger (1833-1882). He consistently misspells the name of John Allan as Allen. For biographical information, Kroeger has relied on sources available to him, many of which were full of errors. (Poe, for example was born in Boston in 1809, not in Baltimore in 1811. The incorrect place and date are repeated from Griswold’s memoir of Poe.) The poem “The Fire-Fiend” was not written by Poe. Instead, it was composed by Charles Gardette, and originally printed as a Poe hoax. The bulk of the present article is valuable only as a document of a personal response to Poe 15 years after his death.



[S:0 - St. Paul Daily Globe, 1880] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (L. C. Harris, 1880)