Text: Anonymous, New York Herald (New York, NY), November 18, 1875, p. 6, col. 5


[page 6, column 5, continued:]

The Poe Monument.

Twenty-six years have passed since the death of Edgar A, Poe, and yesterday, for the first time, his grave was marked with a stone. There was no real ingratitude in this long neglect of the great poet's resting-place. Before printing was invented monuments of stone or brass were necessary to commemorate events for the information of men. But now funeral urns, obelisks and statues have ceased to embody history; they have become curiosities upon which the antiquarian may ponder or the poet muse, but of which the world can take little note. All that was vital and valuable in these mute records long ago passed into books. Books are the true monuments of illustrious men, and Pharaoh's earthly immortality will exist in the Bible long after his pyramid is levelled with the desert sands. No marble was hitherto placed above the grave of Poe because that tribute was not needed to preserve his fame. His memory lives in the music of his verse, in the fascination of his mystical dreams, in that vast world of imagination which he swung into the heavens and which dazzles with its circling flame long after the brain that made it sleeps in the dark and quiet tomb.

This monument is not raised so much to the memory of the man as to that of the poet. Poe seems to have had one nature for the world, another for his friends, and to have been pursued by hate and consoled by love to the end of his stormy life. All his biographers have admitted his great faults, but some of them have been careful to conceal his merits. The discussion of his personal character, however, very properly was not a part of the ceremonies at his grave. It was his genius that was thus honored. Fortunately, any comparison of his works with those of other poets of this age is unnecessary in determining his place in our literature, for he stand.- alone and unapproachable. Most of our American poets reflect English poetry, but Poe formed his own style, and all his inspiration came from within. His individuality was intense, and lie seemed to move within a magic circle which no other foot than his could cross. His imitators are many, but they are all below contempt. It is impossible to imitate poetry which is so profoundly original, though it is easy to parody his verse. No doubt Poe spoke truth when he said that poetry to him had not been a purpose but a passion, and that the passions must not be trifled with. Had it been a purpose he would have written volumes, but as it was a passion held sacred by him, and wedded with sorrow and conflict and remorse, he produced very little in quantity. But how great thus little is! There is “The Raven,” “To One in Heaven,” “Israfel,” “Annabel Lee,” “For Annie,” “Ulalume,” “The Conqueror Worm,” each a separate star in a strange and vividly burning constellation. His poetry also found expression in his tales, and the finest of these have no parallel in fiction. Thus it may be said that he is greater or less than such or such a poet, according to the critic's taste, but it cannot be said that he is like any other poet. It is in the utter unlikeness to others that much of his singular fascination exists.

Much of Poe's labor was given to criticism, and he is not forgiven even now for his severity. It is the custom to sneer at him as a critic who concerned himself only with the mechanism of art, and not with its higher elements. But we believe that he rendered a great service to American literature by his analysis of forms, his direct censure of incompetent writers, and the war he ever-waged against mediocrity and pretence. He was the Pythian of the age, and his arrows always hit the mark. In many respects we regard him as the ablest of American critics, and it is a misfortune for the literature of the present day that he is without a successor.





[S:0 - NYH, 1875] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Poe Monument (Anonymous, 1875)