Text: Thomas Holley Chivers (as “Fiat Justitia”), “Origin of Poe’s ‘Raven,’” Waverley Magazine (Boston, MA), Vol. VII, no. 5, July 30, 1853 p. 73, cols. 1-3


[page 73, column 1, continued:]


THERE is no doubt of one fact, that the merits of any work of art are entirely independent of their appreciation by the public; although, when we see any particular new creation universally imitated, it is prima-facia evidence of its superiority. 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 work under the sun.

There is a vast difference between a poem whose rhythm is original, and one that is modelled entirely after it. It is very easy to write in the rhythm of another; but it is very difficult to create one that does not exist any where. Byron wrote after the manner of 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 entirely after that of the Old English forms.

In an able article, published two or three years ago, in the “Literary Union,” of Syracuse, N. Y., entitled “New School of Poetry,” I find the following words:

“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 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 whereof, we venture to say, has never before been known. Not content with launching forth into strains of weird and unearthly grandeur, he has bidden 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 truly refreshing indeed — a green Oasis in the desert waste of life — a real rainbow of hope to any man whose soul has ever actually thirsted after the healing well-springs of immortal life. But what does it all amount to? Merely this and nothing more — namely, that the writers of such articles betray not only a deplorable ignorance of the current literature of the day, but the most abject poverty of mind in the knowledge of the true nature of Poetry.

In a volume of poems which I now have before me, entitled “The Lost Pleiad,” &c., by T. H. Chivers, M.D., I find a poem entitled “To Allegra Florence en Heaven,” published in 1842, the following verses of which I will now quote, in order to show the intelligent reader the true source, and that alone, from which Poe obtained his style of the “Raven.” Here are the verses:

“Holy angels now are bending to receive thy soul ascending

Up to Heaven to joys unending, 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!

And as God doth lift his spirit up to Heaven there to inherit

Those rewards which it cloth 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.”

Now what does Poe say of the RAVEN? He calls it “trochaic catalectic in the fourth, repeated in the fifth, verse.” This is precisely the nature of the Poem of Dr. Chivers — with the exception of the repetition in the fifth verse or line.

I will now give you one of the verses of the Raven, to show you that it is precisely the same:

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore;

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of some one gently tapping, tapping on my chamber door,” &c.

Here we see that the rhythm is precisely the same — the artistic finish being the same, with the exception of the Refrain of Nevermore, which he also stole from the same author, as I shall now proceed to prove.

In an old number of the “Sentinel and Witness,” published in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1839, I find a poem entitled, “Lament on the Death of my Mother,” the following verse of which I now give to show the reader [column 2:] that Dr. Chivers was the first writer in the world who ever made use of the word Nevermore as a Refrain. Here is the verse:

“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, nevermore!”

This shows that Poe is not the inventor of either the style of the “Raven,” or the Refrain, which is the principal beauty of it. In doing this, I show, at the same time, that the honor of having originated that style belongs alone to Dr. Chivers, the author of “The Lost Pleiad and other Poems,” of which Poe himself spoke in the highest terms in the “Broadway Journal,” in 1845. But this is not all. The very paucity of rhyme in Poe’s Hexameter lines proves that his “Raven” was copied after the one by Dr. Chivers, entitled, “To Allegro Florence in Heaven.” But, independent of all this, we know, most positively, that it was.

On looking over the “Broadway Journal for the same year, I find another poem which must have been written by Poe, the following verse of’ which I will now quote, to show that it was taken from the same poem. Here it is, entitled “The Departed:

“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 thich glances now retreating;

And, with bold advance, now meeting

Shadows of the gone.”

Poe was a great artist — a consummate genius — no man that ever lived having possessed a higher sense of the poetic art than he did ; but he chose, rather, to carry out the somewhat true adage that, “to appropriate is the province of genius,” than to invent, himself. He was forever in search of something which, by his Ithuriel pen, he could convert into that which was Bizarre.

It is, indeed, a good thing for this world that “a lie cannot live forever.” It is, also, a blessed thing for all men that truth is mighty and will prevail. Magna est veritos, et prevalebet

Now, in summing up the evidence which I have adduced to prove that the Raven, by Edgar A. Poe, was stolen from a Poem entitled, “To Allegra Florence in Heaven,” by Dr. T. H. Chivers, I would beg leave to say that the rhythm is precisely the same — the Refrain having been taken from another Poem of his, entitled “Lament on the Death of my Mother,” which I find in the Middleton “Sentinel and Witness,” for 1839. Not only is the rhythm the same, but the pathos of the Poem is, also, imitative of it — that verse in which he speaks of the “ melancholy burden “ which he always bore in his songs for the “lost Lenore,” having been taken from the real, deep-rooted sorrow which gave birth to Dr. Chiver’s Poem, and which was noticed by William Gilmore Simms, when he reviewed this same Poem in his Magazine, in Charleston, South Carolina. The truth is, it is copied precisely after it — the only difference between the two Poems being that one is the offspring of a real, bitter sorrow — the other only an artificial imitation of it. Poe never had any experiences — only those which his bad behavior created for him — which were not the themes for song. He was, therefore, compelled, whenever he did write, to copy the experiences of one who had really tasted of the bitter cup of sorrow to the very drugs — as in this instance.

The Poem “To Allegro Florence in Heaven,” was written at a time when the soul of the author told too truly how the Demon of the Plague had chained a more than sensitive heart to the iron Caucasus of an everlasting sorrow! Poe’s Raven was only written as an imitation of it — bearing the same relation to it that a Painting of Prometheus does to the real Providence suffering on the Rock. How easy, then, is it for a good artist, like Poe, to draw out of the unfathomable fountain of the bitterest Marah that ever welled up out of a broken heart, whole eternities of imitative sorrow. But how more than ridiculous it is for any man to talk about this being “one of the most terrible confessions of torture of an all-absorbing passion that man has made since Prometheus was chained to the Rock” — as was said by M. Didimus of Poe’s Raven, when speaking of the musical talents of Gotscholtz, in a late number of “Graham’s Magazine.”

The truth is, Dr. Chivers was the first man who ever made use of the Trochoic rhythm to express an Elegiac Theme. It would appear from the derivation of the word Trochee, which comes from the Greek word trachein, to run, that it was very little adapted for Elegiac verse; but, under proper management — as appears from this very Poem — no other rhythm can be compared with it. Nor is it altogether the old Greek Trochoic measure, but an artful combination of other feet which gives the Poem “To Allegra Florence in Heaven” such an ineffable charm — this not altering the trochaic rhythm at all, but making it more musical, as well as pathetic. This I could very easily show, had I either the time or the space. Nor is this all. Dr. Chivers was the first man in America who ever established that peculiar euphonious alliteration — (thereby creating a novel Poetical Language) — which we recognize in Poe’s Poems — as can be proven by referring to Poems written by him long before Poe began to write. In his early fugitive pieces — many of which are now collected in The Lost Pleiad and Virginalia, but which were published fifteen years ago — he always used the Refrain, which Poe afterwards adopted.

That peculiar responsive iteration and reiteration which characterize Poe’s Poems, you can find in his early Songs — as in the following lines from “The Lost Pleiad,” written in 1842: —

“Because of thine untimely fate,

Am I thus left disconsolate!

Because thou wilt return to be

No more in this dark world with me,

Must those soft tears of sorrow flow

Out of my heart forever more —

Forever more as they do now —

Out of my heart forevermore !”

This was enough for Poe — or any man of fine poetical talents — for Poe was not the only one who imitated the style of Dr. Chiver’s Poem, but many of the [column 3:] finest writers in America — not to mention one particular case in “Blackwood’s Magazine.”

But to be more particular in my reference to the “Raven,” I would beg leave to show the reader the palpable resemblance between one of the best verses in that Poem and the one in Dr. Chiver’s Poem, from which it was directly copied. Here is the verse from Poe’s “Raven :” —

“Now the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the paid bust Of Pallas just above my chamber door,

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted never more!”

Now read the following from Dr. Chiver’s Poem’:

“As an egg, when broken, never can be mended, but must ever

Be the same Crushed egg forever, so shall this dark heart of mine,

Which, though broken, is still breaking, and shall nevermore cease aching,

For the sleep which has no waking for the sleep which now is thine!

This is amply sufficient to show the nice affinity between the two Poems. There is no mistaking of this matter — one of the Poems was taken from the other, just so sure as the first Poem was ever written. The truth is, the only difference between the two Poems at all is, that one is a Monologue — the other a Dialogue.

The following verse, from a very peculiar poem, Written in 1841, I now quote:

“The funeral bell keeps tolling, keeps tolling,

Keeps tolling for the dead;

Whose dirge sound goes rolling, goes rolling,

Like waters, o’er my head..

Here, the monotonous and pathetic rhythm of the tolling bell can be distinctly perceived in the sonorous roll of the rhythm of the poem.

The following verse, from a poem written in 1836 now give, as a specimen of his peculiar use of the Refrain:

“Oh! they tell me not to sigh,

And they tell me not to mourn;

But were all this world to die,

I would not be so alone!

He was all my sun by day,

He was all my star by night;

And, however rough the way,

He was always my delight.

But he died upon my breast,

Like the first bright star of even;

When it wanes into the West —

There is rest for me in Heaven!”

This refrain is used in every verse.

This shows that is was not anything very remarkably original in the “Raven” which made it so popular, but the eccentricities of its author. Had he been a strictly sober and temperate man, his notoriety (which is not fame,) would have died into an echo long ago.

We can now see that it was not the “Raven” by Edgar A. Poe, which “electrified the world of imaginative readers, and became the type of a New School of Poetry,” as asserted by Willis, but the poem by Dr. T. H. Chivers, from which it was taken. So, it was not Poe who “deliberately, powerfully broke loose from the conventional Schools, and proved his independence by a series of poems, the like whereof, we venture to say, has never been known before,” but simply, plainly, and truly Dr. Chivers, the author of “The Lost Pleiad,” &c. It was he who happened “not to be content with launching forth into strains of weird and unearthly grandeur, (bidding farewell to the dull pedantry of antiquated prosodists,) but created, for himself, a measure and a style not at all in accordance with their dicta — yet rich in melody, and all potent in strength.”

“Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall.”





The obviously self-serving nature of claiming that Poe’s most famous poem was stolen from a poem written by Thomas Holley Chivers, as a claim being asserted by Chivers himself, was clearly evident to the good doctor as he felt compelled to hide behind a pseudonym.



[S:0 - WM, 1853] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Origin of Poe's Raven (T. H. Chivers, 1853)