Text: Thomas H. Chivers (as “Fiat Justitia”), “Poe’s Plagiarisms,” Waverley Magazine (Boston, MA), vol. VII, no. 14, October 1, 1853, p. 216, cols. 2-4


[page 216, column 2, continued:]

Poe’s Plagiarisms

IN the first article by Fiat Justitia, entitled “Origin of Poe’s Raven,” he distinctly informed us, in language as plain as any man can possibly write, that the rhythm of the “Raven” and the poem “To Allegra Florence in Heaven,” is precisely the same; both being octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic. Now, this could not be the case, had not one of the Poems been taken from the other.

It is also stated, (which we here repeat without the shadow of a fear of contradiction,) that the Refrain of “Nevermore” was taken from another poem, entitled “ Lament on the Death of My Mother,” which was never used so before, by any other writer in the world. This we defy the whole world to controvert. Not only is this the case, but there is, in the sixth line of the following stanza, a striking resemblance to the fifth line of every one of the stanzas of Poe’s “Raven.” Here it is:

“Not till the orange bowers that wooed us long,

Where Love first haunted me in heavenly dreams,

Where Sorrow voiced herself away in song,

Shall pass away, with all our crystal streams;

Shall such sad partings on life’s barren shore

Be changed for meetings which shall part no more,

No, nevermore!”

Here we see not only the sonorous iteration of the peculiar novel vocal sounds which give denomination to Poe’s “Raven,” but that homophoneous response which was never used so before by any other writer in the world.

But this is not all. There is in the rhythmical flow of the fourth trochee into the fifth, such a peculiar manifestation of imitation, (independent of every other resemblance,) as cannot be mistaken, even by the wonderful sagacity of that man who would say that one of the styles was not taken from that of the other — as can be seen by comparing the following lines. The first is from the poem “To Allegra,” &c.:

“Like some snow-white cloud just under Heaven some breeze has torn asunder.”

Now read the following from Poe’s “Raven:”

“And the silken rod uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.”

Or, the following;

“Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly.”

Here, the imitation is in the peculiar style of that novel originality which characterizes the first poem, not to be mistaken, or gainsayed, by the most brazen-nosed impudence. Yet, J. S. P. talks about “combination” — as though we had not before told him that this “peculiarity of combination” is what constitutes not only the originality of the first, but the imitation of the second poem. But we have not space, at present, to enter into a lucid exposition of all the manifold resemblances between the two poems. But this shall be done in the “Life of Poe,” which we will soon publish.

J. S. P. asks, “Does the writer mean to assert that the rhythm of either Poe or Chivers is original?” This is just what we mean to assert. Not only do we assert it, but we defy him to prove the reverse. We did not make the assertion in the first instance, under any other than a perfect conviction of its soundness. But when J. S. P. says that the rhythm and metre of the “Raven” and “Allegro,” have been used by poets who died centuries ago, he only betrays his utter ignorance of what he is talking about; in proof of which, we now defy him to show anything like either of the poems in any of the works of the “Poets who died centuries ago.” His saying “the rhythm of the poem in question is trochaic,” shows that he cannot — because he himself has acknowledged, although inadvertently, that they possess through “combination,” an indiosyncrasy [[idiosyncrasy]] truly remarkable. This we shall make clear.

Mr. Poe never said that he pretended to “no originality in either the rhythm or metre” of the “Raven[[“]] — but precisely the reverse. This shows how much J. S. P. knows about Poe, or his writings.

Farther on, he says, “The individual lines of the ‘Raven’ have been frequently employed by other writers.” Whatever of originality there may be, consists in their combination into stanzas.” But is not this wonderful logic? That is, although the individual lines of the “Raven” are not original, yet, these inoriginal lines, by being combined into stanzas, constitute their originality. Is not this blundering logic? even worse if possible, than the dark sayings of H. S. C. — admitting every thing for which we have ever contended from the beginning? Certainly it is. It is the very “combination “ of the lines of the stanzas of the poem “To Allegra Florence in Heaven,” from which Poe stole the imitation of the “Raven,” which constitutes its originality. But we deny here, in this place, most positively, that “the individual lines of the ‘Raven’ were ever employed so before by any other writers.” This is what we defy him to prove. There is no such combination in the whole wide world of Literature, with the exception of the poem “To Allegra,” from which it was directly copied.

When he says, a little further on, that “We are to consider the peculiar combination of the lines into stanzas, not the rhythm or metre, for both the latter were old in the time of Horace,” he not only puts the weapon into our own hands by which he is slain — therefore by tacitly denying what he had just before said in regard [column 3:] to that peculiar “combination” which identified the “Raven” — but, also, betrays how little he knows of Horace.

In scanning, or pretending to scan, the following lines from the poem “To Allegro,”

“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.”

he says, that, “In the first three verses or lines the metre is octameter acatalectic. In the fourth verse or line it is heptameter catalectic, or it consists of eight trochaic feet in the first three lines, and seven and a half in the fourth — this, too, after we had most positively informed him that it is octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptometer catalectic — which is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This shows how much he knows about what he is talking. The two poems are precisely alike — that is, they are both octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic — as any scholar can see. (Not, as he says) — with the exception of the heptameter catalectic fifth line of the “ Raven — which resonant peculiarity, as we have before shown, he derived not only from the stanza of the poem entitled “ Lament,” Ste., but, also, from the concluding stanza, elsewhere quoted, of the one “To Allegro Florence in Heaven “. Yet, this man not only aro-gates to himself the ability to advocate the cause of Poe, ‘but to analyze his verses; how well he has acquitted himself, every learned reader can judge for himself. Was any body der driven to such an extremity before? Why, this is worse than the pathetic winding up of the article by H. S. C., where he says that Fiat Justitia “grants Poe an unenviable notoriety.” if this is not slandering Poe, then we should like to know what it is.

He then goes on to say, “Here the difference in combination will immediately be perceived.” Why? Because, as he says, “The first verse of the ‘Raven is octameter, as in Allegra;’ but the second is heptameter.” So is the verse in “ Allegro.,” precisely the same; therefore there is no difference in the “ combination “ — consequently, the one was stolen from the other — admitted by him in his own analysis.

Let any man in the whole world, of the least honor, or honesty, read these verses — (even his own quotation of them,) and if he does not say that they are precisely the same, we will then forfeit all that we are worth. Thus does this last advocate of Poe step in just in time to cap the climax of the evidence adduced by J. J. P. and H. S. C., to prove that Poe stole the style of the “ Raven “ from the poem “ Allegra Florence in Heaven,” by Dr. T. H. Chivers.

After doing all this, under the presumption of defending Poe, he then felicitates himself in the following apparently self-satisfying, but actually, self-condemning language: “Here we have three distinct points wherein the Raven differs materially from Allegro ;’ but, on examination, are found to agree with each other in every important particular — thereby proving that they do not only not differ in any single point, but that the novel’ combination,’ for which he contends, was stolen directly from the poem To Allegro.’ Therefore, the claim to originality belongs entirely to the author of that poem.

Farther on, he says — “ The word ‘Nevermore,’ from its lingering, sonorous sound, has been frequently employed as a Refrain.” Never — never, in any instance, anterior to the poem to which we have so often alluded, notwithstanding what was said by H. S. C., who asserted that he had discovered a poem with such a Refrain in a Cheshire, England, paper. Neither J. S. P., nor H. S. C. can show any such poem.

When J. S. P. asks, “Is it possible Fiat Justitia considers the octameters of Poe’s Raven hexameters?” No, we never made any such consideration; but he has done worse — having called heptameter verses, octometers. Thus does he “darken counsel” with his own ignorant impertinence.

He concludes, by quoting what he calls a passage from Poe, in which he attempts to make the reader believe that it was addressed to the very lines beginning — “ As an egg when broken never can be mended, &c.”; but which has not the most distant allusion to any thing of the kind; thereby showing to what extremities he has been drived for the want of evidence to sustain him.

Having thus far hastily answered J. S. P., as distinctly as can be done in the same space, we will now hasten to sum up the whole matter in as few words as possible. The rhythm of the “ Raven “ is trochaic — the metre being odometer acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in the fifth verse, terminating with tetrameter catalectic, in which is included the refrain of “ Nevermore.”

The rhythm of the poem, “To Allegro,” is trochaic — the metre being (precisely as is the case with the “ Raven ”) octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptameter calatectic — the refrain of “Nevermore,” which glorifies the “ Raven,” having been taken from the poem entitled “ Lament on the Death of My Mother,” as above and before stated — the novel combination of rhythm, metre, alliteration of the mellifluous consonations, in their union with the peculiar vocal resonations, as well as the homophoneous responses which characterize the poem “To Allegra,” giving, also, a “local habitation and a name” to the “Raven.”

Not only is this the case, but that peculiar novel combination of the trochaic rhythm which forms the corner stone, as -it were, to the one poem, forms, also, the groundwork to the other. Wherever there is the least derivation from this — as may be discovered in the paucity of rhyme in Poe’s poem — it is only just such as would necessarily result from the mannerism of imitation — this mannerism being the offspring of Art rather than Nature.

Poe, having possessed the highest poetic sense — a taste matured by the affluence of a taste matured by the affluence of a most polished education — being one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, of critics that ever lived, had just the eagle eye to see all this. It was this entirely “new thing under the sun,” this fortuitous intuition into the divine Revelation of [column 4:] that bitter wail of martyred Love to which all the true sons of song must forever respond, which opened up to his far-seeing and sagacious soul the illumined windows of a New Adytum of Beauty, through which streamed down upon his upturned face the light that we now see radiating, in sombre glintings, from the beautiful blackness of the ominous wings of the loquacious “Raven.”

Not only is this the truth, but the Themes of the two poems are precisely the same — that is, death — the death of beloved ones whose spirit have gone, in the beautiful dewy morning of their budding lives, to enjoy the azure calms of the crystalline Eterniries — leaving the left behind — climbing up the golden hills of heaven after them, watering the dark Valley of the Shadow of Death with the silver rivers of their bitterness!

Mr. Poe, in his reply to Outis, as published in the “Broadway Journal,” in 1846, occupied whole pages on pages to prove the “Raven” original — as this was the object Of the controversy. It was not until we had accused him of having derived it, soul and body, from the poem “To Allegra Florence in Heaven,” that he wrote the concession article entitled “The Philosophy of Composition,” from which J. S. P. quotes the passage which says that he never claimed the style of the “Raven” as his own.

Professor Longfellow wrote a poem for Graham’s Magazine, in 1848, called “The Sea Weed,” in which may be found the following line:

“From the far-off isles enchanted,”

which Poe affirmed was stolen from his poem, “To Mary,” containing the following line:

“Like some enchanted far-off isle.”

In the third Volume of Poe’s Writings, entitled “The Literati,” is- a poem (one of his best,) containing the following lines:

“The full-orbed moon that, like thine own soul soaring,

Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,” &c.

In the “Mighty Dead,” by Dr. T. H. Chivers, may be found the following line relating to the very same thing :

“Climbing with labor now the bending sky,” &c.

In the same poem, by Poe, may be found the following lines:

“There fell a silvery-silken veil of light

On the upturned faces of those roses,

That gave out in return for the love-light

“The happy flowers, and the ripening trees,” &c.

Now read the following stanza from the “Mighty Dead,” published years before:

“Like that Sorrowful Tree,

Whose blossoms only flourish in the night,

Making the silence fragrant with its sea

Of odor — clouding darkness with the light

Of moon-lit incense — thou didst heaven divide

With Music’s love-unfolded eglantine.”

In the same poem are also the following beautiful lines:

“The very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring air.”

In a poem, entitled “Bessie Bell,” published by Dr. C. in Peterson’s Magazine, in 1846, may be found the following lines:

“Like some ruby rose exhaling

Its perfume upon the air,

Her sweet lips kept ever wailing

Out her soul in words of prayer.”

Read, also, the following, from another poem on the “Ringing of a Bell[[”]]:

“As the setting moon grows dim,

Softly unbosomed in the air it lies,

Waning away its soul until it dies.”


“As perfume from the rose,

Just opening, from her tongue

The soul of fragrance flows

Out of her heart in song.”

When he says —

“Dear Dion sank from sight

Into a western couch of thunder-cloud,”

what is it but what Dr. C. said, years before, in the following lines:

“Like the young Moon half-enclouded

On the first night of her birth;

And as down she sinks when westing,” &c.

Now, this is not only the plagiarism of the ideality of the original, but an artful imitation of that same fortuitousness of art which characterizes the poem “To Allegra Florence in Heaven.”

Thus have we shown, without any desire to wound his friends, or compromise his foes, where Poe obtained not only the rhythm and metre, but every thing else appertaining to the brevity of the “Raven.” Nor was it our desire, in our first reply to H. S. C. and J. S. P., to wound their feelings, but to rebuke what appeared to us not only an over-hastiness of action in behalf of Poe, (that, too, on topics not broached by us,) but that unchristian levity towards the sacredeet of all subjects — namely, poetry — which we considered unworthy of them. We say this the more frankly here, in the conclusion of this Article, because we wish it to be distinctly understood by both of them, that they have no friend in the world who would make greater sacrifices to promote their welfare than we would — as proven by the interest we have taken in their poetical education during the discussion of this most beautiful of all subjects. God knows this is the truth from the bottom of our heart. For what is poetry but the expression here on earth of our desire to become the inheritors, in unanimity, of those joys in heaven that are not only undefiled, but that can never fade away? We do this because we are convinced by the promises of God, as revealed not only through the inspiration of his Oracles, but the irrepressible yearnings of our own most ardent souls, that there is a place prepared for us — for all those who have suffered here on earth — where the soul shall be repaid, in celestial felicities, a thousand — yea, ten thousand fold for all its losses. Now, these promises the soul of every true poet carries about with him, wherever he goes — folded up in his heart, just as the rose does its perfume in its leaves — echoing here on earth, through his song, not only the parent sigh of that first spasm of Eternity which told of the birth of the infant world — but the beautiful language of the angels — the golden vernacular of the skies.








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