Text: James A. Harrison, “Poe and Chivers,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VII: Poems (1902), p. 266-288


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[page 266:]

POE AND CHIVERS.

ONE of the strangest literary controversies of the time — a controversy which has been going on for fifty years, albeit all on one side — is the question whether Poe “stole” the form and rhythm of his “Raven” from Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers’ “To Allegra Florence in Heaven.”

Through the courtesy of Henry L. Koopman, Esq., librarian of Brown University, the editor has been enabled to study six of Chivers’ very rare volumes and reach certain conclusions which are set down in the following pages. These volumes, as far as we know, have not been accessible hitherto to students or have, at least, not been studied. Apparently, they were not accessible to Mr. Joel Benton when he wrote his interesting “In the Poe Circle,” or to Mr. W. C. Richardson, who reviewed in a recent Boston Transcript the perpetually recurring question of the “Precursor of Poe.” The following extracts from Griswold’s Correspondence, Cambridge, 1898, p. 40 seq., will instructively introduce our remarks:

“ ‘I have already,’ wrote Bayard Taylor in 1871, ‘seen one generation [of poets] forgotten, and I fancy I now see the second slipping the cables of their craft, and making ready to drop down stream with the ebb tide. I remember, for instance, that in 1840 there were many well-known and tolerably popular names which are never heard now. Byron and Mrs. Hemans [page 267:] then gave the tone to poetry, and Scott, Bulwer and Cooper to fiction. Willis was by all odds the most popular American author; Longfellow was not known by the multitude, Emerson was only ‘that Transcendentalist,’ and Whittier ‘that Abolitionist.’ We young men used to talk of Rufus Dawes, and Charles Fenno Hoffman, and Grenville Mellen, and Brainard, and Sands. Why, we even had a hope that something wonderful would come out of Chivers! — Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, of Georgia, author of ‘Virginalia,’ ‘The Lost Pleiad,’ ‘Facets of Diamond’ and ‘Eonchs of Ruby,’ also of ‘Nacoochee, the Beautiful Star,’ and there was still another volume, six in all! The British Museum has the only complete set of his works — I remember a stanza of his ‘Rosalie Lee’: —

“Many mellow Cydonian suckets,

Sweet apples, anthosmial, divine,

From the ruby-rimmed beryline buckets

Star-gemmed, lily-shaped, hyaline;

Like the sweet golden goblet found growing

On the wild emerald cucumber-tree,

Rich, brilliant, like chrysoprase glowing,

Was my beautiful Rosalie Lee.”

‘The refrain of a poem called “The Poet’s Vacation” was: —

“In the music of the morns,

Blown through the Conchimarian horns,

Down the dark vistas of the reboantic Norns,

To the Genius of Eternity

Crying ‘Come to me! Come to me!’ ” [page 268:]

“Dr. Chivers, according to a statement made to me [W. M. Griswold] by one of his daughters, was born at Washington, Georgia, in Decatur, Georgia, in 1807,(1) and died at 1858. Having inherited wealth, however, he practised but little.

“While in Springfield, Mass., he fell in love with a Yankee girl sixteen years old. They travelled from one place to another, New York, Boston, New Haven, etc. This second marriage probably took place about 1850. In 1853-54 Chivers dwelt in or near Boston and was a frequent contributor to The Waverley Magazine and The Literary Museum. It is singular that not only Richardson’s and the minor histories of American literature ignore Chivers, but that even L. Manly’s book, which is devoted exclusively to Southern authors, does the same.

“I insert a letter from Chivers to Poe, since it illustrates the spirit of the time, and shows that the influence of transcendentalism was not limited to NewEngland and The Tribune. Chivers’ style b here tame and commonplace, having little of the verbal effulgence which later distinguished it, when, even in prose, it unconsciously surpassed the efforts of those most skilful in burlesque. Aside from his poetical pretensions, Chivers seems to have been a person worthy of great respect. His verses appeared in some of the best periodicals of the day, and if we may trust the extracts quoted by the publishers of his ‘Eonchs of Ruby’ he was not entirely without appreciation on the part of the critics. Here is the advertisement as it appeared in The Literary World: — [page 269:]

Eonchs of Ruby.

A Gift of Love.

By T. H. Chivers, M.D.

—————

OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.

“ ‘We might quote passages of even beauty throughout the book — passages replete with the loveliest developments of the divine poetic idea in the man’s soul. From his harp proceed master strains, which seem struck out often as a sort of Pythonic delirium.’ — Message Bird.

“ ‘ “The Eonchs of Ruby” is a treasure of classic and sublime poetry — a rara avis of a rich and ardent imagination. The author’s ideas partake more of the celestial than of the terrestrial; and many of the best productions of this book are dedicated to beings who were once dear to him in life, but who were called away in the flower of their age to enjoy a world more glorious and perfect than this miserable earth. These lamentations of an afflicted parent so charmingly and truthfully expressed, may truly be called superior to anything of the kind ever written by any American or English poet.’ ” — From l’Eco d’Italia.

The New York Quarterly, however, took a somewhat different tone: — “The quaint conceits of these title pages [Nos. 6 and 7] are a warning of the affectation and absurdity which nestle within the covers of the present astounding volumes. Such a farrago of pedantry, piety, blasphemy, sensuality, and delirious fancies has seldom before gained the imprint of a respectable publisher. If the reader can imagine the fusion of the Hebrew Prophets, Solomon’s Song, Jacob Bohme, Edgar A. Poe, Anacreon, Catullus, [page 270:] Coleridge, and Isaac Watts, into one seething, simmering cauldron of abominations, he may form some idea of these fantastic monstrosities. The prose run mad in the prefaces prepares for the demoniac-celestial-bestial character of the poetry.”

The editor of The Knickerbocker paid his respects to the work as follows: —

“We have read a little book of poems by a Mr. Chivers (what a crisp, sparkling name !) which is a casket overbrimming with the most incomparable gems that ever sparkled in Heaven’s light. The author remarks in his preface, which is itself a prosaic bewilderment of all that is most precious in the verbal domain: ‘As the diamond is the crystalline Revelator of the acromatic white light of Heaven, so is a perfect poem the crystalline revelation of the Divine Idea. There is just the difference between a pure poem and one that is not, that there is between the spiritual concretion of a diamond and the mere glaciation of water into ice. For as the irradiancy of a diamond depends upon its diaphanous translucency, so does the beauty of a poem upon its rhythmical crystallization of the Divine Idea.’ We concur with the author in these views, although we never had the power to express them. A single verse from Mr. Chivers will show that he does not lay down principles by which he is not himself guided: —

‘On the beryl-rimmed rebecs of Ruby

Brought fresh from the hyaline streams,

She played on the banks of the Yuba

Such songs as she heard in her dreams,

Like the heavens when the stars from their eyries

Look down through the ebon night air,

Where the groves by the Ouphantic Fairies [page 271:]

Lit up for my Lily Adair.

For my child-like Lily Adair,

For my heaven-born Lily Adair,

For my beautiful, dutiful Lily Adair.’

“There is immortality in these verses, unless immortality is ‘a figment.’ ”

It will be seen from the following list that Chivers’ works number more than six volumes. Numbers 2, 8 and 9 are in the library of Harvard College, having belonged to J. R. Lowell. Numbers 1 and 3 are taken from the catalogue of the Harris collection.

(1.) Conrad and Eudora, or the Death of Alonzo, Phil’a, 1834, 144 pp.

(2.) Nacoochee (etc.) with other poems, by T. H. Chivers, M.D. — New York: W. E. Dean, Printer, z Ann St., 1837; 180, 143 pp.

(3.) The Lost Pleiad. N.Y., 1845.

(4.) Facets of Diamond.

(5.) Eonchsof Ruby. N.Y., Shepard & Spaulding, 1851, 168 pp.

(6.) Virginalia, or Songs of my Summer Nights. Phil’a, Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1853.

(7.) Atlanta, or the True Blessed Island of Poesy: a Paul (Prose?) Epic in three Lustra. Macon, 1855, 8°.

(8.) Memoralia, or Phials of Amber full of the Tears of Love. A Gift for the Beautiful. By T. H. Chivers, M.D. — Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1853, 18°, 168 pp. This consists of ‘Eonchs of Ruby’ preceded by a single 12 page poem. The copyright date is 1851, so that it is probably the same as No. 5.

(9.) The Sons of Usna, a Tragi-Apotheosis, in [page 272:] Five Acts. By T. H. Chivers, M. D. — Philadelphia, C. Sherman & Son, Printers, 1858; 8°, 92 two-column pages.

(10.) Heroes of Freedom.

Chivers’ ten volumes are so rare that only the British Museum possesses a complete set of them. Individual volumes are in the libraries of the poets Stedman and Swinburne. Brown University (the Fiske-Harris collection) possesses the following: “Conrad and Eudora”: Phil’a, 1834; “Nacoochee, or the Beautiful Star, with other Poems ”: New York, 1837;” The Lost Pleiad; and Other Poems”: New York, 1845; “Eonchs of Ruby, A Gift of Love”: New York, 1851; Virginalia, or Songs of my Summer Nights”: Phila., 1853 ; “The Sons of Usna, A Tragi-Apotheosis in Five Acts” : Phila., 1858.

These six the writer has carefully examined, making copious excerpts in the course of the examination. This examination reveals a singular state of things: Chivers has appropriated not only many of the quotations used by Poe to introduce his writings, such as the Greek quotation from Plato introducing the “Morella,” the quotation from Bishop Henry King prefixed to “ The Assignation,” the pseudo-quotation from Sale’s Koran on Israfel, etc., but he has appropriated Poe’s themes, proper names, verbiage, diction, and singularities of expression, leaving it beyond a doubt that the Georgian poet was the original sinner.

In detail:

We know from Kennedy’s letter to T. W. White (April 13, 1835) that Poe was engaged, in that year, on a tragedy. This tragedy was “Politian,” and a poem from it — “The Coliseum” — gained the Baltimore Visiter prize for the best poem in the memorable competition which awarded the prize for the best prose tale to “A MS. found in a Bottle,” October 12, 1833. “Scenes from Politian” were, however, not published in the Messenger until December, 1835, and January, 1836, though a fragment from it had appeared in The Visiter, in 1833, and in the Messenger in August, 1835.

Chivers’ “Conrad and Eudora” bears the date 1834 and is a tragedy founded upon the same theme as Poe’s. “The incidents of this drama” [“Politian”], says Mr. Ingram, who owns the poet’s MS., “were suggested by real events connected with Beauchampe’s murder of Sharp, the Solicitor-General of Kentucky [in 1828], the facts of which celebrated case are fully as romantic as the poet’s fiction. Poe appears to have written a portion of ‘Politian’ as early at least as 1831, and to have first published some fragments of it in the Southern Literary Messenger of 1835-36 as ‘Scenes from an Unpublished Drama.’” (I., 111-114.)

The singular part of this circumstance is that, though absolutely unlike, the two tragedies should, by a strange coincidence, have been written by two young poets who had fallen upon the same theme without each other’s cognizance, men whose after fates were continually to be thrown into fantastic juxtaposition.

The selection of subject was the merest accident: Charles Fenno Hoffman and William Gilmore Simms had also been struck by the tragic and romantic aspects of the murder, and had each written a novel embodying them. There is no suspicion of plagiarism here: mere coincidence is the explanation.

But in 1831 Poe published his West Point volume [page 274:] containing the quaint and beautiful poem “Israfel,” with the following note: “And the angel Israfel, who has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures: Koran.”

“The passage referred to” (remarks Prof. G. E. Woodberry, Life of Poe, p. 97) “is not in the Koran, but in Sale’s Preliminary Discourse (iv. 71). Poe derived it from the notes to Moore’s ‘Lalla Rookh,’ where it is correctly attributed to Sale. At a later time he interpolated the entire phrase, ‘whose heart-strings are a lute’ (the idea on which his poem is founded), which is neither in Moore, Sale, nor the Koran; and with this highly original emendation, the note now stands in his Works as an extract from the Koran.”

In Chivers’ “Lost Pleiad,” published in 1845, Israfel is mentioned in the first poem. The book is a thin pamphlet of 32 octavo pages, containing poems dated 1836, 1839, 1840, etc., and, among others, “To Allegra Florence,” dated “Oaky Grove, Ga., Dec. 12, 1842.” In the “Song to Isa Singing,” (undated) occurs the stanza:

“Like an Æolian sound

Out of an ocean shell

Which fills the air around

With music, such as fell

From lips of Israfel.”

Then follows the note: “The angel Israfel, who has the most melodious voice of all God’s creatures.” — Sale.

In “Eonchs of Ruby,” published in 1851, Israfel is again mentioned, with the same quotation from [page 275:] Sale, in the poem “To Cecilia,” p. 81. Again, at p. 167, Israfel crops up in the “ Sonnet on Reading Milton’s Paradise Lost.” In the poem “Bessie Bell” Israfel comes again.

But “Virginalia,” Phila.: 1853, contains the crowning appropriation of Poe’s idea:

“Out of the lute-strings of her heart she wove,

Like Israfel in Heaven, with her sweet singing,

A subtle web of Poesy, which Love

Around my heart then wound, wherewith upspringing,

She to the Mount of Fame her way with me went winging.”

Una, p. 15.

Again:

“My knowledge comes to thee down-flowing,

As does an angel’s free from earthly sin,

Out of the life divine of God all-knowing —

Ours from without — thine to thy soul within —

And Angel-like, although thy lips are mute,

Like Israfel in Heaven, thy heartstrings are a lute.”

The Beautiful Silence, 1851.

The “Song of Seralim,” dated 1836, is a direct imitation of Poe’s Israfel, and the heart-strings motif reappears again at p. 62.

The influence of Poe on Chivers in this one poem — “Israfel” — was profound, almost ludicrous, for Chivers goes on with his “Israfelia” (actually the name of one of his poems — the adjective “Israfelian” also occurring) after Poe is dead, in “Eonchs of Ruby” and “Virginalia,” dated respectively 1851 and 1853. The Greek quotation “Αυτο καθ’ αυτου, μονο ειδες [page 276:] αιει ον” (sic), (from Plato), which is found on the title-page of “Virginalia,” is taken from Poe’s “Morella.” Poe has poems to “Eulalie,” and “To One in Paradise;” so has Chivers.

The reader may judge for himself of the Poe an echoes in the following stanzas from the collections of 1851 and 1853: —

“I approach thee — I look dauntless into thine eyes.

The soul that loves can dare all things. Shadow,

I defy thee, and compel.” — Zanoni.

WHILE the world lay round me sleeping,

I, alone, for Isadore,

Patient Vigils lonely keeping!

Some one said to me while weeping,

“Why this grief forever more?”

And I answered, “I am weeping

For my blessed Isadore!

Then the Voice again said, “Never

Shall thy soul see Isadore!

God from thee thy love did sever —

He has damned thy soul forever!

Wherefore then her loss deplore?

Thou shalt live in Hell forever!

Heaven now holds thine Isadore!

  · · · · · · · ·  

Like two spirits in one being,

Were our souls, dear Isadore!

Every object singly seeing — [page 277:]

In all things, like one, agreeing

In those Halcyon Day of Yore.

We shall live so in our being

Up in Heaven, dear Isadore!

Myriad Voices still are crying

Day and night, dear Isadore!

Come, come to the Pure Land lying

Far up in the sky undying —

There to rest forever more!

Purified, redeemed, undying —

Come to Heaven to Isadore!

Adon-ai! God of Glory!

Who dost love mine Isadore!

Who didst hear her prayerful story

In this world when she was sorry —

Gone to Heaven forever more!

Adon-ai! God of Glory!

Take me home to Isadore!

Eonchs of Ruby, p. 97.

BESSIE BELL.

[Second-version, from Virginalia: Phila., 1855.]

Do you know the modest Maiden,

Pretty, bonny Bessie Bell,

Queen of all the flowers of Aiden,

Whom my heart doth love so well?

Ah ! her eyelids droop declining

On her soft cerulean eyes,

Like an unbought Beauty’s, pining

For the Harem’s Paradise. [page 278:]

All her soul seemed full of blisses —

All her heart seemed full of love —

Which she rained on me in kisses,

Like Heaven manna from above.

Sought, the young Fawn in her wildness

Is not wilder in the Dell;

Unapproached, the Dove in mildness

Is not mild as Bessie Bell.

Like the sweetest of Heaven’s singers,

Israfel about his Lord, Music smote her lily-fingers

From her Heavenly Heptachord.

You should know this modest Maiden.

Pretty, bonny Bessie Bell,

Queen of all the flowers of Aiden,

Whom my heart doth love so well.

Like some sorrowing soul atoning

For her sins with sobbing sighs —

Wasting, wailing, melting, moaning

Out her heart in agonies;

Sang this saintly modest Maiden,

Pretty, bonny Bessie Bell,

Queen of all the flowers of Aiden,

Whom my heart doth love so well.

Like the psychical vibration

Of the Butterfly’s soft wings,

Dallying with the rich Carnation —

Played her fingers with the strings.

Israfelian in its clearness — [page 279:]

All her heart’s deep love to tell —

Bell-like, silver in its clearness,

Fell the voice of Bessie Bell.

  · · · · · · · ·  

Chivers indeed was a poet run mad with the sense of rhythm: it made no difference to him whether his combinations made sense or not, if only there were an exquisite mellifluence of sound. His peculiar crotchet was the feminine rhyme — the melodious terminations in — ing, — ation, combined with a passion for vocalisms — open vowel sounds — and for luxurious alliterations. All this he shared with Poe, though he did not share with Poe the artistic self-restraint necessary to make these crude elements of poetry a success. On all the moon-struck sea of Chivers there sails not a barque that has survived his whirlwind of words — 1,500 pages of verse! We might mention as graceful and musical the “Boat-Song,” “Bessie Bell,” “Invocation to Spring,” “Serenade,” “The Poet of Love,” “The Comforter,” “The New Moon,” “The Angelus,” “Euthanasia,” “The Heavenly Reaper,” “Avalon,” “Mary’s Lament for Shelley,” “The Wife’s Lament for the Husband lost at Sea;” “The Soaring Swan,” is highly poetical, and “Neah-Emathla” is deeply pathetic and beautiful in parts; but the general run of the thousands of lines is a wild orgy of words — mere protoplasm, not proto-Poe — a jellied unintelligibility, without form and void: such poems a sea-squib might write, shooting its ink into inarticulate speech.

Whatever Poe did, Chivers thought he must at least try: thus Poe’s Queen-Mablikc “Al Aaraaf” [page 280:] (published in 1829) is a star-poem, treating of Tycho Brahe’s wondrous disappearing star. Chivers too has a “Nacoochee, or the Beautiful Star,” “The Lost Pleiad,” and “Song of Leverrier on discovering a New Planet.” Poe has “The Fall of the House of Usher;” Chivers has a poem on “The Fall of Usher” (Virginalia, 1853). Both have an “Irene,” both have a “ Eulalie.” Chivers’ “Vigil in Aiden” (Eonchs of Ruby, 1851) appropriates a theme of Poe’s. “Isadore “ is one of the poems attributed to Poe; Chivers literally harps — dotes — on the name. Poe’s well-known “Catholic Hymn,” first appearing in April, 1835, is echoed by Chivers, “Catholic Hymn to the Virgin,” in “Eonchs of Ruby” (1851). Chivers’ “Rosalie Lee” is a mixed appropriation of Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” and Philip Pendleton Cooke’s charming “Rosalie Lee” whose title it filches outright. The wild tragedy of “Usna,” (1858) with its furious storm of words and imagery running a-muck, purloins Poe’s idea, in “Morella,” of a dying woman transferring her soul to her unborn child.

Chivers’ claim to the exclusive possession of certain refrains as old as Poetry itself and his assertion that Poe “stole” them from him are indefensible: there is not the slightest foundation for either claim or possession. The testimony of these volumes indeed is that Chivers was a very illiterate man, possessed almost demoniacally with a sense of music, a kind of Blind Tom of the lyre, to whom metrical expression, literate or illiterate, was an urgent need, and who did not care whether his verbs agreed with their subjects or not, or whether a given word was an adverb or a conjunction; for example, converting exeunt into a verb of the third [page 281:] person singular: “exeunt Doctor (“Conrad and Eudora,” pp. 73 and 54); using such expressions as “Come thee out this way” (Ibid., p. 63); “why art all these tears?” (Ibid., p. 67); “like I and thou” (Ibid., p. 20), using like as a conjunction; rhyming there and are, care and are (in the fashion of the Georgia “Crackers”), etc., etc. If only the expression was a musically-sounding one, sense — to him — might fly to the four winds.

What one notices, however, especially in Chivers, is his intense tenderness of soul and passionate devotion to his mother and children. It would be difficult to say how many of these hundreds of poems are consecrated to them, in lament, in elegy, in threnody, in every chord that Grief can strike or Sorrow conceive. “The Lily of Heaven,” “The Violet in the Valley of Death,” “To Allegra Florence in Heaven” — the titles run through the whole gamut of delirious lamentation, in every variety of metre. His muse is essentially elegiac: it dwells in Heaven, in Aidenn, far more than on earth, among the prosaic realities of the world. Reams of paper are filled with rhyming meditations of this kind: nearly all the poems in the 1837 volume are of the Scriptural, elegiac, or devotional character; one of them incidentally fixes the date of the poet’s birth, which is inaccurately given in all the manuals. On p. 90 of this volume (1837) he addresses a poem “To My Precious Mother, on the anniversary of my Twenty-Fifth Year,” and subscribes it “written at Philadelphia, October 18, 1834.” One curious poem of 1833 in this collection, entitled “Medora of Ultramontane,” has the refrain,

“Come, hear sweet Medora sing ultramontane.” [page 282:]

The peculiarly Poesque words “Aidenn,” “Auber,” “Weir,” are never used in the first three Chivers books, but are abundantly employed in “Eonchs of Ruby” (1851) and “Virginalia” (1853): volumes saturated with Poe.

Incidentally the present writer must incur the gratitude of etymologists for discovering the meaning of “Eonch” — horn, shell: if, indeed, it is not a misprint for conch.

“In the May-Morn, when I sought her,

Freely to know,

From the acromatic [sic] water,

Ruby-tinct, low,

Did this Dian, Heaven’s sweet Daughter,

Bring to me now

This sweet Eonch, which I taught her

Loudly to blow.” (p. 60.)

Again:

“In the sweet time that was floral,

With her lips so —

She this Eonch of sweet coral

Loudly did blow.” (p. 60.)

The field of Chivers’ metaphors is one that no rhetoric or rhetorician could adequately cover: they would require a separate appendix by themselves. Still, our readers might like to obtain one glimpse of the amazing enginery used by this poetical soul: —

And Lena was divinely fair,

But he had swapped her for despair.

Alamo, p. 125. [page 283:]

He dug his heart a cruel ditch,

Because his parents made him rich.

Alamo, p. 125.

Grapes of glory there to gather,

In the bosom of the Father.

Eonchs of Ruby, p. 21.

Byron, that Bird of Jove,

Perched on the Andes of immortal fame!

Ibid., p. 38.

Chivers’ vocabulary is often as singular as his metaphors. Here are a few of his words and word-combinations: “Cydonian suckets,” “melphonic rhyme,” “Chrysomelian Hours,” “Down the dark vistas of the reboantic Norns,” “Corybantine Hours,” “Conchimarian Horns,” “empyreal heights,” “diaphane dew,” “hyaline,” “azure sound,” “daedal,” “earthquake of sweet joy,” “Miriam jubilations,” “red-litten,” “anastasis,” “Christcouching of our mortal sight,” “Ouphantic fairies,” “choirs of Cherubinical Willows,” “Edenic,” “pyrotechnical joy,” “the luscious vineyard of her clustering curls.”

“So do I hope to gather golden grain,

Into the Adamantine Pyramid Bins

Of Heaven.”

Usna, 44.

“I feel these inspirations are

But tokens from above,

To lift my parting spirit near

The paradigms of love.”

The Dying Poet, p. 47. [page 284:]

Occasionally a highly poetical expression or passage occurs:

“For now it seems

As if the words were syllabled in stars

Of living light.”

Death of Time, p. 32.

“Brother, in the fleecy bankments of the sky,

No angels lean to listen to the soul that now repines.”

The Soaring Swan, p. 37.

This last poem is exceedingly poetical and has evidently influenced Rossetti.

“For they [waves of melody] shall fall as soft upon that lake

As if an angel’s hand had stricken them

From out the leaning rainbows, which were made

A rainbow-harp, whose seven strings were hues.”

The Soaring Swan, p. 39.

In 1842 Dr. Chivers wrote a poem addressed to “Allegra Florence in Heaven” which we reproduce in full as the Chivers school claim it to be the “original” of “The Raven” written in December, 1844, and printed in 1845. [page 285:]

TO ALLEGRA FLORENCE IN HEAVEN.

THOMAS HOLLEY CHIVERS.

“My life, my joy, my food, my all-the-world.” — Shakspeare.

“I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.” — Bible.

“But the grave is not deep — it is the shining tread of an Angel that seeks us.” — Jean Paul Richter.

WHEN thy soft round form was lying

On the bed where thou wert sighing,

I could not believe thee dying,

Till thy angel-soul had fled;

For no sickness gave me warning,

Rosy health thy cheeks adorning —

Till that hope-destroying morning,

When my precious child lay dead!

Now, thy white shroud covers slightly

Thy pale limbs, which were so sprightly,

While thy snow-white arms lie lightly

On thy soul-abandoned breast;

As the dark blood faintly lingers

In thy pale, cold, lily fingers,

Thou, the sweetest of Heaven’s singers!

Just above thy heart at rest!

Yes, thy sprightly form is crowded

In thy coffin, all enshrouded,

Like the young Moon, half enclouded.

On the first night of her birth;

And, as down she sinks when westing,

Of her smiles the Night divesting —

In my fond arms gently resting,

Shall thy beauty to the earth! [page 286:]

Like some snow-white cloud just under

Heaven, some breeze has torn asunder,

Which discloses, to our wonder,

Far beyond, the tranquil skies;

Lay thy pale, cold lids, half closing,

(While in death’s cold arms reposing,

Thy dear seraph form seemed dozing —)

On thy violet-colored eyes.

For thy soft blue eyes were tender

As an angel’s, full of splendor,

And, like skies to earth, did render

Unto me divine delight;

Like two violets in the morning

Bathed in sunny dews, adorning

One white lily-bed, while scorning

All the rest, however bright.

As the Earth desires to nourish

Some fair Flower, which loves to flourish

On her breast, while it doth perish,

And will barren look when gone;

So, my soul did joy in giving

Thee what thine was glad receiving

From me, ever more left grieving

In this dark cold world alone!

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! [page 287:]

For, as birds of the same feather

On the earth will flock together,

So, around thy Heavenly Father,

They now gather there with thee —

Ever joyful to behold thee —

In their soft arms to enfold thee,

And to whisper words oft told thee

In this trying world by me!

With my bowed head thus reclining

On my hand, my heart repining,

Shall my salt tears, ever shining

On my pale cheeks, flow for thee —

Bitter soul-drops ever stealing

From the fount of holy feeling,

Deepest anguish now revealing,

For thy loss, dear child! to me!

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 never more cease aching

For the sleep which has no waking —

For the sleep which now is thine!

And as God doth lift thy spirit

Up to Heaven, there to inherit

Those rewards which it doth merit,

Such as none have reaped before;

Thy dear father will, tomorrow, [page 288:]

Lay thy body, with deep sorrow,

In the grave which is so narrow —

There to rest for evermore!

Oaky Grove, Ga., Dec. is, 1842.

Is there anything in the above poem even remotely resembling the music, the mystery, the fantastic horror, the weird beauty and the elements of subtle charm which have preserved “The Raven” for immortality?

Poe has confessed in the frankest manner that the metre of the single line in “The Raven” was not original with him; that it had been used repeatedly before, and was suggested in his particular use by a line in Mrs. Browning’s “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.”

“The late Buchanan Read,” (says Mr. J. H. Ingram, I., 276) “informed Robert Browning that Poe described to him (Read) the whole process of the construction of his poem, and declared that the suggestion of it lay wholly in a line from ‘Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.’

“ ‘With a murmurous stir uncertain, in the air the purple curtain,’ etc.”

“Of course” (says Poe in “The Philosophy of Composition”), “I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm, or the metre of ‘The Raven;’ what originality ‘The Raven’ has is in their [the forms of verse employed] combination into stanzas; nothing even remotely approaching this combination has ever been attempted.”


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 268:]

1.  This is a mistake, as will be seen further on.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Poe and Chivers)