Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of The Lost Pleiad,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XII: Literary Criticism - part 04 (1902), pp. 201-206


[page 201, continued:]


[Broadway Journal, Aug. 2, 1845.]

THIS volume is evidently the honest and fervent utterance of an exquisitely sensitive heart which has suffered much and long. The poems are numerous, but the thesis is one — death — the death of beloved friends. The poet seems to have dwelt among the shadows of tombs, until his very soul has become a shadow. Here, indeed, is no mere Byronic affectation of melancholy. No man who has ever mourned the loss of a dear friend, can read these poems without instantly admitting the palpable truth which glows upon every page. [page 202:]

The tone of the composition is, in these latter days, a marvel, and as a marvel we commend it to our readers. It belongs to the first era of a nation’s literature — to the era of impulse — in contra-distinction to the era of criticism — to the Chaucerian rather than to the Cowperian days. As for the trans-civilization epoch, Doctor Chivers’ poems have really nothing of affinity with it — and this we look upon as the greatest miracle of all. Is it not, indeed, a miracle that to-day a poet shall compose sixty or seventy poems, in which there shall be discoverable no taint — absolutely none — of either Byron, or Shelley, or Wordsworth, or Coleridge, or Tennyson? In a word, the volume before us is the work of that rara avis, an educated, passionate, yet unaffectedly simple-minded and single-minded man, writing from his own vigorous impulses — from the necessity of giving utterance to poetic passion — and thus writing not to mankind, but solely to himself. The whole volume has, in fact, the air of a rapt soliloquy.

We have leisure this week only to give, without comment, a few extracts at random — but we shall take an opportunity of recurring to the subject.

I hear thy spirit calling unto me

From out the Deep,

Like Archytas from out Venetia’s Sea,

While I here weep;

Saying, Come, strew my body with the sand,

And bury me upon the land, the land!

Oh, never, never more! no, never more!

Lost in the Deep!

Will thy sweet beauty visit this dark shore,

While I here weep; [page 203:]

For thou art gone forever more from me,

Sweet Mariner! lost — murdered by the Sea!

Ever — forever more, bright, glorious One!

Drowned in the Deep!

In Spring-time — Summer — Winter — all alone —

Must I here weep;

Thou Spirit of my soul! thou light of life!

While thou art absent, SHELLEY! from thy wife!

Celestial pleasure once to contemplate

Thy power, great Deep!

Possessed my soul; but ever more shall hate,

While I here weep,

Crowd out thy memory from my soul, Oh, Sea!

For killing him who was so dear to me!

He was the incarnation of pure Truth,

Oh, mighty Deep!

And thou didst murder him in prime of youth,

For whom I weep;

And, murdering him, didst more than murder me,

Who was my Heaven on earth, Oh, treacherous Sea!

My spirit wearied not to succor his,

On, mighty Deep!

The oftener done, the greater was the bliss;

But now I weep;

And where his beauty lay, unceasing pain

Now dwells — my heart can know no joy again!

God of my fathers! God of that bright One

Lost in the Deep!

Shall we not meet again beyond the sun —

No more to weep?

Yes, I shall meet him there — the lost — the bright —

The glorious SHELLEY! spring of my delight! [page 204:]

Ah, like Orion on some Autumn night

Above the Deep;

I see his soul look down from Heaven — how bright!

While here I weep!

And there, like Hesperus, the stars of even

Beacon my soul away to him in Heaven!

When thou wert in this world with me


Thou wert not fed by mortal hands,

But by the NYMPH, who gave to thee

The bread of immortality —

Such as thy spirit now doth eat

In that high world of endless love,

While walking with thy snowy feet

Along the sapphire-paven street,

Before the jasper-walls above,

And list’ning to the music sweet

Of Angels in that heavenly HYMN

Sung by the lips of CHERUBIM

In Paradise, before the fall,

In glory bright, outshining all

In that great City of pure gold,

The Angels talked about of old.

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 these salt tears of sorrow flow

Out of my heart forever more!

Forever more as they do now!

Out of my heart forever more.

Thou wert my snow-white JESSAMINE


My saintly LILY! Who didst grow

Upon thy mother’s arms of snow — [page 205:]

Of whom thou wert the image true —

Whose tears fell on thy leaves for dew —

All but those deep blue eyes of thine —

They were the miniatures of mine,

Thou Blossom of that heavenly TREE,

Whose boughs are barren now for thee!

The sweetest bud she ever bore!

Who art transplanted to the skies

To blossom there forever more


Thus shalt thou leave this world of sin,

And soar into the sky,

Where angels wait to let thee in

To immortality.

And those who had nowhere to rest

Their wearied limbs at night,

Shall lay their heads upon God’s breast,

And sleep in sweet delight.

There, Death’s dark shades no more shall be

The mystic veil between

The World which we desire to see,

And that which we have seen.

There, father, brother, husband, wife —

There, mother, sister, friend —

Shall be united, as in life,

In joys that never end.

No pangs shall there disturbs the thrills

Which animate thy breast;

But Angels, on the Heavenly Hills,

Shall sing thee into rest.

No slanderous tongue shall there inflame.

Thy heart with words of gall;

For all shall be in Heaven the same,

And God shall be in all. [page 206:]

As graceful as the Babylonian willow

Bending, at noontide, over some clear stream

In Palestine, in beauty did she seem

Upon the cygnet-down of her soft pillow;

And now her breast heaved like some gentle billow

Swayed by the presence of the full round moon —

Voluptuous as the summer South at noon —

Her cheeks as rosy as the radiant dawn,

When heaven is cloudless! When she breathed, the air

Around was perfume! Timid as the fawn,

And meeker than the dove, her soft words were

Like gentle music heard at night, when all

Around is still — until the soul of care

Was soothed, as noontide by some waterfall.

The poems of Dr. Chivers abound in what must undoubtedly be considered as gross demerit, if we admit the prevalent canons of criticism. But it may safely be maintained that these prevalent canons have, in great part, no surer foundation than arrant conventionality. Be these things as they may, we have no hesitation in saying that we consider many of the pieces in the volume before its as possessing merit of a very lofty — if not of the very loftiest order.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 201:]

1.  See Appendix, Vol. VII., “The Poe-Chivers Controversy.” [[— ED.]]





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of The Lost Pleiad)