Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. John H. Ingram), “Pinakidia,” The Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. III: Poems & Essays (1875), 3:493-507


[page 493, unnumbered:]


UNDER the head of “Random Thoughts,” “Odds and Ends,” “Stray Leaves,” “Scraps,” “Brevities,” and a variety of similar titles, we occasionally meet, in periodicals and elsewhere, with papers of rich interest and value — the result, in some cases, of much thought and more research, expended, however, at a manifest disadvantage, if we regard merely the estimate which the public are willing to set upon such articles. It sometimes occurs that in papers of this nature may be found a collective mass of general, but more usually of classical erudition, which, if dexterously besprinkled over a proper surface of narrative, would be sufficient to make the fortunes of one or two hundred ordinary novelists in these our good days, when all heroes and heroines are necessarily men and women of “extensive acquirements.” But, for the most part, these “Brevities,” etc. are either piecemeal cullings at second hand, from a variety of source hidden or supposed to be hidden, or more audacious pilferings from those vast storehouses of brief facts, memoranda, and opinions in general literature, which are so abundant in all the principal libraries of Germany and France. Of the former species, the Koran of Lawrence Sterne is, at the same time, one of the most consummately impudent and silly; and it may well be doubted whether a single paragraph of any merit in the whole of it may not be found, nearly verbatim, in the works of some one of his immediate cotemporaries. If the Lacon of Mr. Colton is any better, its superiority consists altogether in a deeper ingenuity in disguising his stolen wares, and in that prescriptive right of the strongest which, time out of mind, has decided upon calling every [page 494:] Napoleon a conqueror, and every Dick Turpin a thief. Seneca; Machiavelli;* Balzac, the author of “La Maniere de bien Penser;” Bielfeld, the German, who wrote, in French, “Les Premiers Traits de L’Erudition Universelle;” Rochefoucault; Bacon; Bolingbroke; and especially Burdon, of “Materials for Thinking” memory, possess, among them, indisputable claims to the ownership of nearly every thing worth owning in the book.

Of the latter species of theft, we see frequent specimens in the continental magazines of Europe, and occasionally meet with them even in the lower class of periodicals in Great Britain. These specimens are usually extracts, by wholesale, from such works as the “Bibliothlque des Memorabilia Literaria,” the “Recueil des Bons Pensecs,” the “Lettres Edifiates et Cucieuses,” the “Literary Memoir,” of Sallengre, the “Melanges Literaires” of Suard and Andre, or the “Pieces Interressantes et peu Connues” of La Place. D’Israeli's “Curiosities of Literature,” “Literary Character,” and “Calamities of Authors,” have, of late years, proved exceedingly convenient to some little American pilferers in this line, but are now becoming, too generally known to allow much hope of their good things being any longer appropriated with impunity.

Such collections, as those of which we have been speaking, are usually entertaining in themselves, and, for the most part, we relish every thing about them save their pretensions to originality. In offering, ourselves, something of the kind to the readers of the Messenger, we wish to be understood as disclaiming, in a great degree, every such pretension. Most of the following article is [[not]] original, and will be readily recognized as such by the classical and general reader — some portions of it, may have been written down in the words, or nearly in the words, of the primitive authorities. The whole is taken from a confused mass of marginal notes, and entries [page 495:] in a commonplace book. No certain arrangement has been considered necessary; and, indeed, so heterogeneous a farrago it would have been an endless task to methodize. We have chosen the heading Pinakidia, or Tablets, as one sufficiently comprehensive. It was used, for a somewhat similar purpose, by Dionysius of Harlicarnassus.


[[I]] [[PIN001]]

The whole of Bulwer's elaborate argument on the immortality of the soul, which he has put into the mouth of the “Ambitious Student,” may be confuted through the author's omission of one particular point in his summary of the attributes of Deity — a point which we cannot believe omitted altogether through accident. A single link is deficient in the chain — but the chain is worthless without it. No man doubts the immortality of the soul — yet of all truths this truth of immortality is the most difficult to prove by any mere series of syllogisms. We would refer our readers to the argument here mentioned.

[[II]] [[PIN002]]

“The rude rough wild waste has its power to please,”

a line in one Mr. Odiorne's poem, “The Progress of Refinement,” is pronounced by the American author of a book entitled “Ante-Diluvian Antiquities,” “the very best alliteration in all poetry.”

[[III]] [[PIN016]]

Lipsius, in his treatise “De Supplicio Crucis,” says that the upright beam of the cross was a fixture at the place of execution, whither the criminal was made to bear only the transverse arm. Consequently the painters are in error who depict our Savior bearing the entire cross.

[[IV]] [[PIN019]]

The tale in Plato's “Convivium,” that man at first was male and female, and that, though Jupiter cleft them asunder, there was a natural love towards one another, seems to be only a corruption of the account in Genesis of Eve's being made from Adam's rib. [page 496:]

[[V]] [[PIN020]]

Corneille has these lines in one of his tragedies;

Pleurez, pleurez, mes yeux, et fondez volis en eau —

La moitie de ma vie a mis l’autre au tombeau

which may be thus translated,

Weep, weep, my eyes! it is no time to laugh

For half myself has buried the other half.

[[VI]] [[PIN023]]

The Rabbi Manasseh published a book at Amsterdam entitled “The Hopes of Israel.” It was founded upon the supposed number and power of the Jews in America. This supposition was derived from a fabulous account by Montesini of his having found a vast concourse of Jews among the Cordilleras.

[[VII]] [[PIN024]]

The word assassin is derived according to Hyle from Hassa, to kill. Some bring it from Hassan, the first chief of the association — some from the Jewish Essenes — Lemoine from a word meaning “herbage” — De Sacy and Hammer from “hashish” the opiate of hemp leaves, of which the assassins made a singular use.

[[VIII]] [[PIN026]]

The origin of the phrase “corporal oath” is to be found in the ancient usage of touching, upon occasion of attestation, the corporale or cloth which covered the consecrated articles.

[[IX]] [[PIN027]]

Montgomery in his lectures on Literature (!) has the following — “Who does not turn with absolute contempt from the rings and gems, and filters, and caves and genii of Eastern Tales as from the trinkets of a toyshop, and the trumpery of a raree-show?” What man of genius but must answer “Not I.”

[[X]] [[PIN029]]

There is no particular air known throughout Switzerland by the name of the Ranz des Vaches. Every canton has its [page 497:] own song varying in words, notes and even language. Mr. Cooper, the novelist, is our authority.

[[XI]] [[PIN028]]

The Abbee de St. Pierre has fixed in his language two significant words, viz: bienfaisance, and the diminutive la gloriole.

[[XII]] [[PIN030]]

“Incidis in Scyllam ciiplens vitare Charybdim” is neither in Virgil nor Ovid, as often supposed, but in the “Alexandrics” of Philip Gualtier a French poet of the thirteenth century.

[[XIII]] [[PIN047]]

The Psalter of Solomon, which contains 18 psalms, is a work which was found in Greek in the library of Ausburg, and has been translated into Latin by John Lewis de la Cerda. It is supposed not to be Solomon's, but the work of some Hellenistical Jew, and composed in imitation of David's Psalms. The Psalter was known to the ancients, and was formerly in the famous Alexandrian MS.

[[XIV]] [[PIN049]]

It is probable that the queen of Sheba was Balkis — that Sheba was a kingdom in the Southern part of Arabia Felix, and that the people were called Sabaeans. These lines of Claudian relate to the people and queen,

Medis, levibusque Sabreis

Imperathic sexus; reginarumque sub armis

Barbariae magna pars jacet.

[[XV]] [[PIN050]]

Sheridan declared he would rather be the author of the ballad called Hosier's Ghost, by Glover, than of the Annals of Tacitus.

[[XVI]] [[PIN051]]

The word Jehovah is not Hebrew. The Hebrews had no such letters as J or V. The word is properly Iah-Uah-compounded of Iah Essence and Uah Existing. Its full meaning is tile self-existing essence of all things.

[[XVII]] [[PIN052]]

The “Song of Solomon” throwing aside the heading of [page 498:] the chapters, which is the work of the English translators, contains nothing which relates to the Savior or the Church. It does not, like every other sacred book, contain even the name of the Deity.

[[XVIII]] [[PIN054]]

The word translated “slanderers “in I Timothy iii, 2, and that translated “false accusers” in Titus ii, 3, are “female devils” in the original Greek of the New Testament.

[[XIX]] [[PIN055]]

The Hebrew language contains no word (except perhaps Jehovah) which conveys to the mind the idea of Eternity. The translators of the Old Testament have used the word Eternity but once (Isa. lvii. 15).

[[XX]] [[PIN146]]

A version of the Psalms was published in 1642 William Slatyer, of which this is a specimen:

The righteous shall his sorrow scan

And laugh at him, and say ‘Behold!

What hath become of this here man

That on his riches was so bold.’

[[XXI]] [[PIN092]]

Milton in Paradise Lost, has this passage,

——— when the scourge

Inexorably, and the torturing hour

Call us to penance.

Gray, in his Ode to Adversity, has

Thou tamer of the human breast

Whose iron scourge, and torturing hour

The bad affright.

Gray tells us that the image of his bard, where

Loose his beard, and hoary hair

Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air

was taken from a picture by Raphael: yet the beard of Hudibras is also likened to a meteor: —

“This hairy meteor did denounce

The fall of sceptres and of crowns.” [page 499:]

[[XXII]] [[PIN096]]

Dryden in ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ has these lines,

David for him his tuneful harp had strung

And heaven had wanted one immortal song.

Pope in his Epistle to Arbuthnot has

Friend of my life which did not you prolong

The world had wanted many an idle song.

[[XXIII]] [[PIN059]]

In Suidas is a letter fiom Dionysius, the Areopagite, dated Heliopolis, in the fourth year of the 202d Olympiad (the year of Christ's crucifixion) to his friend Apollophanes, in which is mentioned a total eclipse of the sun at noon. “Either,” says Dionysius “the author of nature suffers, or he sympathizes with some who do.”

[[XXIV]] [[PIN032]]

A curious passage in a letter from Cicero to his literary friend Papyrius Paetus, shows that our custom of annexing a farce or pantomime to a tragic drama existed among the Romans.

[[XXV]] [[PIN039]]

In Hudibras are these lines —

Each window like the pillory appears

With heads thrust through, nailed by the ears.

Young in his “Love of Fame” has the following —

An opera, like a pillory, may be said

To nail our ears down and expose our head.

[[XXVI]] [[PIN040]]

Goldsmith's celebrated lines

Man wants but little here below

Nor wants that little long,

are stolen from Young; who has

Man wants but little, nor that little long.

[[XXVII]] [[PIN065]]

Archbishop Usher, in a manuscript of St. Patrick's life, said to have been found at Louvain as an original of a very remote date, detected several entire passages purloined from his own writings. [page 500:]

[[XXVIII]] [[PIN056]]

“The Slipper of Cinderella,” says the editor of the new edition of Warton “finds a parallel in the history of the celebrated Rhodope.” Cinderella is a tale of universal currency. An ancient Danish ballad has some of the incidents. It is popular among the Welch — also among the Poles — in Hesse and Sweden. Schottky found it among the Servian fables. Rollenbagen in his Froachmauseler speaks of it as the tale of the despised Aschen-possel. Luther mentions it. It is in the Italian Pentamerone under the title of Cenerentola.

[[XXIX]] [[PIN087]]

Boileau is mistaken in saying that Petrarch’qui est regarde conmme le pere du sonnet’ borrowed it from the French or Provencal writers. The Italian sonnet can be traced back as far as the year 1200. Petrarch was not born until 1304.

[[XXX]] [[PIN086]]

Dante gives the name of sonnet to his little canzone or ode beginning

O vol che per la via d’Amor passate.

[[XXXI]] [[PIN094]]

The lines

For he that fights and runs away

May live to fight another day,

But he that is in battle slain

Will never rise to fight again

are not to be found, as is thought, in Hudibras. Butler's verses ran thus;

For he that flies may fight again

Which he can never do that's slain.

The former are in a volume of’ Poems’ by Sir John Mennes reign of Charles II. The original idea is in Demosthenes. Ανηρ ο φευγων και παλιν μαχησεται.

[[XXXII]] [[PIN037]]

The noble simile of Milton, of Satan with the rising sun in the first book of the Paradise Lost, had nearly occasioned the suppression of that epic: it was supposed to contain a treasonable allusion. [page 501:]

[[XXXIII]] [[PIN038]]

Campbell's line

Like angel visits few and far between,

is a palpable plagiarism. Blair has

Its visits

Like angel visits short and far between.

[[XXXIV]] [[PIN041]]

The character of the ancient Bacchus, that graceful divinity, seems to have been little understood by Dryden. The line in Virgil

Et quocunque deus circum caput egit honestum

is thus grossly mistranslated,

On whate’er side he turns his honest face.

[[XXXV]] [[PIN043]]

Macrobius gives the form of an imprecation by which the Romans believed whole towns could be demolished and armies defeated. It commences “Dis Pater sive Jovis mavis sive quo alio nomine fas est nominare,” and ends “Si haec ita faxitis ut ego sciam, sentiam, intelligamque, tum quisquis votum hoc faxit recte factum esto, ovibus atris tribus, Tellus mater, teque Jupiter, obtestor.”

[[XXXVI]] [[PIN044]]

The “Courtier” of Baldazzar Castiglione, 1528, is the first attempt at periodical moral Essay with which we are acquainted. The Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius cannot be allowed to rank as such.

[[XXXVII]] [[PIN045]]

These lines were written over the closet door of M. Menard,

Las d’esperer, et de me plaindre

De l’amour, des grands, et du sort

C’est ici que J’attends la mort

Sans la desirer ou la craindre.

[[XXXVIII]] [[PIN046]]

Martin Luther in his reply to Henry VIIIth's book by which the latter acquired the title of “Defender of the Faith,” calls the monarch very unceremoniously “a pig, an ass, a dunghill, the spawn of an adder, a basilisk, a lying buffoon dressed in a king's robes, a mad fool with a frothy mouth and a whorish face.” [page 502:]

[[XXXIX]] [[PIN048]]

“An unshaped kind of something first appeared,”

is a line in Cowley's famous description of the Creation.

[[XL]] [[PIN003]]

The Turkish Spy is the original of many similar works — among the best of which are Montesquieu's Persian Letters, and the British Spy of our own Wirt. It was written undoubtedly by John Paul Marana, an Italian, ins Italian, but probably was first published in French. Dr. Johnson, who saw only an English translation, supposed it an English work. Marana died in 1693.

[[XLI]] [[PIN005]]

Corneille's celebrated, Moi of Medea is borrowed from Seneca. Racine, in Phoedra, has stolen nearly the whole scene of the declaration of love from the same puerile writer.

[[XLII]] [[PIN006]]

The peculiar zodiac of the comets is comprised in these verses of Cassini —

Antinous, Pegasusque, Andromeda, Taurus, Orion,

Procyon, atque Hydrus, Centaurus, Scorpius, Arcus.

[[XLIII]] [[PIN008]]

A religious hubbub, such as the world has seldom seen, was excited, during the reign of Frederic II, by the imagined virulence of a book entitled “The Three Impostors.” It was attributed to Pierre des Vignes, chancellor of the king, who was accused by the Pope of having treated the religions of Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet as political fables. The work in question, however, which was squabbled about, abused, defended, and familiarly quoted by all parties, is well proved never to have existed.

[[XLIV]] [[PIN012]]

Theophrastus, in his botanical works, anticipated the sexual system of Linnaeus. Philolaus of Crotona maintained that comets appeared after a certain revolution and AEcetes contended for the existence of what is now called the new world. Pulci, “the sire of the half-serious rhyme,” has a passage expressly alluding to a western continent. Dante, two centuries before, has the same allusion: — [page 503:]

“De vostri sensi ch e del rimanente

Non vogliate negar l’esperenza

Diretro al sol, del mondo sensa gente.”

[[XLV]] [[PIN010]]

The “Lamentations” of Jeremiah are written, with the exception of the last chapter, in acrostic verse: that is to say, every line or couplet begins, in alphabetical order, with some letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In the third chapter each letter is repeated three times successively.

[[XLVI]] [[PIN011]]

The fullest account of the Amazons is to be found in Diodourus Siculus.

[[XLVII]] [[PIN013]]

Cicero makes finis masculine, Virgil feminine. Usque ad eum finem — Cicero. Quae finis standi? Haec finis Priami fatorum — Virgil.

[[XLVIII]] [[PIN014]]

Dante left a poem in three languages-Latin, Provencal, and Italian. Rambaud de Vachieras left one in five.

[[XLIX]] [[PIN015]]

Marcus Antoninus wrote a book entitled Των εις εαυτον — Of the things which concern himself. It would be a good title for a Diary.

[[L]] [[PIN017]]

The stream flowing through the middle of the valley of Jehoshaphat, is called, in the Gospel of St. John, “the brook of cedars.” In the Septuagint the word is κεδρον, darkness, from the Hebrew Kiddar, black, and not κεδρων, of cedars.

[[LI]] [[PIN018]]

Seneca says that Appion, a grammarian of the age of Caligula, maintained that Homer himself made the division of the Iliad and Odyssey into books, and evidences the first word of the Iliad, Μηνιν, the Μη of which signifies 43, the number of books in both poems. Seneca however adds, “Talia sciat oportet qui inulta vult scire.”

[[LII]] [[PIN022]]

Hedelin, a Frenchman, in the beginning of the eighteenth [page 504:] century, denied that any such person as Homer ever existed, and supposed the Iliad to be made up ex tragediis, et variis canticis de trivio mendicatorum et circulatorum — a la maniere des chansons du Pontneuf.

[[LIII]] [[PIN042]]

There are about one thousand lines identical in the Iliad and Odyssey.

[[LIV]] [[PIN071]]

The shield of Achilles in Homer seems to have been copied from some Pharos which the poet had seen in Egypt. What he describes on the central part of the shield is a map of the earth and of the celestial appearances.

[[LV]] [[PIN031]]

Under a portrait of Tiberio Fiurilli who invented the character of Scaramouch, are these verses,

Cet illustre Cooedien

De son art traca la carriere:

Il fut le maitre de Moliere

Et la Nature fut le sien.

[[LVI]] [[PIN033]]

In Cary's “Dante” is the following passage —

And pilgrim newly on his road with love

Thrills if he hear the vesper bell from far

That seems to mourn for the expiring day.

Gray has also

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.

[[LVII]] [[PIN034]]

Marmontel in the “Encyclopedie” declares that the Italians did not possess a single comedy worth reading — therein displaying his ignorance. Some of the greatest names in Italian Literature were writers of comedy. Baretti mentions a collection of four thousand dramas made by Apostolo Zeno, of which the greater part were comedies — many of a high order.

[[LVIII]] [[PIN035]]

A comedy or opera by Andreini was the origin of “Paradise Lost.” Andreini's Adamo was the model of Milton's Adam. [page 505:]

[[LVIX]] [[PIN036]]

Milton has the expression “Forget thyself to marble.” Pope has the line “I have not yet forgot myself to stone.”

[[LX]] [[PIN060]]

The most particular history of the Deluge, and the nearest of any to the account given by Moses is to be found int Lucian (De Dea Syria.)

[[LXI]] [[PIN061]]

The Greeks had no historian prior to Cadmus Milesius, nor any public inscription of which we can be certified, before the laws of Draco.

[[LXII]] [[PIN062]]

So great is the uncertainty of ancient history that the epoch of Semiramis cannot be ascertained within 1535 years, for according to

Syncellus, she lived before Christ 2177,

Patavius,’’’’ 2060,

Helvicus,’’’’ 224S,

Eusebius,’’’’ 1984,

Mr. Jackson’’’’ 1964,

Archbishop Usher,’’ 1215,

Philo-Biblius from Sanconiathon, 1200,

Herodotus about’’’ 713.

[[LXIII]] [[PIN066]]

An extract from the “Mystery of St. Denis” is in the “Bibliotheque du Theatre Francois, depuis son origine, Dresde. 1768.” In this serious drama, St. Denis, having been tortured and at length decapitated, rises very quietly, takes his head under his arm and walks off the stage in all the dignity of martyrdom.

[[LXIV]] [[PIN067]]

The idea of “No light but rather darkness visible” was perhaps suggested to Milton by Spenser's

A little glooming light much like a shade.

[[LXV]] [[PIN078]]

Francis le Brossano engraved these verses upon a marble tomb which he erected to Petrarch at Arqua.

“Frigida Francisci tegit hic lapis ossa Petrarcae.

Suscipe, virgo parens, animam: sate virgine, parce,

Fessaque jam terris, cceli requiescat in arce.” [page 506:]

[[LXVI]] [[PIN080]]

Bochart derives Elysium from the Phoenician Elysoth, joy, through the Greek ’Ηλυσιον; Circe from the Phoenician Kirkar, to corrupt — Siren from the Phoenician Sir, to sing — Scylla from the Phoenician Scol, destruction — Charybdis from the Phoenician Chor-obdam, chasm of ruin.

[[LXVII]] [[PIN101]]

Of the ten tragedies which are attributed to Seneca, (the only Roman tragedies extant), nine are on Greek subjects.

[[LXVIII]] [[PIN118]]

Voltaire's ignorance of antiquity is laughable. In his Essay on Tragedy, prefixed to Brutus, he actually boasts of having introduced the Roman senate on the stage in red mantles. “The Greeks,” as he asserts, “font paraitre ses acteurs (tragic) sutir des especes d’echasses, le visage couvert d’un masque quti exprime la douleur d’un cotd et la joye de l’autre!” The only circumstance upon which lie could possibly have founded such an accusation is, that in these comedy masks were worn with one eyebrow drawn up and the other down, to denote a busy-body or inquisitive medler.

[[LXIX]] [[PIN163]]

There is a book by a Jesuit, Pure Labbe, entitled La Bibliotheque des Bibliotheques. It is a catalogue of all authors in all nations who have written catalogues of books.

[[LXX]] [[PIN164]]

Lucretius, lib. v, 93, 96, has the words,

“—— terras —

Una dies dabit exitio.”

Ovid the lines,

“Carmine sublimis tune sunt peritura Lucreti

Exitio terras cum dabit una dies.”

[[LXXI]] [[PIN167]]

It is a remarkable fact, that during the whole period of the middle ages, the Germans lived in utter ignorance of the art of writing.

[[LXXII]] [[PIN171]]

A version of the Psalms in 1564, by Archbishop Parker, has the following — [page 507:]

“Who sticketh to God in stable trust

As Sion's mount he stands full just

Which moveth no whit, nor yet can reel,

But standeth for ever as stiff as steel.”

[[LXXIII]] [[PIN172]]

A part of the 137th Psalm runs thus: ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,’ which has been thus paraphrased in a version of the Psalms,

“If I forget thee ever

Then let me prosper never,

But let it cause

My tongue and jaws

To cling and cleave together.”

[[LXXIV]] [[PIN147]]

At the bottom of an obelisk which Pius VI was erecting at great expense near the entrance of the Quirinal Palace in 1783, while the people were suffering for bread, were found written these words,

“Signore, di a questa pietra clite divenga pane.”

“Lord, command that these stones be made bread.”



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 494:]

*  It is remarkable that much of what Colton has stolen from Machiavelli, was previously stolen by Machiavelli from Plutarch. A MS. book of the Apophthegms of the ancients, by this latter writer, having fallen into Machiavelli's hands, he put them nearly all into the mouth of his hero, Castrucio Castricani.






[S:0 - JHI, 1875] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Pinakidia (J. H. Ingram, 1875)