Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Model Verses,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 392-396 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 392:]


At Fordham late in 1846 Poe recast and expanded his “Notes Upon English Verse” of 1843 into a new essay, which he called “The Rationale of Verse.” It was not finished until after November 15, for it includes a quotation from a poem by Mary A. S. Aldrich published on that day, but on December 15, 1846, Poe wrote of it to George W. Eveleth as in the hands of George Hooker Colton for publication in the American Review. He later took it back in exchange for “Ulalume” (see the comment on that poem).

In the new essay Poe gave a number of examples of good and bad versification, some actually quoted from other authors, a few ostensibly so, and others that he made up himself. Those of the second and third kinds it seems well to give here, for at least two of the original pieces are of some poetic merit as well as purely metrical interest.

Six pages of the manuscript are known to survive, scattered in several collections, but only one page, numbered 18, includes any of the verses, the second line of the third item. Poe divided the metrical feet by virgules and marked the quantities in most of them, but these marks are here omitted; they will appear in “The Rationale” in a later volume of this edition.

Some months after the publication of the essay, which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger late in 1848, Poe recast and expanded the last example — at the foot of a sheet of paper headed “Mem: for Philadelphia” containing items that relate to his journey south late in June 1849. The middle of the sheet is occupied by some rather full notes on versification, followed by the word “Evangeline” on a line by itself (Longfellow’s poem had been published in 1847), with the hexameters below. This is certainly the final version, but it is a rough draft, without punctuation though with the metrical feet set off by virgules. I reproduce it in full from the manuscript in the Griswold papers at the Boston Public Library. [page 393:]


(A) Manuscript of “The Rationale of Verse” (late 1846), now imperfectly preserved; (B) Southern Literary Messenger, October and November 1848 (14:577-585, 673-682); (C) Works (1850), II, 215ff.; (D) manuscript “Mem: for Philadelphia” (1849) at the Boston Public Library (the hexameters).

The texts given are C (which does not differ from B) and D.










[Revision of example VIII (text D)]

[page 394, continued:]

VARIANTS [[for Evangeline version D]]

1  Pundits / first written owl-eyed

2  Out of the / first written Frog-faced

4  Frog / first written Duck

[page 394, continued:]


I.  These lines were probably suggested by Tennyson’s “Lilian,” which begins, “Airy, fairy Lilian, / Flitting, fairy Lilian.”

II.  This line is close in thought to “Al Aaraaf,” I, 133f., but I think it is verbally an echo of Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Sonnets, III, xxxiv, 14: “Or the unimaginable touch of time.”

III.  These lines are obviously Poe’s own, and are given in some editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. They allude to Genesis 1:27.

IV.  Probably Poe’s own.

V.  This is surely Poe’s; immediately after it he quotes from Christopher P. Cranch’s Poems (1844) the opening of “My Thoughts,” which is “Many are the thoughts that come to me.” [page 395:]

VI.  Poe implies that this line is from a poem by Mrs. Welby, but the opening of her famous “Stepson” in Poems by Amelia (1846) is really: “I have a little stepson, the loveliest thing alive, / A noble sturdy boy is he, and yet he’s only five.”

VII.  In reviewing Henry B. Hirst’s volume, The Coming of the Mammoth, in the Broadway Journal of July 12, 1845, Poe had praised the lines:

Time it has passed: and the lady is pale —

Pale as the lily that lolls on the gale: ...

Years will she tarry — for cold is the clay

Fettering the form of her Everard Grey.

Hirst’s poem, “Everard Grey,” which had first appeared in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion for October 1843, is obviously the basis for Poe’s line.

VIII.  This example follows a paragraph condemning “Longfellownian” and “Feltonian” hexameters “as having been committed in a radical misconception of the philosophy of verse.” Comments on specific expressions used are keyed to the lines of the expanded version.

Title:  To this second example of hexameters, Poe definitely gave the title of “Evangeline.”

1  The term “pundits,” primarily meaning East Indian scholars, was often used for their supposed spiritual kin, the intellectuals of Boston.

3  In Poe’s day “Down East” meant New England in general; it is now almost wholly confined to the shoreline of the state of Maine.

4  The “Frog Pond” is still a feature of Boston Common. Poe called Boston “Frogpondium” and Bostonians “Frogpondians.” Such jokes were commonplace. Isaac Starr Clason wrote “Young Boston Bards croak worse than Boston waites” and added a note “ ‘Boston-waites’ is an old nickname for frogs.” See his Horace in New York (1826), pages 28 and 45.

In the Broadway Journal, November 1, 1845, discussing his recent reading of “Al Aaraaf” in Boston, Poe wrote: “We like Boston. We were born there ... The Bostonians are very well in their way. Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good. Their common is no common thing — and the duck-pond might answer — if its answer could be heard for the frogs.” In the issue of November 22, he reprinted from the Charleston (South Carolina) Southern Patriot of November 10 a defense of his conduct, written by William Gilmore Simms but obviously inspired by Poe himself. In it Simms remarked that in a poem for delivery before the Boston Lyceum “You must not be mystical. You must not task the audience to study. Your song must be such as they can read running, and comprehend while munching peanuts.” Lastly, in the same issue of the Broadway Journal, addressing Miss Cornelia Walter, who as literary editor of the Boston Transcript began on October 17, 1845, a series of articles attacking Poe and “Al Aaraaf,” Poe said: “You are a delightful creature and your heart is in the right place — would to Heaven that we could always say the same thing of your wig!”

6  In his tale “The Business Man,” Poe says, “You cannot make money out of a Jew, or the best nutmegs out of pine-knots.” A Jew meant, of course, a [page 396:] moneylender of any religion. Whether the good people of Connecticut made wooden nutmegs or not, the place called the Nutmeg State never has grown any real nutmegs.




[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Model Verses)