Text: George E. Woodberry, “Notes,” The Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VI: Literary Criticism (1895), 6:323-331


[page 323:]




THE Poetic Principle. Published in “Sartain's Union Magazine,” October, 1850. The paper represents the lecture of the same title which Poe was accustomed to deliver, partly as an elocutionary performance. The critical portion is made up of reviews previously published. The most striking passage — that on poetic theory — is from the notice of Longfellow's “Ballads,” “Graham's Magazine,” April, 1842, and should be read in connection with the remainder of that review, below.

The Philosophy of Composition. Published in “Graham's Magazine,” April, 1846. See Note on “The Raven,” vol. x.

The Rationale of Verse. Published in the “Southern Literary Messenger,” October, November, 1848. The first form of the paper appeared as “Notes on English Verse” in the “Pioneer,” March, 1843. Such portions of the earlier paper as were omitted in the revision are elsewhere substantially incorporated in the collected writings, except an analysis of the versification of Holmes's “Last Leaf,” used only for illustrative purposes, and hence the Editors follow Poe in excluding it here. An unsigned review of Griswold's “Poets and Poetry of America,” in the “Saturday Museum,” 1843, reprinted in the Notes to Gill's “Life of Poe,” also contains some paragraphs on versification, of the nature of earlier studies [page 324:] for the “Rationale of Verse.” The latter, however, is the final form of what Poe had to say on the whole subject; and, together with some paragraphs of the “Marginalia,” amply expresses his mind with regard to it.

William Cullen Bryant. Published in “Godey's Lady's Book,” April, 1846. Bryant had been briefly reviewed in the “Southern Literary Messenger,” January, 1835, and, more at length, in the same magazine, January, 1837, and also in “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine,” May, 1840.

Longfellow's “Ballads.” Published in “Graham's Magazine,” March, April, 1842. See Note on the “Poetic Principle,” above, and also the following.

A Reply to Outis. Published in the “Broadway Journal,” i. 10-14. This paper, which is the only literary survival of what was known at the time as the “Longfellow War,” is self-explanatory, but hardly does justice to Poe's appreciation of Longfellow, which was high and just, except in so far as his judgment was unduly affected by what he considered Longfellow's imitative plagiarism, and his temper soured by the unequal controversy. Poe reviewed the “Voices of the Night” in “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine,” February, 1840, and wound up what was an excellent notice by putting side by side the “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year,” and Tennyson's “Death of the Old Year,” — the passage that reappears in the “Reply to Outis,” pp. 182-185. He repeatedly gave Longfellow the first place among American poets, or wavered only in favor of Lowell, as in the first notice of the “Ballads,” March, 1842, which concluded as follows: —

“There is a young American who, with ideality not richer than that of Longfellow, and with less artistical knowledge, has yet composed far truer poems, merely through the greater propriety of his themes. We allude to James Russell Lowell; and in the number of this Magazine for last month will be found a ballad entitled ‘Rosaline,’ affording an excellent exemplification of our [page 325:] meaning. This composition has unquestionably its defects, and the very defects which are never perceptible in Mr. Longfellow — but we sincerely think that no American poem equals it in the higher elements of song.”

Poe returned to the criticism of Longfellow in the “Evening Mirror,” Jan. 14, 1845, with the notice of Longfellow's “Waif” reprinted in the opening of the “Reply to Outis.” An epistolary and editorial discussion followed in the columns of the “Mirror,” in which Poe was left to bear the brunt of the protests his words had evoked; Willis, the editor-in-chief, ostentatiously stated his dissent from “all the disparagement of Longfellow,” and also admitted to the “Mirror” the long letter signed “Outis” at the very moment when Poe was leaving the paper to become joint-editor of the “Broadway Journal.” In this latter the “Reply” appeared. Longfellow took no notice of the charges except so far as regards the alleged plagiarism from Motherwell, pp. 186, 187, which he had seen in some newspaper during the first month of the controversy. The following letter from him to the Editor of “Graham's Magazine” was published in the number for May, 1845.

CAMBRIDGE, February 19, 1845.

DEAR SIR, — Perhaps you may remember that, a year or two ago, I published in your Magazine a translation from the German of O. L. B. Wolf, entitled the “Good George Campbell.” Within a few days I have seen a paragraph in a newspaper, asserting, in very discourteous language, that this was not a translation from the German, but a plagiarism from a Scotch ballad published in Motherwell's “Minstrelsy.” My object in writing you is to deny this charge, and to show that the poem I sent you is what it pretended to be.

As I was passing up the Rhine, in the summer of 1842, a gentleman with whom I had become acquainted on board the steamer put into my hands a collection of German poems, entitled Deulscher Sanger-Saal, edited by Gollmich. In this collection I found the “Good George Campbell.” It there appeared as an original poem by Wolf, and I was so much struck with its simplicity and beauty [page 326:] that I immediately wrote a translation of it, with a pencil, in my pocket-book; and the same evening, at Mayence, made a copy of the German, which I enclose.

Soon after my return to this country my version was published in your Magazine. At that time I had not the slightest suspicion that the German poem was itself a translation, nor was I aware of the fact till Mr. Griswold, then one of the Editors of the Magazine, wrote to me upon the subject, and sent me a copy of the Scotch ballad from which he supposed the German poem to have been taken. I had never before seen it, and I could not but smile at my own ignorance, which had thus led me to re-translate a translation. I immediately answered Mr. Griswold's note, but as he did not publish my answer, I thought no more of the matter.

My attention being again called to the subject by the paragraph alluded to above, and the ballad from Motherwell's Collection, which was printed with it, and which I do not remember to have seen before, I turned to Mr. Griswold's letter, and found that his version of the poem differed very materially from Motherwell's, and seemed to be but a fragment of some longer ballad. It is as follows: —


Saddled and bridled and booted rode he,

A plume at his helmet, a sword at his knee;

But torn cam’ the saddle, all bluidy to see,

And name cam’ the steed, but hame never cam’ he.

Down cam’ his gray father, sabbin’ sae sair,

Down cam’ his auld mither, tearin’ her hair,

Down cam’ his sweet wife, wie bonnie bairns three,

Ane at her bosom an’ twa at her knee.

There stood the fleet steed, all foamin’ an’ hot,

There shrieked his sweet wife, an’ sank on the spot;

There stood his gray father, weepin’ sae free, —

Sae hame cam’ his steed, but hame never cam’ he.

Having with some difficulty procured a copy of Motherwell's “Minstrelsy,” I find the following note prefixed to the ballad. “Bonnie George Campbell is probably a lament for one of the adherents of the house of Argyle, who fell in the battle of Glenlievat, stricken on Thursday, the third day of October, 1594 years. [page 327:] (Gordon's Earldom of Sutherland.) Of this ballad Mr. Finlay had only recovered three stanzas, which he has given in the preface to his ‘Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads,’ page 33, introduced by the following remarks — ‘There is another fragment still remaining, which appears to have belonged to a ballad of adventure, perhaps of real history. I am acquainted with no poem, of which the lines, as they stand, can be supposed to have formed a part.’ The words and the music of this Lament are published in the fifth volume of the ‘Scottish Minstrelsy.’” The other “fragment still remaining” is probably the poem sent me by Mr. Griswold.

Since I have seen the Scotch ballad in Motherwell I have detected, by means of it, a misprint in the German poem. The last word of the second line is Tag (day) instead of Tay, the name of the river. I translated the word as it stood, and thus the accidental misprint of a single letter has become an unimpeachable witness of the falsity of the charge brought against me.

Will you have the goodness to publish this letter and the several versions of the poem enclosed?

Yours truly,  




Hie upon Hielands,

And low upon Tay,

Bonnie George Campbell

Rade out on a day.

Saddled and bridled

And gallant rade he;

Hame cam his gude horse,

But never cam he.

Out cam his auld mither,

Greetin’ fu’ sair,

And out cam his bonnie bride,

Rivin’ her hair.

Saddled and bridled

And booted rade he;

Toom hame cam the saddle,

But never cam he. [page 328:]

“My meadow lies green,

And my corn is unshorn;

My barn is too big,

And my baby's unborn.”

Saddled and bridled

And booted rade he;

Toom hame cam the saddle,

But never cam he.




Hock auf dem Hockland,

Und tief an dem Tag,

Der gute George Campbell

Ritt tines Tags frei

Gesaitelt, gezäumt,

Und gesckmliekt ritt er,

Heim kam seingutes Rots,

Dock tr nimmertnekr.

Hinaus trot dig Mutter;

Weinend to sekr;

Hinaus die sckdne Brant

Klagend so sckwer.

Gesattelt, geziiumt,

Und gestie/elt ritt er,

Heim kam der Sattel,

Dock er nimmertnekr,

Meine Wiese liegt grün,

Und me in Kern ungesckoren,

Meine Sckeune ist leer,

Und mein Kind ungeboren.”

Gesattelt, gexxmt,

Und eestiefett ritt er,

Zuriick kam der Sattel,

Dock er telbst nimmrrmekr. [page 329:]




High on the Highlands,

And deep in the day,

The good George Campbell

Rode free and away.

All saddled, all bridled,

Gay garments he wore;

Home came his good steed,

But he nevermore.

Out came his mother,

Weeping so sadly;

Out came his beauteous bride,

Weeping so madly.

All saddled, all bridled,

Strong armor he wore;

Home came the saddle,

But he nevermore.

“My meadow lies green,

Unreaped is my corn;

My garner is empty,

My child is unborn.”

All saddled, all bridled,

Sharp weapons he bore;

Home came the saddle,

But he nevermore.

There is no question but that Poe felt personally aggrieved, and was convinced that Longfellow had been indebted to his own uncollected and fugitive poems for suggestions, phrases, and ideas. Before he wrote upon Longfellow's verse at all, he believed that the poem of the “Beleaguered City” was imitated from his own “Haunted Palace,” and he repeatedly brought the charge. In view of the extraordinary sensitiveness of Poe to such injury, real or imagined, and also of the fact of the great advantage of Longfellow in position, ease of publication, and a popularity for which the way was made smooth from [page 330:] the first, it is rather to be wondered at that Poe was, in general, so appreciative and ready to acknowledge his rival's excellence than that he showed a bitter spirit upon this one matter. It was his habit to endeavor to win to his acquaintance and literary friendship all men of distinction or of promise; he wished to be recognized by them as he gave recognition to them; and he had made no exception of Longfellow, who, however, unlike the others, seems never to have responded in any way to such advances.

The American Drama. Published in the “American Whig Review,” August, 1845. Willis's “Tortesa” had been briefly noticed in “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine,” August, 1839.

Lowell'sA Fable for Critics.” Published in the “Southern Literary Messenger,” February, 1849. Poe had previously reviewed Lowell's poems in “Graham's Magazine,” March, 1844, and had then promised a longer notice, which was never written. The present paper is an unfavorable example of his critical attitude toward Lowell. There had been a pleasant acquaintance, by correspondence, between them, and Poe's appreciation of Lowell had overshot the mark instead of falling short. He had the same sort of enthusiastic praise and prophecy for him as for Tennyson, Mrs. Browning, and Horne; but the course of events was untoward, and the friendly feeling between them was entirely destroyed. The correspondence, on both sides, has been published by the present writer, “Life of Poe,” 1885, and “Scribner's Magazine,” August, 1894. See, also, Note on “A Reply to Outis” above.

Moore'sAlciphron.” Published in “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine,” January, 1840. So much of the paper as relates to Drake and to the theory of the fancy and imagination is reproduced from the review of Drake and Halleck in the “Southern Literary Messenger,” April, 1836. [page 331:] In this earlier paper a theory of poetry is set forth, cruder than that in the notice of Longfellow's “Ballads,” but along similar lines; it was not reprinted by Poe, even in the “Marginalia,” and must be regarded as suppressed by him in favor of the later and more definitely expressed statement of his views.

Horne'sOrion.” Published in “Graham's Magazine,” March, 1844. Horne revised the poem with some attention to Poe's suggestions.

Miss Barrett'sA Drama of Exile.” Published in the “Broadway Journal,” i. 1-2. Poe had previously written, fragmentarily, on Mrs. Browning (then Miss Barrett) during the fall of 1844, in the “Evening Mirror.”

G. E. W.







[S:0 - SW94, 1895] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Notes (G. E. Woodberry, 1895)