Edgar A. Poe.

Edgar A. Poe.

GRAHAM’S MAGAZINE, February 1845.

  This number of Graham’s Magazine has a likeness of EDGAR A. POE, with a critique upon that critic and a brief outline of his career thus far, by James Russell Lowell.

  This article is frank, earnest, and contains many just thoughts, expressed with force and point. We quote the following:

  “Talent may make friends for itself, but only genius can give to its creations the divine power of winning love and veneration. Enthusiasm cannot cling to what itself is unenthusiastic, nor will he ever have disciples, who has not himself impulsive zeal enough to be a disciple. Great wits are allied to madness only inasmuch as they are possessed and carried away by their demon, while talent keeps him, as Paracelsus did, securely prisoned in the pommel of his sword. To the eye of genius, the veil of the spiritual world is ever rent asunder, that it may perceive the ministers of good and evil that throng continually round it. No man of mere talent ever flung his inkstand at the devil.”  *  *

  “In judging of the merit of an author, and assigning him his niche among our household gods, we have a right to regard him from our own point of view, and to measure him by our own standard.—But in estimating his works, we must be governed by his own design, and, placing them by the side of his own ideal, find how much is wanting.”

  Among the poems quoted from Mr. Poe, before unknown to ourselves, two please us so much, that they must be inserted here. The first must have been copied, on every side; yet we may introduce it to the eye of some whom it might otherwise escape;

In the greenest of our valleys,
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—rear’d its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time, long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assail’d the monarch’s high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blush’d and bloom’d,
Is but a dim-remember’d story
Of the old time entomb’d.

And travelers now, within that valley,
Through the red litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out for ever,
And laugh—but smile no more.

  But, to us, still more interesting is the poem written at the age of fourteen,2 of such distinguished beauty in thought, feeling, and expression, that we might expect the life unfolded from such a bud to have the sweetness and soft lustre of a rose:

HELEN, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicéan barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfum’d sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand!
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

  A person of fine perceptions, and unacquainted with the writings of Mr. Poe, observed, on looking at this head of him, that the lower part of the face is that of the critic, cold, hard, and self-sufficient; while the upper part, especially the brows, expresses great feeling, and tenderness of feeling. We wish the “Psyche” had taken him far enough in that “Nicéan bark,” to give the expression of the upper part of the face a larger preponderance than we find in his reviews of the poets.*

“Edgar A. Poe.” New-York Daily Tribune, 24 January 1845, p. 1.