Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t just an ordinary American, his grandfather, David Poe, was a Revolutionary hero, “over whose grave, as he kissed the sod, Lafayette pronounced the words, "Ici repose un coeur noble."   Unfortunately Edgar’s  father took a different turn.  He preferred the glamor of the stage and fell in love with an English actress whom he had glimpsed from a box; gave up law and took to the stage.  Edgar was the second child. Born in Boston where the family was barely subsisting performance to performance.  Two years later in Richmond, Virginia, supposedly seeking gigs, the pair died in poverty leaving three children who were offered for adoption.  Edgar was the luckiest in that he became son of John Allan, a very wealthy merchant. A handsome, precocious child who had inherited a talent for performance and new parents were happy to deliver him as a star of their frequent candle-light suppers.  Some biographers like to speculate that this encouragement accompanied by a glass of wine after each performance, as was the custom, nurtured Edgar’s appetite for strong drink in later years to say nothing of  biographers relating how bread soaked in gin was fed to Poe by a well-meaning nanny.

A turning point came in 1815 when the Allan’s, for some family reason, travelled to England.   Edgar spent the next five years in a posh public school where he learned to read Latin and speak French.  At this point there was little doubt that he was brilliant – “grasping difficult concepts with little time studying - enabling him to rank at the top of his class.”  As any child learns very quickly, ranking at the top of the class with little or no effort finds you with many enemies and few if any friends.  This carried over into his adult life as he grew in literary popularity.  Poe was superior in knowledge; challenging as a debater; and gifted in verse-making.  According to the testimony of one who knew him well at this time, he was "self-willed, capricious, inclined to be imperious, and though of generous impulses, not steadily kind, or even amiable."

In 1826, at the age of seventeen, Poe entered the school of ancient and modern languages at the University of Virginia.  Once again the ghost of his father whispered in his ear and soon he had fallen in with the fast set of gambling and drinking.   The losses at gambling sent a red flag to his step-father where, concerned about Edgar’s weakness. Mr. Allan withdrew him from the university after the close of his first session.  “Mr. Allan, being confronted by a gaming debt which he regarded as too large to fit the sporting necessities of a boy of seventeen, took him from college and put him into the counting-room of Ellis & Allan, a position far from agreeable to one accustomed to counting only poetic feet.”

Edgar’s employment in his step-father’s business didn’t last long and soon he was on his way to Boston carrying with him a small collection Tamerlane and Other Poems which he published in 1827  under the name of “a Bostonian”.  Still penniless, unable to pay the rent, he enlisted in the army. Once again he took an assumed name.  “He served at Fort Moultrie, and afterward at Fort Monroe. He rose to the rank of sergeant major; and, according to the testimony of his superiors, he was ‘exemplary in his deportment, prompt and faithful in the discharge of his duties.’"

About that time his beloved step-mother fell ill and died.  Under a deathbed promise, Mr. Allan reunited with his adopted son and obtained an appointment for Edgar as a cadet at West Point. Poe entered the military academy but shortly thereon he followed his usual path; brilliant in studies, folly and mischief in everything else.  Described by a classmate, "He was an accomplished French scholar, and had a wonderful aptitude for mathematics, so that he had no difficulty in preparing his recitations in his class, and in obtaining the highest marks in these departments. He was a devourer of books; but his great fault was his neglect of and apparent contempt for military duties. His wayward and capricious temper made him at times utterly oblivious or indifferent to the ordinary routine of roll call, drills, and guard duties. These habits subjected him often to arrest and punishment, and effectually prevented his learning or discharging the duties of a soldier."  “The final result may be easily anticipated: at the end of six months, he was summoned before a court-martial, tried, and expelled.”   The only object Poe came away with was his military cape which became his signature great-coat until his death.

Poe has been given several descriptors based on his poetry such as “laureate of dead hopes” “poet of the dark”, “father of the Gothic novel”, “The Dreamer” - of these the last is the most frequent attachment. “The Dreamer led a strange double life—a life in the public eye of distinction, prosperity, popularity, but in private, a risky life in “constant dread of the wrath of  overdue rent he flitted from one cheap lodgement to another.”    Stedman

After his expulsion from West Point, Poe appears to have gone to Richmond; but the long-suffering of Mr. Allan, whose new wife was unsympathetic labeling Poe as “unappreciative and undeserving.” rejected his plea for help and refused to pay his debts.  “He left never to return, yet, short as was his sojourn there, he left behind him such honorable memories that his alma mater is now only too proud to enrol his name among her most respected sons” 

It is believed that he fled to Baltimore in the hope of connecting with stage friends of his mother, this too failed.   With little else left he turned to a literary career and, with little recompense for his poetry, to prose.  During this time he won first prize for his short story Manuscript Bound in a Bottle in a contest offered by the Saturday Visitor.   Fame at last. In November, 1840, Graham's Magazine was established, and Poe, through the support of a highly appointed individual, became editor.  Poe seized this carte blanche moment to publish his weird, morbid, stories of terror which yielded and unheard of  increase from eight thousand to forty thousand readership.  He found his niche in this “magazinish”culture.  But once again, his dependency on toxic matter resulted in dismissal.

Throughout his career Poe suffered from malice from biographers and literaria in particular comments and sweeping depreciation of his work on the proposition that he “Was subject to brain epilepsy.” (Scribner’s magazine Vol.X, 1875).   Stedman offers this in defense of Poe in speaking of anti-social qualities what of:

“the ferocity and fanaticism of Dante”
“the grossness of Chaucer”
“the hard marital selfishness of Milton”
“the boorishness of Johnson”
“the ripe self-love of Wordsworth”
“the malice of Pope”
“the egoism of Goethe”
“the murkey and selfish spleen of Carlyle”
“the bigotry of Southey”

It is quite unusual for the fame of a poet to rest on such a small group of short verses: The Raven, Lenore, Ulalume, The Bells, Annabel Lee, The Haunted Palace, The Conqueror Worm, The City in the Sea, Eulalie, and Israfel.  There is scarcely a student who fails to pick up the challenge to unravel the two enigmatic poems written in 1846 whereby Poe challenged readers to find the hidden names.  The first was A Valentine :

“For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!—they hold a treasure
Divine—a talisman—an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure—
The words—the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor!
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets by poets—as the name is a poet's, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto—Mendez Ferdinando—
Still form a synonym for Truth—Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.”

The second was appropriately titled Enigma:

“Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet—
Trash of all trash!—how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff—
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles—ephemeral and so transparent—
But this is, now—you may depend upon it—
Stable, opaque, immortal—all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within't.”

(Here is a hint: read the first letter of the first line in connection with the second letter of the second line, the third letter of the third line, the fourth, of the fourth and so on, to the end.)

Poe was always true to his theory that a poem should be short. In his words "'a long poem' is simply a flat contradiction in terms." 

In a Preface to his works Ingram gives this account of his last day:

“Previous to starting on his journey, Poe had complained of indisposition,—of chilliness and of exhaustion,—and it is not improbable that an increase or continuance of these symptoms had tempted him to drink, or to resort to some of those narcotics he is known to have indulged in towards the close of his life. Whatever the cause of his delay, the consequences were fatal. Whilst in a state of temporary mania or insensibility, he fell into the hands of a band of
ruffians, who were scouring the streets in search of accomplices or victims. His captors carried the unfortunate poet into an electioneering den, where they drugged him with whisky. It was election day for a member of Congress, and Poe with other victims, was dragged from polling station to station, and forced to vote the ticket placed in his hand. Incredible as it may appear, the superintending officials of those days registered the proffered vote, quite regardless of the condition of the person personifying a voter. The election over, the dying poet was left in the streets to perish, but, being found ere life was extinct, he was carried to the Washington University Hospital, where he expired on the 7th of October, 1849, in the forty-first year of his age.”  With the exception of Walt Whitman others of the literary community shunned the dedication of his monument at the family gravesite. Under these circumstances did this  “gifted, self-willed, proud, passionate man, lacking any moral sense die.”  We close with stanza five of The Conqueror Worm:

  "Out—out are the lights—out all!
    And, over each quivering form,
  The curtain, a funeral pall,
    Comes down with the rush of a storm,
  And the angels, all pallid and wan,
    Uprising, unveiling, affirm
  That the play is the tragedy 'Man,'
    And its hero the Conqueror Worm."


"Unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never—nevermore.'"     Ingram

“Farewell, farewell, thou sombre and solitary spirit: a genius tethered to the hack-work of the press, a gentleman among canaille, a poet among poetasters, dowered with a scholar’s taste without a scholar’s training, embittered by his sensitive scorn, and all unsupported by his consolations.”  Lang

Our first characteristic is melancholy.

For being an idle boy lang syne,
Who read Anacreon and drank wine,
I early found Anacreon rhymes
Were almost passionate sometimes—
And by strange alchemy of brain
His pleasures always turned to pain—
His naïveté to wild desire—
His wit to love—his wine to fire—
And so, being young and dipt in folly,
I fell in love with melancholy.

“Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere—
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried—"It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed—I journeyed down here—
That I brought a dread burden down here!
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,—
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."   Ulalume  1847

“The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
For ever with unopened eye,
While the dim sheeted ghosts go by!”  The Sleeper   1845

“By the mountains—near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the gray woods,—by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy,—”  Dreamland  1844

“That dream that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hayth cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.”   A Dream

“There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.”   The City in the Sea

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“Poe struggling with disappointment, failure, and bereavement, dependent more and more on stimulants especially drinking became the embodiment of his own tales of morbidity, incompleteness, and hopelessly lost.”

“An intricately structured, highly musical supremely melancholy poem.”  of The Raven

“The atmosphere of intense gloom, even of despair is also characteristic.”  McGill

“The skies that were ashen and sober; the leaves they were crisped and sere, the leaves they were withering and sere. It was night in the lonesome October of my most immemorial year.”   Poe 

“With strange sincerity and directness the poet tells us how his spirit grew and learned the burden of its melancholy.”  Cody of the biographical poem Alone

“…that Poe's real character was one very different from that which it has pleased the world in general to ascribe to him—judging him as it does by the character of his writings as a poet. The folly of such judgment, and the extent to which it was until recently carried, is simply surprising. It is true that he appeared to have but one ideal—the death of a woman young, lovely and beloved—and that ideal in the imagining of the world resolved itself into the personality of his
wife. She, they concluded, was the original of all the Lenores, and Anabel Lees, and Ullalumes, which inspired his melancholy and despairing lyre; and in its gloom and hopelessness they could see nothing but the expression of the poet's own nature. As well have accused Rembrandt of being gloomy and morose because he painted in dark colors. Like the artist, Poe loved obscure and sombre ideas and conceptions, and he delighted in embodying
these in his poems as much as Rembrandt did in transferring his own to canvas.”  Weiss

Our second characteristic is virtuosity of verbal metrical skill, manipulation of sound through alliteration, assonance, repetition and refrain.

“And the people ah, the people,
they that dwell up in the steeples
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone
They are neither man nor woman,
They are neither brute nor human,
They are ghouls;
And the king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls
A paean from the bells.”    The Bells

“And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.”    Annabel Lee   1850  posthumously

“I dwelt alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride—
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.
Ah, less—less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie's most unregarded curl—
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie's most humble and careless curl.
Now Doubt—now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarté within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye—
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.”   Ulalume  1845

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

For all the rhetorician's rules Teach nothing but to name the tools.—Hudibras.

“What these oft-quoted lines go to show is, that a falsity in verse will travel faster and endure longer than a falsity in prose. The man who would sneer or stare at a silly proposition nakedly put, will admit that "there is a good deal in that" when "that" is the point of an epigram shot into the ear. The rhetorician's rules—if they are rules—teach him not only to name his tools, but to use his tools, the capacity of his tools—their extent—their limit; and from an examination of the nature of the tool…”  Poe  Marginalia

“We are too ready to accept, under the general name of poetry, whatever is written eloquently in metre; to call even Wordsworth's Excursion a poem, and to accept Paradise Lost as throughout a poem. But there are not thirty consecutive lines of essential poetry in the whole of The Excursion, and, while Paradise Lost is crammed with essential poetry, that poetry is not consecutive; but the splendid workmanship comes in to fill up the gaps, and to hold our attention until the poetry returns… Poe could conceive of it only in the absolute; and his is the counsel of perfection, if of a perfection almost beyond mortal powers. He sought for it in the verse of all poets; he sought, as few have ever sought, to concentrate it in his own verse…  Symonds

“It is true that there was in the genius of Poe something meretricious; it is the flaw in his genius; but then he had genius, and Whittier and Bryant and Longfellow and Lowell had only varying degrees of talent. Let us admit, by all means, that a diamond is flawed; but need we compare it with this and that fine specimen of quartz?”    Arthur Symonds

Some have commented that Aaraaf is an imitation of Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh  (would make a good study for a well versed student.)  The accusation is based on similar rhythm and rhyme.  You should judge for yourself:

  "O! nothing earthly save the ray
  (Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye,
  As in those gardens where the day
  Springs from the gems of Circassy—
  O! nothing earthly save the thrill
  Of melody in woodland rill—
  Or (music of the passion-hearted)
  Joy's voice so peacefully departed
  That, like the murmur in the shell,
  Its echo dwelleth and will dwell—
  Oh, nothing of the dross of ours—
  Yet all the beauty—all the flowers
  That list our Love, and deck our bowers—
  Adorn yon world afar, afar—
  The wandering star."  Aaraaf

Our third characteristic is the power and intensity of human morbidity, fear, and terror.

“But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed 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 blushed and bloomed,
Is by a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.”  The Haunted Palace  Also uttered by the hero of  The Fall of the House of Usher

“But see, amid the mimic rout,
  A crawling shape intrude!
  A blood-red thing that writhes from out
  The scenic solitude!
  It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
  The mimes become its food,
  And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
    In human gore imbued.
Out—out are the lights—out all!
  And over each quivering form,
  The curtain, a funeral pall,
  Comes down with the rush of a storm,
  And the angels, all pallid and wan,
  Uprising, unveiling, affirm
  That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
    And its hero the Conqueror Worm.”  Ligeia

“And travellers now within that valley,
    Through the red-litten windows, see
  Vast forms that move fantastically
    To a discordant melody;
  While, like a rapid ghastly river,
    Through the pale door,
  A hideous throng rush out forever,
    And laugh—but smile no more.”   The Haunted Palace

”Thy world has not the dross of ours,
Yet all the beauty—all the flowers
That list our love or deck our bowers
In dreamy gardens, where do lie
Dreamy maidens all the day;
While the silver winds of Circassy
On violet couches faint away.
Little—oh! little dwells in thee
Like unto what on earth we see:
Beauty's eye is here the bluest
In the falsest and untruest—
On the sweetest air doth float
The most sad and solemn note—
If with thee be broken hearts,
Joy so peacefully departs,
That its echo still doth dwell,
Like the murmur in the shell.
Thou! thy truest type of grief
Is the gently falling leaf— 

Thou! thy framing is so holy
Sorrow is not melancholy.” To Silence  1829

“For being an idle boy lang syne,
Who read Anacreon and drank wine,
I early found Anacreon rhymes
Were almost passionate sometimes—
And by strange alchemy of brain
His pleasures always turned to pain—
His naïveté to wild desire—
His wit to love—his wine to fire—
And so, being young and dipt in folly,
I fell in love with melancholy.”   To Silence  1831

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“By The Haunted Palace I mean to imply a mind haunted by phantoms – a disordered brain.” Poe

"Your 'Raven' has produced a sensation here in England," she wrote. "Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, and some by its music. I hear of persons haunted by the 'Nevermore,' and one of my friends who has the misfortune of possessing a bust of Pallas never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” 

“Poe's poetry that it is a thing 'deep and shimmering as dreams, mysterious and perfect as crystal.”  Baudelaire

“Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.”  Poe  

"I was acquainted, with him, but that is about all. My impression was, and is, that no one could say that he knew him. He wore a melancholy face always, and even his smile—for I do not ever remember to have seen him laugh— seemed to be forced. When he engaged sometimes with others in athletic exercises, in which, so far as high or long jumping, I believe he excelled all the rest, Poe, with the same ever sad face, appeared to participate in what was amusement to the others more as a task than sport."   Thomas Boiling, fellow student

Our fourth characteristic is reverence, tender feeling toward women.

“Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wandered bore
To his own native shore.”  To Helen

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”  Annabel Lee

“O, she was worthy of all love!
Love as in infancy was mine—
'Twas such as angel minds above
Might envy; her young heart the shrine
On which my every hope and thought
Were incense—then a goodly gift,
For they were childish and upright—
Pure—as her young example taught:
Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
Trust to the fire within, for light?”   published anonymously under “by a Bostonian”

“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.”  Helen

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

About Helen “One could argue that the poem is actually about the speaker’s feeling for a particular woman; or that it is a confession of failure in love:

”Three women who had been the stars in the troubled sky of his youth irradiated his memory… In the churchyard of historic old Saint John's, Poe's mother lay in an unidentified grave. In Hollywood slept his second mother, who had surrounded his boyhood with the maternal affection that, like an unopened rose in her heart, had awaited the coming of the little child who was to be the sunbeam to develop it into perfect flowering. On Shockoe Hill was the tomb of "Helen," his chum's mother, whose beauty of face and heart brought the boyish soul.” Pickett

“Noting the odor of orris root, he said that he liked it because it recalled to him his boyhood, when his adopted mother kept orris root in her bureau drawers, and whenever they were opened the fragrance would fill the room.”    Susan Ingram

“When, some months later, his new book, "The Raven and Other Poems," came out, its dedication was, "To the noblest of her sex—Miss Elizabeth Barrett, of England."

“the beautiful "Helen" standing against the arbor-vitæ in the garden; could see her graceful approach to meet and greet him—the lonely orphan boy—could hear her gracious words in praise of his mother while she held his hand in both her own. As he lived it all over again, with the silver moonlight enfolding him and the breath of the flowers filling his nostrils, a clock somewhere in the house struck the night's noon hour. He started—even so it had been that other night in the long past. He half believed that if he should go forth into this night as he had gone into that he should see once more the lady of his dream, with the lamp in her hand, framed in the ivy-wreathed window, and seeing, worship as he had worshipped then.”    Minto

“The memory of this lady, of this "one idolatrous and purely ideal love" of his boyhood, was cherished to the last. The name of Helen frequently recurs in his youthful verses, "The Pæan," now first included in his poetical works, refers to her; and to her he inscribed the classic and exquisitely beautiful stanzas beginning "Helen, thy beauty is to me."   Ingram

“His first affair of the heart is…he remarks, "if passion it can properly be called, was of the most thoroughly romantic, shadowy, and imaginative character. It was born of the hour, and of the youthful necessity to love. It had no peculiar regard to the person, or to the character, or to the reciprocating affection... Any maiden, not immediately and positively repulsive," he deems would have suited the occasion of frequent and unrestricted intercourse with such an imaginative and poetic youth. "The result," he deems, "was not merely natural, or merely probable; it was as inevitable as destiny itself."  Ingram

Our fifth characteristics is musical quality.

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

  "Ligeia! Ligeia!
    My beautiful one!
  Whose harshest idea
    Will to melody run,
  O! is it thy will
    On the breezes to toss?
  Or, capriciously still,
    Like the lone Albatross,
  Incumbent on night
    (As she on the air)
  To keep watch with delight
    On the harmony there?" 

  "If I could dwell
  Where Israfel
    Hath dwelt, and he where I,
  He might not sing so wildly well
    A mortal melody,
  While a bolder note than this might swell
    From my lyre within the sky."  Israfel  1836

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“to signify that peculiar musical quality of Poe's genius which enthralls every reader”  Thomas Lowell

“Mr. Browning is much struck by the rhythm of the poem.”  Elizabeth Browning

"Music embodied in a golden mist of thought and sentiment— this is Poe's poetic ideal.” Charles Eliot

“To this 'mystic or secondary impression' he attributes 'the vast force of an accompaniment in music.... With each note of the lyre is heard a ghostly, and not always a distinct, but an august soul-exalting echo.  Has anything that has been said since on that conception of poetry without which no writer of verse would, I suppose, venture to write verse, been said more subtly or more precisely?”  Mallarme

"A poem, in my opinion," he says, "is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with in definite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definiteness."  Poe

“Emerson dismissed him as the ‘jingle man’ Lowell thought this “three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge”

“Yet these poems (speaking of , when read in a sympathetic mood, never fail of their effect. They are genuine creations; and, as a fitting expression of certain mental states, they possess an indescribable charm, something like the spell of the finest instrumental music.

“A national literature must have many notes, and Poe struck some which, in pure melodic quality, had not been heard before.”  Mabie

of The Bells  “that wonderful piece of verbal melody…”  Stoddard

of Annabel Lee “we have the final proof of the inborn singing faculty of Poe.” Stoddard

“One of Poe's greatest inventions was the liquidation of stanzaic form, by which he was able to mould it to the movements of emotion without losing its essential structure. Many poets had done this with the line; it was left for Poe to do it with the stanza. In the three latest lyrics this stanzaic legerdemain is practised with an enchanting lightness, an ecstasy of sinuous and elastic grace.”  Gosse

“From Tennyson to Austin Dobwson there is hardly one whose verse-music does not show traces of Poe’s influence.”   Gosse

“Music is the perfection of the soul or the idea of poetry, the vagueness of exaltation aroused by a sweet air is precisely what we should aim at in poetry.”   Poe

Our sixth characteristic meager sense of the character of men, prone to self-destruct inward looking, lack of moral consciousness.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tonw;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then, in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life, was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still.”  Alone

“In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed—
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.
Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?
That holy dream—that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam,
A lonely spirit guiding.
What though that light, thro' storm and night,
So trembled from afar—
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth's day star?”    A Dream  1837

“I heed not that my earthly lot
Hath—little of Earth in it—
That years of love have been forgot
In the hatred of a minute:—
I mourn not that the desolate
Are happier, sweet, than I,
But that you sorrow for my fate
Who am a passer-by.”    1829

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“We mere men of the world, with no principle—a very old-fashioned and cumbersome thing—should be on our guard lest, fancying him on his last legs, we insult, or otherwise maltreat some poor devil of a genius at the very instant of his putting his foot on the top round of his ladder of triumph. It is a common trick with these fellows, when on the point of attaining some long-cherished end, to sink themselves into the deepest possible abyss of seeming despair, for no other purpose than that of increasing the space of success through which they have made up their minds immediately to soar.”  Poe   Marginalia 1848

“Poe knew men as little as he knew any of the other every-day facts of life. In the depths of that ignorance he left his reputation in the hands of the only being he ever met who would tear it to shreds and throw it into the mire.”   Pickett

“every incident in the life of Edgar Poe has been subjected to microscopic investigation. The result has not been altogether satisfactory. On the one hand, envy and prejudice have magnified every blemish of his character into crime, whilst on the other, blind admiration would depict him as far "too good for human nature's daily food." Let us endeavor to judge him impartially, granting that he was as a mortal subject to the ordinary weaknesses of mortality, but that he was tempted sorely, treated badly, and suffered deeply.”  Ingram

“Even the work of the little authors was indebted to him for many a good word, but the little authors hated him and returned the brilliant sallies his pungent pen directed toward their writings with vollies of mud aimed at his private character”    Ingram

“Regarding himself, perhaps, as indispensable to the Messenger, he may have relaxed in vigilant self-restraint. It has been claimed that he resigned the editorship in order to accept a more lucrative offer in New York; but the sad truth seems to be that he was dismissed on account of his irregular habits.”   Ingram

“Whether poetry, criticism, or fiction, he shows extraordinary power in them all. But the moral element in life is the most important, and in this Poe was lacking. With him truth was not the first necessity. He allowed his judgment to be warped by friendship, and apparently sacrificed sincerity to the vulgar desire of gaining popular applause. Through intemperate habits, he was unable for any considerable length of time to maintain himself in a responsible or lucrative position.”

“His poetry aims at beauty in a purely artistic sense, unassociated with truth or morals.” Ingram

“With no qualification for the struggle of life other than intellectual brilliancy, he bitterly atoned, through disappointment and suffering, for his defects of temper, lack of judgment, and habits of intemperance.”  Readers Companion

“”There is no warmth of human sympathy, no moral consciousness, no lessons of practical  wisdom. His tales are the product of a morbid by powerful imagination.”   

“But the moral element in life is the most important, and in this Poe was lacking.  He allowed his judgment to be warped…apparently sacrificed sincerity to the vulgar desire of gaining popular applause.”