Edgar Allan Poe's literary career began with poetry, where he influenced many writers. His poems are important examples for what can be done with language, as. His “The Raven” () numbers among the best-known poems in the national literature. Poe was the son of the English-born actress Elizabeth. EDGAR ALLAN POE and the Masses explores the relationship between literature and capitalism in antebellum America. Broadly concerned with the emergence of a. STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO A BETTER PLACE A BETTER TIME CHORDS FLOYD
It was also one of the poems Poe submitted to Griswold for inclusion in the anthology. Letter from Edgar Allan Poe to Rufus Griswold dated April 19, again insisting that his public comments were professional, not personal. Also included are Poe's edits to "The Raven" which he submitted to Griswold for publication in the new anthology. Their uneasy truce lasted long enough for Poe to ask Griswold for fifty dollars to help keep his magazine, The Broadway Journal , in print.
Griswold gave him twenty five dollars instead. As if their literary competitiveness was not enough, both men were romantically attracted to Frances Sargent Osgood She was a prolific writer whose poems appeared in many popular magazines of the day, including The Broadway Journal. Although Poe broke off their friendship and Griswold edited a volume of her poetry, Osgood remained fond of Poe until her death.
Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, This collection contains the near entirety of Rufus Griswold's correspondence between the years and In particular, it reflects his business dealings as editor of Graham's Magazine and publisher of The Poets and Poetry of America. Correspondence is primarily letters to Griswold from poets, authors, and other editors regarding publications and reviews.
The man who has not learned to play in childhood is not likely to learn to play in maturity; and without the spirit of play — the putting forth of energy as an end in itself, and for the sake of the joy which lies in pure activity — there can be no art.
For work becomes art only when it is transformed into play. Our race has had its youth, its dreams and visions; but that youth was lived on another continent; so far [page xi:] as the record of experience in our literature is concerned, we have always been mature people at hard work. But in all this early expression of the English race in the New World there is a clear, definite purpose, an ulterior aim, a subordination of the art to the religious or political intention, which stamp the writing of the time as essentially secondary.
That writing was serious and weighty, often touching the heights of eloquence in noble argument for the inviolability of those rights which are the heritage of the English race; but the spontaneity, the freedom, the joyousness, of creative art were not in it.
They could not be in it; the men who wrote our early chronicles and histories, who took part in the great debates which preceded the Revolution, and made the speeches which were heard from Williamsburg to Boston, had other work to do. In Charles Brockden Brown a new note is heard, — a note of mystery and tragedy; as if into the working world of the new continent the old elements of fate had come, to give experience a deeper tinge, and to make men aware that in the fresh as in the longtilled soil the seeds of conflict and sorrow are sown.
There is none of the joyousness of youth in Brown's romances; but there is the sense of power, the play of the imagination, the passion for expression for its own sake, which are the certain signs of literature. There is, above all, the demonic element, that elusive, incalculable, mysterious element in the soul of the artist, which is present in all art; and which, when it dominates the artist, forms those fascinating, mysterious personalities, from Aristophanes to Poe, who make us feel the futility of ail easy endeavors to formulate [page xiii:] the laws of art, or to explain with assurance the relations of genius to inheritance, environment, education, and temperament.
In art, as in all products of the creative force, there is a mystery which we cannot dispel. If we could analyze genius, we should destroy it. To the time of the publication of Wieland, or the Transformation, it is easy to explain the written expression of American life, to show how it was directed and shaped by conditions in the New World; but with the publication of Wieland the inexplicable appears, the creative spirit begins to reveal itself.
Charles Brockden Brown did not master his material and organize it, and his work falls short of that harmony of spirit and form which is the evidence of a true birth of beauty; but there are flashes of insight in it, touches of careless felicity, which witness the possession of a real gift.
The prophecy which the discerning reader finds in Brown's sombre romances was fulfilled in the work of Poe and Hawthorne. It is conceivable that a student of the Puritan mind might have foreseen the coming of Hawthorne; for the great romancer, who was to search the Puritan conscience as with a lighted candle, was rooted and grounded historically in the world behind him. There was that in Hawthorne, however, which could not have been predicted : there was the mysterious co-working of temperament, insight, individual consciousness, and personality which constitutes what we call genius.
On one side of Hawthorne's work there are lines of historical descent which may be clearly traced; on the other there is the inexplicable miracle, the miracle of art, the creation of the new and beautiful form. It is the first and perhaps the most obvious distinction [page xiv:] of Edgar Allan Poe that his creative work baffles all attempts to relate it historically to antecedent conditions; that it detached itself almost completely from the time and place in which it made its appearance, and sprang suddenly and mysteriously from a soil which had never borne its like before.
Hawthorne, born five years earlier than Poe, — so like him in certain aspects of his genius, so unlike him in temperament and character, — destined to divide with him the highest honors of American authorship, was hidden in that fortunate obscurity in which his delicate and sensitive genius found perhaps the best conditions for its ripening.
These names suggest the purity and aspiration, the high idealism and the tender domestic piety, which were soon to give early American literature its distinctive notes. To these earlier poets, romancers, and essayists were, later, to be added the name of Sidney Lanier, whose affluent nature needed another decade for its complete unfolding and co-ordination; and of Walt Whitman, who was so rich in the elemental qualities of imagination, and so rarely master of them.
There was something distinctive in each of these writers, — something which had no place in literature before they came, and is not likely to be repeated; and yet, from Bryant to Whitman, there were certain obvious relationships, both spiritual and historical, between each writer and his environment.
Each was representative of some deep impulse finding its way to action; of some rising passion which leaped into speech before it turned to the irrevocable deed. To the men who were young between and , there was something in the air which broke up the deeps of feeling and set free the torpid imagination.
Hitherto the imagination had been invoked to give wings and fire to high argument for the rights of men; now the imagination began to speak, by virtue of its own inward impulse, of the things of its own life. In religion, in the social consciousness, in public life, there were stirrings of conscience which revealed a deepening life of the spirit among the new people. The age of provincialism, of submission to the judgment and acceptance of the taste of older and more cultivated communities, was coming to an end.
Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that around us are rushing into life cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions, arise that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the polestar for a thousand years? Beneath [page xvii:] his apparent detachment from the agitations of his time, Dr.
Holmes was as much a breaker of old images as Lowell or Whittier; and Hawthorne, artist that he was to the last touch of his pen, is still the product of Puritanism. The breath of the new time was soft and fecundating on the old soil, and the flowers that were soon afield had the hue of the sky and the shy and delicate fragrance of the New England climate in them.
Poe stood alone among his contemporaries by reason of the fact that, while his imagination was fertilized by the movement of the time, his work was not, in theme or sympathy, representative of the forces behind it. The group of gifted men, with whom he had for the most part only casual connections, reflected the age behind them or the time in which they lived; Poe shared with them the creative impulse without sharing the specific interests and devotions of the period.
He was primarily and distinctively the artist of his time; the man who cared for his art, not for what he could say through it, but for what it had to say through him. Emerson, Lowell, Holmes, Whittier, Bryant, Irving, and, in certain aspects of his genius, Hawthorne might have been predicted; reading our early history in the light of our later development, their coming seems to have been foreordained by the conditions of life on the new continent; and, later, Whitman and Lanier stand for and are bound up in the fortunes of the New World, and its new order of political and social life.
Poe alone, among men of his eminence, could not have been foreseen. This fact suggests his limitations, but it also brings into clear view the unique individuality of his genius and the originality of his work. His contemporaries [page xviii:] are explicable; Poe is inexplicable. He remains the most sharply defined personality in our literary history.
His verse and his imaginative prose stand out in bold relief against a background which neither suggests nor interprets them. One may go further, and affirm that both verse and prose have a place by themselves in the literature of the world. There are, it is true, evidences of Poe's sensitiveness to the English landscape, and to certain English philosophical and literary influences.
It is not difficult to find in his earlier verse, as Mr. Stedman has suggested, the influence of Byron and Moore, whose songs were in the heart of that romantic generation. It is easy also to lay bare Poe's indebtedness to Coleridge. This is only saying, however, that no man of imagination ever grows up in isolation; every sensitive spirit shares in the impulses of its time, and receives its education for its own work at the hands of older teachers.
When all is said, however, Poe remains a man of singularly individual genius, owing little to his immediate or even to his remoter environment; an artist who felt keenly the spirit of his art as it has found refuge in beautiful forms, but who detached himself with consistent insistence from the influence of other artists. Until Poe began his brief and pathetic career, the [page xix:] genius of Virginia and of the South had found expression chiefly in the moulding of national institutions and the shaping of national affairs; and it may be said without exaggeration that rarely in the history of the world has public life been enriched by so many men of commanding intellect and natural aptitude for great affairs.
The high intelligence, the wide grasp of principles, and the keen, practical sense of the earlier Southern statesmen gave the stirring and formative periods of our early history epic dignity. In such a society Bacon might have found food for those organ-toned essays on the greatness of states and the splendor of national fortunes and responsibilities. It was due largely to the Virginians that the earlier public discussions and the later public papers so often partook of the quality of literature.
In Poe, however, the genius of the South seemed to pass abruptly from great affairs of state into the regions of pure imagination. It is part of the charm of these perfect creations that they are free from all trace of time and toil. Out of the new world of work and strife magical doors were flung wide into the fairyland of pure song; out of the soil tilled with heroic labor and courage a fountain suddenly gushed from unsuspected springs.
In this disclosure of the unforeseen in our literary development, in the possession of the daemonic element in art, Poe stands alone in our literature, unrelated to his environment and detached from his time; the most distinctive and individual writer who has yet appeared in this country.
It is the essential and peculiar quality of genius, — the quality which lies beyond the reach of the most exacting and intelligent work, as it lies beyond the search of analysis. A trained man may learn the secrets of form; he may become an adept in the skill of his craft; but the final felicity of touch, the ultimate grace of effortless power, elude and baffle him. Shakespeare is never so wonderful as in those perfect lines, those exquisite images and similes, those fragrant sentences akin with the flowers in their freshness, and in their purity with waters which carry the stars in their depths, which light comedy and tragedy and history as with a light beyond the sun.
We have no key to them. This natural magic, this divine ease in doing the most difficult things, is the exclusive property of the man of genius, and is his only in his most fortunate hours. No man can command this consummate bloom on human speech; it lies on his work as it lies on the fields, because the creative spirit has passed that way.
It came again and again to Wordsworth during fifteen marvellous years; and when it passed it left him [page xxi:] cold and mechanical. It is the pure spirit of art moving like the wind where it listeth, and, like the wind, dying into silence again. This magic was in Poe, and its record remains, and will remain, one of our most precious literary possessions. The bulk of the work upon which it rests is not great; its ethical significance is not always evident; it is not representative after the manner of the great masters of poetry; but its quality is perfect.
The importance of half a dozen perfect poems is not to be discovered in their mass; it lies in the revelation of the imagination which shines in and from them. That men do not live by bread alone is the common message of religion and of art. That message was delivered by Poe with marvellous distinctness of speech.
That he knew what he wanted to say, and that he deliberately and patiently sought the best way of saying it, is clear enough; it neither adds to nor detracts from the artistic value of what he did that he knew what he wanted to do.
The essential fact about him and his work is, that he was possessed by the passion for beauty for its own sake, and that at his best he had access to the region of pure ideality. The spiritual value of art lies not only in its power to impart ideas, but also in its power to clear the vision, to broaden the range of human interests, and to liberate the imagination. Poe's work attests again the presence of an element in the life of man and in the work of his hand which cannot be foreseen, calculated, or controlled; a quality not dissociated in its perfect [page xxii:] expression from historic or material conditions, but in its origin independent of them.
It is the witness, in other words, of something divine and imperishable in the mind of man, — something which allies him with the creative energy, and permits him to share it. The fact that he is sometimes unworthy of this high disclosure of the ultimate beauty, and sometimes recreant to his faith and his gift, diminishes the significance and value of his work no more than a kindred infidelity nullifies the word of prophets of another order.
In the mysterious spiritual economy of the universe, there are co-ordinations of gift and character, relations of spirit and environment, which elude all efforts to formulate them; not because they lie outside the realm of law, but because the mind of man has not yet been able to explore that realm. And in this very incompleteness of the philosophy of art lies that inexhaustible spiritual suggestiveness which is at once the inspiration of art and its burden. Poe is distinctively and in a unique sense the artist in our literature, — the man to whom beauty was a constant and sufficient justification of itself.
Such a faith is not without its perils; but in a new and working world, whose idealism had run mainly along lines of action, it was essential and it was of high importance. This single-mindedness of Poe in the pursuit of perfection in phrase and form was not a matter of mere workmanship; it was the passion to match the word with the thought, the melody with the feeling, so vitally and completely that the ultimate harmony, in which all men believe and for which all men crave, might become once more a reality amid the dissonances of a struggling and imperfect society.
It is the function of the prophet to declare the inexorable [page xxiii:] will of righteousness amid a moral disorder which makes that will, at times, almost incredible; it is the office of the artist to discern and reveal the ultimate beauty in a time when all things are in the making, and the dust and uproar of the workshop conceal even the faint prophecies of perfection.
In the vast workshop of the new society, noisily and turbulently co-ordinating itself, Poe's work has been often misunderstood and undervalued. Its lack of strenuousness, its detachment from workaday interests, its severance from ethical agitations, its remoteness from the common toils and experiences, have given it to many an unreal and spectral aspect; there has seemed to be in it a lack of seriousness which has robbed it of spiritual significance.
Its limitations in several directions are evident enough; but all our poetry has disclosed marked limitations. The difficulty in estimating Poe's work at its true value has lain in the fact that his seriousness was expressed in devotion to objects not yet included in our range of keen and quick sympathies and interests. Poe was a pioneer in a region not yet adequately represented on our spiritual charts. To men engrossed in the work of making homes for themselves the creation of a Venus of Melos might seem a very unimportant affair; its perfection of pose and moulding might not wholly escape them, but the emotion which swept Heine out of himself when he first stood before it would seem to such men hysterical and unreal.
When the homes were built, however, and men were housed in them, they would begin to crave completeness of life, and then the imagination would begin to discern the priceless value of the statue which has survived the days when gods appeared on the earth.
The turmoil of [page xxiv:] the struggle for existence in Greece has long since died into the all-devouring silence, but that broken figure remains to thrill and inspire a worl3 which has forgotten the name of the man who breathed the breath of life into it. It is a visible symbol not only of the passion for perfection, but of the sublime inference of that passion, -the immortality of the spirit which conceived, and of the race among which the perfect work was born.
This passion, which is always striving to realize its own imperishableness in the perfection of its work, and to continue unbroken the record of creative activity among men, possessed Poe in his best moments, and bore fruit in his imaginative work. He was far in advance of the civilization in which he lived, in his discernment of the value of beauty to men struggling for their lives in a world full of ugliness because full of all manner of imperfection; he is still in advance of any general development of the ability to feel as he felt the inward necessity of finding harmony, and giving it reality to the mind, the eye, and the ear.
In older communities, looking at our life outside the circle of its immediate needs and tasks, he has found a recognition often denied him among his own people. If Poe has failed to touch us in certain places where we live most deeply and passionately, we have failed to meet him where he lived deeply and passionately. Matthew Arnold held that contemporary foreign opinion of a writer is probably the nearest approach which can be made to the judgment of posterity.
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