ePub 版

Baltimore in January 1811) accordingly began the world—for he was thrown thus early on his " own resources"—as naked as a cherub.

Mr. Allan, a rich gentleman who had no children of his own, adopted Edgar, brought him to England, where he put him to school at Stoke-Newington. Edgar, who was a "spoiled child,"—a beautiful, witty, precocious boy, it seems,—remained at school there for some five years. In 18S22 he returned to the United States; went to the academy at Rich- niond; and thence to the University at Charlottes ville. Always he signalised himself by early intellect, quickly learning all that came in his way, brilliant, vivacious, passionate, always—but always " eccentric" in proportion, so that, what with intemperance and insubordination, this youth,—

To whom was given

So much of earth, so much of heaven,
And such impetuous blood,—Wobdswobth,

—was expelled from the University. Distant rumours — and what fly faster than even rumours—bills — kept good Mr. Allan informed of the youth's progress. Mr. A., who seems to have been a good-natured old gentleman of the school of Micro in the Add phi, could pardon a great deal, but there are limits to the patience even of a Micio. Edgar—finding that his bills recoiled on himself as boomerangs do—seems to have tried his satire on the worthy man, and, after writing a sharp letter, went off to the Mediterranean, to free the Greeks from the Turkish yoke. We rarely hear of a more heroic project! imitation—adoptions of the metres of Scott—imitations of the verse of Byron. But there is the keenest feeling for the Beautiful,—which was the prodominant feeling of Poe's whole life; there is the loveliest, easiest, joyfullest flow of music throughout, There is, too—what must have been almost instinctive—an exquisite Taste—a Taste which lay at the very centre of his intellect like a conscience.

I like to think of Poe in the Mediterranean, with his passionate love of the Beautiful,—in " the years of April blood,"—in a climate which has the perpetual luxury of a bath—he must have had all his perceptions of the lovely intensified wonderfully. What he did there we have now no means of discovering. He never reached the scene of war (which was, doubtless, a great loss to the Greeks l), but he turned up— whence, or how, no man knows—in St. Petersburgh. The American Minister—one regrets to hear—had to relieve the youth from "temporary embarrassment," and he returned to his native land. He now appears to have thought that it was time for his friends to exert themselves. Micro Allan was once more kind and forgiving, and Edgar was entered as a cadet at the Military Academy. In the groves of that academy he did not remain long, we may be sure; — the fact was, he was "cashiered."

It seems to have been about this time that he published, while still a boy, his first volume of poems — those comprised in his later collections as "Poems written in Youth." I agree with all that Lowell says of their wonderful precocity; though I by no means agree with Lowell in his depreciation of Chatterton. There are, of course, obvious traces of

[ocr errors]

We should notice here two phenomena in this volume, both of importance to one who wants to understand Poe as man and poet. There is no trace of any depth of spiritual feeling—no " questioning of Destiny,"—none of those traces of deep inward emotion, which, like the marks of tears, we see on the face of so many a modern muse. On the other hand, though it appears only too certain that his wild passions carried him into most unhappy self-abandonment, his verse is all as pure as wild flowers. This is the way in which the boy Edgar—the rejected of the Military Academy—the rake of Charlottesville— noted for " intemperance " and " other vices,"—writes about a girl:—


Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,

That gently, o'er a perfumed 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!

Could anything be more dainty, airy, amber-bright, than this is? In point of finish it is Horatian. It is merum nectar, as Scaliger says of the Ode to Pyrrha. I do not believe what is asserted, that this was written when Poe was fourteen, but it was undoubtedly written in his earliest youth.—Now, Poe may have done this and done that. Youths brought up by fine good-natured old Micios—particularly if their "veins run wine," as is believed of some—will do many strange things. There are hundreds of youths as "wild" as Poe, but this one wrote the above poem! That is the interesting fact. A fragment of song like this comes out of the inner being of a man, and the capability of producing it is the fact of his nature.

These poems had, as was natural, great success. He was already known as a youth of " genius"—one who had shown a certain power of a mysterious


character — one who breathed the breath of that sacred wind which " hloweth where it listeth." But he was still as irregular as ever—having been created to be so, seemingly. He entered as private into a regiment, and again disappeared from his friends. We have a striking account of his next appearance from Mr. Griswold's memoir of him. He turned up once more, "thin, pale, and ghastly," the mark of poverty branded upon him, and began the world now regularly as a " literary man." He soon got employment—he was a scholar—had read a great deal— and was not wanting in people to encourage him. There still remained, however, one step to take. Edgar, while his income was about a hundred a-year, thought it was time to—marry. He married, accordingly,—a most beautiful girl, of course. She was his cousin, Virginia Clemm,—" as poor as himself," says Griswold, grimly. A most amiable, loveable, and lovely person, however—which some people think the most important consideration — she appears to have been. Whenever the curtain of Poe's private life is pulled aside—which is not frequently, for his biographers and countrymen tell us more of his misdoings generally than of his Home — for he had a Home—we get a glimpse of her beautiful face — cheerful, affectionate, always—sad alas! latterly, but still, like Oriana's, "sweet" as well as "pale and meek." How little do we know of the wives of

« 上一頁繼續 »