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From thy memories of Lenore!
And forget this lost Lenore!'
"'Be that word our sign of parting,
And the Night's Plutonian shore!
Quit the bust above my door!
Take thy form from off my door!'
"And the raven, never flitting,
Just above my chamber door;
Throws his shadow on the floor;
That lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!"
Although his mechanical art is too visible, we cannot withhold our praise for the success of the attempt. Coleridge was a great master of the musical chords of verse, but he superadded a charm which spiritualized the vehicle of his thought.
In Mr. Poe we miss this power, and consequently we feel at times inclined to consider the whole affair as machine poetry, so far as the outer shape is concerned. But here Mr. Poe has not done himself justice; he has wilfully made his mechanical artifice so prominent, as to intercept the effect of his own poetical spirit. He has encumbered it with a needless ornament, which resembles a scaffolding so interwoven with the structure, as to persuade the beholder it is essential for the very support of the building.
"We need hardly point out the injurious effect this has had upon Mr. Poe's reputation as a man of genius, for such he undoubtedly was.
Nor was his power confined to poetry alone. As a prose writer he was one of the most peculiar of his age; his stories have a circumstantiality about them perfectly marvellous; they seem bewilderingly true; the most astounding contradictions are accounted for, and a combination of improbabilities seems to meet as matter of course. This of necessity implies a genius, in our estimate of the word, although many acute writers merely term it ingenious. We would say above all other writers of American prose and verse, Mr. Poe is undoubtedly the most peculiar. Now that the grave has made him famous in the eyes of the world, he will have a school of imitators, and this will no doubt be accepted as a sure proof of a certain originality. From first to last there is the peculiar stamp of the man on everything he did: it is his own genuine coin, with his well-known effigy upon it. We must, however, Btate that we think his circumstantiality becomes tedious, and that his over-anxiety to make every improbability fit into another improbability, so as to form a consecutive chain out of inconsistencies, throws very often a doubt over the whole story, and defeats his own object. We cannot illustrate this better than by relating a little anecdote we heard in our boyhood.
A certain Gascon nobleman, famous for his enormous fables, which he always swore were true, had a sycophant, who, whenever his patron's guests seemed staggering into unbelief by some outrageous Munchausen, was appealed to as a kind of witness to testify and confirm the truth of the story in question.
At an entertainment one day, the Gascon lord was peculiarly sublime in his marvels and his boastings, and encouraged by his guests' capacious swallow, he ventured to affirm that he had a herring pond in his park. As this was well known to be a salt-water fish, a general doubt of the fact was expressed. The somewhat offended owner of the pond in question appealed to his convenient friend, as to the truth of the statement. He readily and boldly confirmed it in the following manner:
"I can assure you, gentlemen, that what my lord says is true. He has a pond in his garden full of herrings! Ah 1 and red herrings too."
This over-proving a case by capping it with a notorious impossibility is the besetting sin of Mr. Poe's writings, more especially of his prose works. Nevertheless they are so marvellously well done, that we are inclined to think in a few years he will chiefly be remembered for his tales, and that his poetical works will dwindle into a small compass composed of half-a-dozen favorite poems.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW.
It is somewhat unfortunate for Mr. Longfellow that he has thrown by far the greatest part of his poetical treasure into the most thankless of all forms, the hexameter. A long acquaintance justifies us in the assertion, that there are few American poems where so much fine thought and tender feeling are hid as in "Evangeline." The story is simple, yet touching; and the theme is the fidelity and endurance of betrothed love. Two lovers were separated on the eve of their marriage to be reunited in old age at the deathbed of the intended bridegroom. We are told by the historian, that such were the harshness and haste of the British government when it expelled the neutral French population from Acadia, that many families were suddenly scattered east and west never to meet again.
In " Evangeline" we have a couple thus torn apart, spending their lives in a fruitless search for each other, with the wasting fire of hope deferred wearing their hearts away. The opening sketch of the tranquil lives of the French Acadians, on the Gulf of Minas, is truly idyllic; but the peculiarity of the mea