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The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 8) online

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that he has yet done, or to anything that he may here
after accomplish. In a word, while he has undoubt
edly given proof of a very ordinary species of talent,
no man whose opinion is entitled to the slightest re
spect will admit in him any indication of genius.

The " particular merits " to which, in the case of
Mr. Lord, we have allusion, are merely the accidental
merits of particular passages. We say " accidental,"
because poetical merit which is not simply an accident
is very sure to be found, more or less, in a state of
diffusion throughout a poem. No man is entitled to
the sacred name of poet because from 160 pages of
doggerel may be culled a few sentences of worth. Nor
would the case be in any respect altered if these few
sentences, or even if a few passages of length, were of
an excellence even supreme. For a poet is necessarily
a man of genius, and with the spirit of true genius even
its veriest commonplaces are intertwined and inextri
cably intertangled. When, therefore, amid a Sahara of
platitude we discover an occasional oasis, we must not
so far forget ourselves as to fancy any latent fertility
in the sands. It is our purpose, however, to do the
fullest justice to Mr. Lord, and we proceed at once to
cull from his book whatever, in our opinion, will put
in the fairest light his poetical pretensions.

And first we extract the one brief passage which
aroused in us what we recognized as the poetical


William W. Lord

sentiment. It occurs at page 94 in Saint Mary's Gift,
which, although excessively unoriginal at all points, is,
upon the whole, the least reprehensible poem of the
volume. The heroine of the story, having taken a
sleeping draught, after the manner of Juliet, is con
veyed to a vault (still in the same manner), and (still
in the same manner) awakes in the presence of her
lover, who comes to gaze on what he supposes her
corpse :

And each unto the other was a dream;

And so they gazed without a stir or breath,

Until her head into the golden stream

Of her wide tresses, loosened from their wreath,

Sank back, as she did yield again to death.

At page 3, in a composition of much general elo
quence, there occur a few lines of which we should
not hestitate to speak enthusiastically were we not
perfectly aware that Mr. Lord has no claim to their
origination :

Ye winds

That in the impalpable deep caves of air,
Moving your silent plumes, in dreams of flight,
Tumultuous lie, and from your half-stretched wings
Beat the faint zephyrs that disturb the air!

At page 6, in the same poem, we meet also a pas
sage of high merit, although sadly disfigured:

Thee the bright host of Heaven,
The stars adore : a thousand altars, fed

William W. Lord

By pure unwearied hands, like cressets blaze
In the blue depths of night ; nor all unseen
In the pale sky of day, with tempered light
Burn radiant of thy praise.

The disfiguration to which we allude lies in the
making a blazing altar burn merely like a blazing
cresset, a simile about as forcible as would be the
likening an apple to a pear, or the sea-foam to the
froth on a pitcher of Burton's ale.

At page 7, still in the same poem, we find some
verses which are very quotable, and will serve to make
our readers understand what we mean by the eloquence
of the piece :

Great Worshipper ! hast thou no thought of Him

Who gave the sun his brightness, winged the winds,

And on the everlasting deep bestowed

Its voiceless thunder spread its fields of blue,

And made them glorious like an inner sky

From which the islands rise like steadfast clouds,

How beautiful ! who gemmed thy zone with stars,

Around thee threw His own cerulean robe,

And bent His coronal about thy brows,

Shaped of the seven splendors of the light,

Piled up the mountains for thy throne ; and thee

The image of His beauty made and power,

And gave thee to be sharer of His state,

His majesty, His glory, and His fear!

We extract this not because we like it ourselves, but
because we take it for granted that there are many
who will, and that Mr. Lord himself would desire us to


William W. Lord

extract it as a specimen of his power. The " Great
Worshipper " is Nature. We disapprove, however,
the man-milliner method in which she is tricked out,
item by item. The " How beautiful ! " should be un
derstood, we fancy, as an expression of admiration on
the part of Mr. Lord for the fine idea which imme
diately precedes, the idea which we have italicized.
It is, in fact, by no means destitute of force, but we
have met it before.

At page 70 there are two stanzas addressed To My
Sister, The first of these we cite as the best thing of
equal length to be found in the book. Its conclusion
is particularly noble :

And shall we meet in heaven, and know and love ?
Do human feelings in that world above
Unchanged survive ? blest thought ! but ah, I fear
That thou, dear sister, in some other sphere,
Distant from mine will (wilt) find a brighter home,
Where I, unworthy found, may never come :
Or be so high above the glorified,
That I, a meaner angel, undescried,
Seeking thine eyes, such love alone shall see
As angels give to all bestowed on me ;
And when my voice upon thy ear shall fall,
Hear only such reply as angels give to all.

We give these lines as they are : their grammatical
construction is faulty; and the punctuation of the
ninth line renders the sense equivocal.


William W. Lord

Of that species of composition which comes most
appropriately under the head "Drivel," we should
have no trouble in selecting as many specimens as
our readers could desire. We will afflict them with
one or two :


O soft is the ringdove's eye of love

When her mate returns from a weary flight,

And brightest of all the stars above

Is the one bright star that leads the night.

But softer thine eye than the dove's by far,

When of friendship and pity thou speakest to me ;

And brighter, O brighter, than eve's one star,
When of love, sweet maid, I speak to thee.

Here is another


Oh, a heart it loves, it loves thee,

That never loved before ;
Oh, a heart it loves, it loves thee,

That heart can love no more.

As the rose was in the bud, love,

Ere it opened into sight,
As yon star in drumlie daylight

Behind the blue was bright ;

So thine image in my heart, love,

As pure, as bright, as fair,
Thyself unseen, unheeded,

I saw and loved it there.

William W. Lord

Oh, a heart it loves, it loves thee

As a heart ne'er loved before ;
Oh, a heart, it loves, loves, loves thee,

That heart can love no more.

In the Widow's Complaint we are entertained after
this fashion :

And what are these children

I once thought my own,
What now do they seem
, But his orphans alone ?

In The New Cast alia we have it thus:

Then a pallid beauteous maiden
Golden ghastly robes arrayed in,
Such a wondrous strain displayed in
In a wondrous song of Aidenne,
That all the gods and goddesses
Shook their golden yellow tresses,
Parnassus' self made half afraid in.

Just above this there is something about aged bel
dames dreaming

of white throats sweetly jagged
With a ragged butch-knife dull,
And of night-mares neighing, weighing,
On a sleeper's bosom squatting.

But in mercy to our readers we forbear.

Mr. Lord is never elevated above the dead level of
his habitual platitude, by even the happiest thesis in
the world. That any man could, at one and the same


William W. Lord

time, fancy himself a poet and string together as
many pitiable inanities as we see here, on so truly
suggestive a thesis as that of A Lady taking the Veil,
is to our apprehension a miracle of miracles. The
idea would seem to be, of itself, sufficient to elicit fire
from ice, to breathe animation into the most stolid of
stone. Mr. Lord winds up a dissertation on the sub
ject by the patronizing advice,

Ere thou, irrevocable, to that dark creed
Art yielded, think, O Lady, think again

the whole of which would read better if it were


Ere thou, irrevocable, to this d d doggerel

Art yielded, Lord, think! think! ah, think again!

Even with the great theme, Niagara, our poet fails
in his obvious effort to work himself into a fit of in
spiration. One of his poems has for title A Hymn to
Niagara, but from beginning to end it is nothing more
than a very silly " Hymn to Mr. Lord." Instead of
describing the fall (as well as any Mr. Lord could be
supposed to describe it) he rants about what / feel
here, and about what / did not feel there ; till at last
the figure of little Mr. Lord, in the shape of a great
capital, gets so thoroughly in between the reader and
the waterfall that not a particle of the latter is to be
discovered. At one point the poet directs his soul to
issue a proclamation as follows :


William W. Lord

Proclaim, my soul, proclaim it to the sky!
And tell the stars, and tell the hills whose feet
Are in the depths of earth, their peaks in heaven,
And tell the Ocean's old familiar face
Beheld by day and night, in calm and storm,
That they, nor aught beside in earth or heaven,
Like thee, tremendous torrent, have so filled
Its thought of beauty, and so awed with might !

The " Its " has reference to the soul of Mr. Lord,
who thinks it necessary to issue a proclamation to the
stars and the hills and the ocean's old familiar face,
lest the stars and the hills and the ocean's old familiar
face should chance to be unaware of the fact that it
(the soul of Mr. Lord) admitted the waterfall to be a
fine thing; but whether the cataract for the compli
ment, or the stars for the information, are to be con
sidered the party chiefly obliged that, for the life of
us, we cannot tell.

From the " first impression " of the cataract, he

At length my soul awaked waked not again
To be o'erpressed, o'ermastered, and engulphed,
But of itself possessed, o'er all without
Felt conscious mastery!

And then

Retired within, and self-withdrawn, I stood
The twofold centre and informing soul
Of one vast harmony of sights and sounds,
And from that deep abyss, that rock-built shrine,

William W. Lord

Though mute my own frail voice, I poured a hymn
Of " praise and gratulation " like the noise
Of banded angels when they shout to wake
Empyreal echoes!

That so vast a personage as Mr. Lord should not be
o'ermastered by the cataract, but feel " conscious mas
tery over all without " and over all within, too is
certainly nothing more than reasonable and proper;
but then he should have left the detail of these little
facts to the cataract or to some other uninterested
individual ; even Cicero has been held to blame for a
want of modesty, and although, to be sure, Cicero was
not Mr. Lord, still Mr. Lord may be in danger of blame.
He may have enemies (very little men!) who will pre
tend to deny that the " hymn of praise and gratula
tion " (if this is the hymn) bears at all points more
than a partial resemblance to the " noise of banded
angels when they shout to wake empyreal echoes."
Not that we intend to deny it, but they will : they are
very little people and they will

We have said that the " remarkable " feature, or at
least one of the " remarkable " features of this volume
is its platitude, its flatness. Whenever the reader
meets anything not decidedly flat, he may take it for
granted at once that it is stolen. When the poet
speaks, for example, at page 148, of

Flowers, of young poets the first words,

William W. Lord

who can fail to remember the line in the Merry Wives
of Windsor t

Fairies use flowers for their charactery ?
At page 10 he says:

Great oaks their heavenward lifted arms stretch forth
In suppliance !

The same thought will be found in Pelham, where
the author is describing the dead tree beneath which
is committed the murder. The grossest plagiarisms,
indeed, abound. We would have no trouble, even, in
pointing out a score from our most unimportant self.
At page 27 Mr. Lord says:

They, albeit with inward pain,

Who thought to sing thy dirge, must sing thy paean!

In a poem called Lenore we have it :

Avaunt ! to-night my heart is light ; no dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a paean of old days!

At page 13 Mr. Lord says of certain flowers that
Ere beheld on Earth they gardened Heaven !

We print it as printed, note of admiration and all. In
a poem called Al Aaraafwe have it thus:

A gemmy flower,

Inmate of highest stars, where erst it shamed
All other loveliness ; 't was dropped from heaven
And fell on gardens of the unforgiven
In Trebizond.


William W. Lord

At page 57 Mr. Lord says:

On the old and haunted mountain,
There in dreams I dared to climb,

Where the clear Castalian fountain

(Silver fountain) ever tinkling

All the green around it sprinkling
Makes perpetual rhyme

To my dream enchanted, golden,

Came a vision of the olden
Long-forgotten time.

There are no doubt many of our friends who will
remember the commencement of our Haunted Palace s

In the greenest of our valleys

By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace

Radiant palace reared 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) .

At page 60 Mr. Lord says :

And the aged beldames napping,
Dreamed of gently rapping, rapping,
With a hammer gently tapping,
Tapping on an infant's skull.


William W. Lord

In The Raven we have it:

While I nodded nearly napping,
Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping,
Rapping at my chamber door.

But it is folly to pursue these thefts. As to any
property of our own, Mr. Lord is very cordially wel
come to whatever use he can make of it. But others
may not he so pacifically disposed, and the hook before
us might he very materially thinned and reduced in
cost hy discarding from it all that belongs to Miss Bar
rett, Tennyson, Keats, Shelley, Proctor, Longfellow,
and Lowell, the very class of poets, hy the way, whom
Mr. William W. Lord, in his New Castalia, the most
especially affects to satirize and to contemn.

It has heen rumored, we say, or, rather, it has been
announced that Mr. Lord is a graduate or, perhaps, a
professor of Princeton College, hut we have had much
difficulty in believing anything of the kind. The pages
before us are not only utterly devoid of that classicism
of tone and manner, that better species of classicism
which a liberal education never fails to impart, but
they abound in the most outrageously vulgar violations
of grammar, of prosody in its most extended sense.

Of versification, and all that appertains to it, Mr.
Lord is ignorant in the extreme. We doubt if he can
tell the difference between a dactyl and an anapaest.

William W. Lord

In the heroic (iambic) pentameter he is continually
introducing such verses as these :

A faint symphony to heaven ascending.

No heart of love, O God, Infinite One.

Of a thought as weak as aspiration.

Who were the original priests of this.

Of grace, magnificence, and power.

Overwhelm me ; this darkness that shuts out the sky.

Alexandrines, in the same metre, are encountered
at every step; but it is very clear from the points at
which they are met, and at which the caesura is placed,
that Mr. Lord has no idea of employing them as Alex
andrines: they are merely excessive, that is to say,
defective, pentameters. In a word, judging by his
rhythm, we might suppose that the poet could neither
see, hear, nor make use of his fingers. We do not
know, in America, a versifier so utterly wretched and

His most extraordinary sins, however, are in point of
English. Here is his dedication, embodied in the very
first page of the book :

" To Professor Albert B. Dod, These Poems, the off
spring of an Earnest (if ineffectual) Desire toward the
True and Beautiful, which were hardly my own by
Paternity, when they became his by Adoption, are in
scribed, with all Reverence and Affection by the

William W. Lord

What is anybody to make of all this ? What is the
meaning of a " desire toward ? " and is it the " True
and Beautiful " or the " Poems " which were hardly
Mr. Lord's " own by paternity before they became his
(Mr. Dod's) by adoption."

At page 12 we read :

Think, heedless one, or who with wanton step
Tramples the flowers.

At page 75, within the compass of eleven lines, we
have three of the grossest blunders :

O Thou for whom as in thyself Thou art,
And by thyself perceived, we know no name,
Nor dare not seek to express but unto us,
Adonai! who before the heavens were built
Or Earth's foundation laid, within thyself,
Thine own most glorious habitation dwelt,
But when within the abyss,
With sudden light illuminated,
Thou, thine image to behold,
Into its quickened depths
Looked down with brooding eye !

At page 79 we read :

But ah! my heart, unduteous to my will,
Breathes only sadness : like an instrument

From whose quick strings, when hands devoid of skill
Solicit joy, they murmur and lament.

At page 86 is something even grosser than this :

William W. Lord

And still and rapt as pictured saint might be,
Like saint' like seemed as her she did adore.

At page 129 there is a similar error:

With half-closed eyes and ruffled feathers known
As them that fly not with the changing year.

At page 128 we find:

And thou didst dwell therein so truly loved
As none have been nor shall be loved again,
And yet perceived not, etc.

At page 155 we have:

But yet it may not, cannot be

That thou at length hath sunk to rest.

Invariably Mr. Lord writes "didst" "did'st";
" couldst " " could'st," etc. The fact is, he is absurdly
ignorant of the commonest principles of grammar, and
the only excuse we can make to our readers for annoy
ing them with specifications in this respect is that,
without the specifications, we should never have been

But enough of this folly. We are heartily tired of
the book, and thoroughly disgusted with the impu
dence of the parties who have been aiding and abetting
in thrusting it before the public. To the poet himself
we have only to say, from any further specimens of
your stupidity, good Lord deliver us!

Some Secrets of the Magazine

want of an International Copyright Law,
by rendering it nearly impossible to obtain
anything from the booksellers in the way
of remuneration for literary labor, has had the effect
of forcing many of our best writers into the service of
the magazines and reviews, which, with a pertinacity
that does them credit, keep up in a certain or uncer
tain degree the good old saying, that even in the thank
less field of letters the laborer is worthy of his hire.
How by dint of what dogged instinct of the honest
and proper these journals have contrived to persist in
their paying practices, in the very teeth of the opposi
tion got up by the Fosters and Leonard Scotts, who
furnish for eight dollars any four of the British peri
odicals for a year, is a point we have had much diffi
culty in settling to our satisfaction, and we have been
forced to settle it at last upon no more reasonable


The Magazine Prison-House

ground than that of a still lingering esprit de patrie t
That magazines can live, and not only live but thrive,
and not only thrive but afford to disburse money for
original contributions, are facts which can only be
solved, under the circumstances, by the really fanci
ful, but still agreeable, supposition that there is some
where still existing an ember not altogether quenched
among the fires of good feeling for letters and literary
men that once animated the American bosom.

It would not do (perhaps this is the idea) to let our
poor-devil authors absolutely starve while we grow
fat, in a literary sense, on the good things of which we
unblushingly pick the pocket of all Europe; it would
not be exactly the thing comme il faut to permit a
positive atrocity of this kind; and hence we have
magazines, and hence we have a portion of the public
who subscribe to these magazines (through sheer pity),
and hence we have magazine publishers (who some
times take upon themselves the duplicate title of
" editor and proprietor ") publishers, we say, who,
under certain conditions of good conduct, occasional
puffs, and decent subserviency at all times, make it a
point of conscience to encourage the poor-devil author
with a dollar or two, more or less, as he behaves him
self properly and abstains from the indecent habit of
turning up his nose.

We hope, however, that we are not so prejudiced or
so vindictive as to insinuate that what certainly does

The Magazine Prison-House

look like illiberality on the part of them (the magazine
publishers) is really an illiberality chargeable to them.
In fact, it will be seen at once that what we have said
has a tendency directly the reverse of any such accusa
tion. These publishers pay something; other pub
lishers nothing at all. Here certainly is a difference,
although a mathematician might contend that the dif
ference might be infinitesimally small. Still, these
magazine editors and proprietors pay (that is the
word), and with your true poor-devil author the small
est favors are sure to be thankfully received. No:
the illiberality lies at the door of the demagogue-ridden
public, who suffer their anointed delegates (or, per
haps, arointed which is it ?) to insult the common
sense of them (the public) by making orations in our
national halls on the beauty and conveniency of rob
bing the Literary Europe on the highway, and on the
gross absurdity in especial of admitting so unprincipled
a principle that a man has any right and title either
to his own brains or to the flimsy material that he
chooses to spin out of them, like a confounded cater
pillar as he is. If anything of this gossamer charac
ter stands in need of protection, why, we have our
hands full at once with the silk-worms and the morus

But if we cannot, under the circumstances, complain
of the absolute illiberality of the magazine publishers
(since pay they do), there is at least one particular in


The Magazine Prison-House

which we have against them good grounds of accusa
tion. Why (since pay they must) do they not pay
with a good grace and promptly ? Were we in an ill-
humor at this moment we could a tale unfold which
would erect the hair on the head of Shylock. A young
author, struggling with despair itself in the shape of
a ghastly poverty which has no alleviation, no sym
pathy from an every-day world that cannot under
stand his necessities, and that would pretend not to
understand them if it comprehended them ever so well,
-this young author is politely requested to compose
an article, for which he will " be handsomely paid."
Enraptured, he neglects, perhaps for a month, the sole
employment which affords him the chance of a liveli
hood, and, having starved through the month (he and
his family), completes at length the month of starva
tion and the article, and despatches the latter, with a
broad hint about the former, to the pursy " editor "
and bottle-nosed " proprietor " who has condescended
to honor him (the poor devil) with his patronage. A
month (starving still), and no reply. Another month,
still none. Two months more, still none. A sec
ond letter, modestly hinting that the article may not
have reached its destination; still no reply. At the
expiration of six additional months, personal applica
tion is made at the " editor's " and " proprietor's "
office. Call again. The poor devil goes out, and does
not fail to call again. Still call again ; and call again


The Magazine Prison-House

is the word for three or four months more. His pa
tience exhausted, the article is demanded. No, he
can't have it (the truth is, it was too good to be
given up so easily), " it is in print," and " contributions
of this character are never paid for (it is a rule we have)
under six months after publication. Call in six months
after the issue of your affair, and your money is
ready for you for we are business men ourselves,
prompt." With this the poor devil is satisfied, and
makes up his mind that the " editor and proprietor " is
a gentleman, and that, of course, he (the poor devil) will
wait as requested. And it is supposable that he would
have waited if he could, but death in the meantime
would not. He dies, and by the good luck of his decease
(which came by starvation) the fat " editor and pro

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