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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 com
mon 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.

III.

Mr. Hudson, among innumerable blunders, attrib
utes to Sir Thomas Brown, the paradox of Tertul-
Han in his De Carne Christi "Mortmis est Dei
filus, credible est quia ineptum est; et sepulius resur-
rexit, cerium est quia impossibik est."

IV.

After reading all that has been written, and after
thinking all that can be thought, on the topics of
God and the soul, the man who has a right to say
that he thinks at all, will find himself face to face with
the conclusion that, on these topics, the most pro
found thought is that which can be the least easily
distinguished from the most superficial sentiment.



MARGINALIA 57

V.

That punctuation is important all agree; but how
few comprehend the extent of its importance ! The
writer who neglects punctuation, or mis-punctuates,
is liable to be misunderstood this, according to the
popular idea, is the sum of the evils arising from
heedlessness or ignorance. It does not seem to be
known that, even where the sense is perfectly clear,
a sentence may be deprived of half its force its
spirit its point by improper punctuations. For
the want of merely a comma, it often occurs that an
axiom appears a paradox, or that a sarcasm is con
verted into a sermonoid. There is no treatise on the
topic and there is no topic on which a treatise is
more needed. There seems to exist a vulgar notion
that the subject is one of pure conventionality, and
cannot be brought within the limits of intelligible
and consistent rule. And yet, if fairly looked in the
face, the whole matter is so plain that its rationale
may be read as we run. If not anticipated, I shall
hereafter, make an attempt at a magazine paper on
"The Philosophy of Point." In the meantime let
me say a word or two of the dash. Every writer
for the press, who has any sense of the accurate,
must have been frequently mortified and vexed at
the distortion of his sentences by the printer s now
general substitution of a semicolon, or comma,
for the dash of the MS. The total or nearly total
disuse of the latter point, has been brought about by
the revulsion consequent upon its excessive employ
ment about twenty years ago. The Byronic poets
were all dash. John Neal, in his earlier novels, ex
aggerated its use into the grossest abuse although
his very error arose from the philosophical and self-
dependent spirit which has always distinguished



58 EDGAR ALLAN POE

him, and which will even yet lead him, if I am not
greatly mistaken in the man, to do something for the
literature of the country which the country "will not
willingly," and cannot possibly, "let die." With
out entering now into the why, let me observe that
the printer may always ascertain when the dash of
the MS. is properly and when improperly employed,
by bearing in mind that this point represents a
second thought an emendation. In using it just
above I have exemplified its use. The words "an
emendation" are, speaking with reference to gram
matical construction, put in apposition with the
words "a second thought." Having written these
latter words, I reflected whether it would not be
possible to render their meaning more distinct by cer
tain other words. Now, instead of erasing the phrase
"a second thought," which is of some use which
partially conveys the idea intended which advances
me a step toward my full purpose I suffer it to
remain, and merely put a dash between it and the
phrase "an emendation." The dash gives the reader
a choice between two, or among three or more ex-
pressions, one of which may be more forcible than
another, but all of which help out the idea. It
stands, in general, for these words or, to make my
meaning more distinct." This force it has and this
force no other point can have ; since all other points
have well-understood uses quite different from this.
Therefore, the dash cannot be dispensed with. It
has its phases its variation of the force described;
but the one principle that of second thought or
emendation will be found at the bottom of all.

VI.

Diana s Temple at Ephesus having been burnt
on the night in which Alexander was born, some



MARGINALIA



59



person observed that "it was no wonder, since, at
the period of the conflagration, she was gossiping at
Pella." Cicero commends this as a witty conceit
Plutarch condemns it as useless and this is the one
point in which I agree with the biographer.

VII.

Until we analyze a religion, or a philosophy, in
respect of its inducements, independently of its ra
tionality, we shall never be in condition to estimate
that religion, or that philosophy, by the mere num
ber of its adherents : unluckily,

No Indian Prince has to his palace

More followers than a thief to the gallows.

VIII.

"If in anv point," says Lord Bacon, "I have
receded from what is commonly received, it hath been
for the purpose of proceeding melius and not in
aliud" but the character assumed, in general, by
modern "Reform" is, simply, that of Opposition.

IX.

A strong argument for the religion of Christ is
this that offences against Charity are about the
only ones which men on their death-beds can be
made not to understand but to feel as crime.

X.

The effect derivable from well-managed rhyme-
is very imperfectly understood. Conventionally
"rhyme implies merely close similarity of sound at



60 EDGAR ALLAN POE

the ends of verse, and it is really curious to observe
how long mankind have been content with their
limitation of the idea. What, in rhyme, first and
principally pleases, may be referred to the human
sense or appreciation of equality the common ele
ment, as might be easily shown, of all the gratification
we derive from music in its most extended sense
very especially in its modifications of metre and
rhythm. We see, for example, a crystal, and are
immediately interested by the equality between the
sides and angles of one of its faces but, on bringing
to view a second face, in all respects similar to the
first, our pleasure seems to be squared on bringing
to view a third, it appears to be cubed, and so on:
I have no doubt, indeed, that the delight experienced,
if measurable, would be found to have exact mathe
matical relations, such, or nearly such, as I suggest
that is to say, as far as a certain point, beyond which
there would be a decrease, in similar relations. Now
here, as the ultimate result of analysis, we reach
the sense of mere equality, or rather the human de
light in this sense; and it was an instinct, rather
than a clear comprehension of this delight as a
principle, which, in the first instance, led the poet
to attempt an increase of the effect arising from the
mere similarity (that is to say equality) between two
sounds led him, I say, to attempt increasing this
effect by making a secondary equalization, in placing
the rhymes at equal distances that is, at the ends
of lines of equal length. In this manner, rhyme
and the termination of the line grew connected in
men s thoughts grew into a conventionalism
the principle being lost sight of altogether. And
it was simply because Pindaric verses had, before
this epoch, existed i. e., verses of unequal length
that rhymes were subsequently found at unequal dis-



MARGINALIA 61

tances. It was for this reason solely, I say for none
more profound. Rhyme had come to be regarded
as of right appertaining to the end of verse and
here we complain that the matter has finally rested.
But it is clear that there was much more to be con
sidered. So far, the sense of equality alone, entered
the effect; or, if this equality was slightly varied,
it was varied only through an accident the accident
of the existence of Pindaric metres. It will be seen
that the rhymes were always anticipated. The eye,
catching the end of a verse, whether long or short,
expected, for the ear, a rhyme. The great element
of unexpectedness was not dreamed of that is to
say, of novelty of originality. "But," says Lord
Bacon, (how justly!) "there is no exquisite beauty
without some strangeness in the proportions. Take
away this element of strangeness of unexpectedness
of novelty of originality call it what we will
and all that is ethereal in loveliness is lost at once.
We lose we miss the unknown the vague the
uncomprehended, because offered before we have
time to examine and comprehend. We lose, in
short, all that assimilates the beauty of earth with
what we dream of the beauty of Heaven. Perfec
tion of rhyme is attainable only in the combination
of the two elements, Equality and Unexpectedness.
But as evil cannot exist without good, so unexpect
edness must arise from expectedness. We do not
contend for mere arbitrariness of rhyme. In the
first place, we must have equi-distant or regularly
recurring rhymes, to form the basis, expectedness,
out of which arises the element, unexpectedness, by
the introduction of rhymes, not arbitrarily, but with
an eye to the greatest amount of unexpectedness.
We should not introduce them, for example, at such
points that the entire line is a multiple of the syl-



62 EDGAR ALLAN POE

lables preceding the points. When, for instance, 1
write

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple
curtain,

I produce more, to be sure, but not remarkably more
than the ordinary effect of rhymes regularly recur
ring at the ends of lin.es; for the number of syllables
in the whole verse is merely a multiple of the num
ber of syllables preceding the rhyme introduced at
the middle, and there is still left, therefore, a certain
degree of expectedness. What there is of the ele
ment, unexpectedness, is addressed, in fact, to the
eye only for the ear divides the verse into two
ordinary lines, thus :

And the silken, sad, uncertain
Rustling of each purple curtain.

I obtain, however, the whole effect of unexpected
ness, when I write

Thrilled me, filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.

N. B. It is very commonly supposed that rhyme,
as it now ordinarily exists, is of modern invention
but see the "Clouds of Aristophanes." Hebrew
verse, however, did not include it the terminations,
of the lines, where most distinct, never showing any
thing of the kind.

XL

Paulus Jovius, living in those benighted times
when diamond-pointed styluses were as yet un
known, thought proper, nevertheless, to speak of his
goosequill as " aliquando ferreus , aureus aliquando"
intending, of course, a mere figure of speech; and



MARGINALIA 63

from the class of modern authors who use really noth
ing to write with but steel and gold, some, no doubt,
will let their pens, vice versa, descend to posterity un
der the designation of "anserine" of course, in
tending always a mere figure of speech.

XII.

The Carlyle-ists should adopt, as a motto, the in
scription on the old bell from whose metal was cast
the Great Tom, of Oxford: "In Thames laude
resono Bim! Bom! sine fraude": and "Bim!
Bom," in such case, would be a marvellous "echo of
sound to sense."

XIII.

An infinity of error makes its way into our Phi
losophy, through Man s habit of considering himself
a citizen of a world solely of an individual plane
instead of at least occasionally contemplating
his position as cosmopolite proper as a denizen
of the universe.

XIV.

Talking of puns: "Why do they not give us
quail for dinner, as usual?" demanded Count Fessis,
the other day, of H , the classicist and sports
man.

"Because at this season," replied H , who was

dozing, "qualis sopor fessis." (Quail is so poor,
Fessis.)

XV.

The German "Schwarmerei" not exactly "hum
bug," but "sky-rocketing" seems to be the only
term by which we can conveniently designate that-



64 EDGAR ALLAN POE

peculiar style of criticism which has lately come into
fashion, through the influence of certain members of
the Fabian family people who live (upon beans)
about Boston.



XVI.

Some Frenchman possibly Montaigne says:
4 People talk about thinking, but for my part I never
think, except when I sit down to write." It is this
never thinking, unless when we sit down to write,
which is the cause of so much indifferent composition.
But perhaps there is something more involved in the
Frenchman s observation than meets the eye. It is
certain that the mere act of inditing, tends, in a great
degree, to the logicalization of thought. Whenever,
on account of its vagueness, I am dissatisfied with
a conception of the brain, I resort forthwith to the
pen, for the purpose of obtaining, through its aid,
the necessary form, consequence and precision.

How very commonly we hear it remarked, that
such and such thoughts are beyond the compass
of words! I do not believe that any thought,
properly so called, is out of the reach of language.
I fancy, rather, that where difficulty in expression is
experienced, there is, in the intellect which experiences
it, a want either of deliberateness or of method. For
my own part, I have never had a thought which I
could not set down in words, with even more dis
tinctness than that with which I conceived it : as I
have before observed, the thought is logicalized by
the effort at (written) expression. There is, however,
a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not
thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it ab
solutely impossible to adapt language. I use the
word fancies at random, and merely because I must



MARGINALIA 65

use some word; but the idea commonly attached to
the term is not even remotely applicable to the shad
ows of shadows in question. They seem to me rather
psychal than intellectual. They arise in the soul
(alas, how rarely !) only at its epochs of most intense
tranquillity when the bodily and mental health are
in perfection and at those mere points of time
where the confines of the waking world blend with
those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these
"fancies" only when I am upon the very brink of
sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. I have
satisfied myself that this condition exists but for an
inappreciable point of time yet it is crowded with
these "shadows of shadows"; and for absolute
thought there is demanded time s endurance. These
"fancies" have in them a pleasurable ecstasy, as
far beyond the most pleasurable of the world of
wakefulness, or of dreams, as the heaven of the
Northman theology is beyond its hell. I regard
the visions, even as they arise, with an awe which,
in some measure, moderates or tranquillizes the ec
stasy I so regard them, through a conviction (which
seems a portion of the ecstasy itself) that this ecstasy
in itself, is of a character supernal to the human
nature is a glimpse of the spirit s outer world; and
I arrive at this conclusion if this term is at all
applicable to instantaneous intuition by a perception
that the delight experienced has , as its element,
but the absoluteness of novelty. I say the absolute
ness for in these fancies let me now term them
psychal impressions there is really nothing even
approximate in character to impressions ordinarily
received. It is as if the five senses were supplanted
by five myriad others alien to mortality.

Now, so entire is my faith in the power of words,
that, at times, I have believed it impossible to em-
VOL. VII 5



66 EDGAR ALLAN POE

body even the evanescence of fancies such as I have
attempted to describe. In experiments with this
end in view, I have proceeded so far as, first, to con
trol (when the bodily and mental health are good)
the existence of the condition : that is to say, I can
now (unless when ill) be sure that the condition will
supervene, if I so wish it, at the point of time already
described: of its supervention, until lately, I
could never be certain, even under the most favor
able circumstances. I mean to say, merely, that
now I can be sure, when all circumstances are favor
able, of the supervention of the condition, and feel
even the capacity of inducing or compelling it : the
favorable circumstances, however, are not the less
rare else had I compelled, already, the heaven into
the earth.

I have proceeded so far, secondly, as to prevent
the lapse from the point of which I speak the point
of blending between wakefulness and sleep as to
prevent at will, I say, the lapse from this border-
ground into the dominion of sleep. Not that I can
continue the condition not that I can render the
point more than a point but that I can startle
myself from the point into wakefulness; and thus
transfer the point itself into the realm of Memory;
convey its impressions, or more properly their rec
ollections, to a situation where (although still for
a very brief period) I can survey them with the eye
of analysis. For these reasons that is to say,
because I have been enabled to accomplish thus
much I do not altogether despair of embodying in
words at least enough of the fancies in question to
convey, to certain classes of intellect, a shadowy
conception of their character. In saying this I am
not to be understood as supposing that the fancies,
or psychal impressions, to which I allude, are con-



MARGINALIA 67

fined to my individual self are not, in a word, com
mon to all mankind for on this point it is quite
impossible that I should form an opinion but noth
ing can be more certain than that even a partial rec
ord of the impressions would startle the universal
intellect of mankind, by the supremeness of the
novelty of the material employed, and of its conse
quent suggestions. In a word should I ever write
a paper on this topic, the world will be compelled
to acknowledge that, at last, I have done an original
thing.

XVII.

In the way of original, striking, and well-sustained
metaphor, we can call to mind few finer things than
this to be found in James Puckle s "Gray Cap for a
Green head": "In speaking of the dead, so fold
up your discourse that their virtues may be out
wardly shown, while their vices are wrapped up in
silence."

XVIII.

Talking of inscriptions how admirable was the
one circulated at Paris, for the equestrian statue of
Louis XV., done by Pigal and Bouchardon "Statua
Status "

XIX.

"This is right," says " .curus, "precisely because
the people are displeased with it."

"// y a d parier," says Chamfort one of the
Kamkars of Mirabeau "que toute idee publique
toute convention recue est une sotlise car elle a con-
venue au plus grand nombre."

"St proficere cupis," says the great African bishop,



68 EDGAR ALLAN POE

"primo id verum puta quod sana mens omnium
hominum attestatur."
Now,

Who shall decide where Doctors disagree?

To me it appears that, in all ages, the most prepos
terous falsities have been received as truths by at
least the mens omnium hominum. As for the sana
mens how are we ever to determine what that is?

XX.

This book* could never have been popular out of
Germany. It is too simple too direct too obvious
too bold not sufficiently complex to be relished
by any people who have thoroughly passed the first
(or impulsive) epoch of literary civilization. The
Germans have not yet passed this first epoch. It
must be remembered that during the whole of the
middle ages they lived in utter ignorance of the art of
writing. From so total a darkness, of so late a date,
they could not, as a nation, have as yet fully emerged
into the second or critical epoch. Individual Ger
mans have been critical in the best sense but the
masses are unleavened. Literary Germany thus
presents the singular spectacle of the impulsive spirit
surrounded by the critical, and, of course, in some
measure influenced thereby. England, for example,
has advanced far, and France much farther, into the
critical epoch; and their effect on the German mind
is seen in the widely anomalous condition of the Ger
man literature at large. That this latter will be
improved by age, however, should never be main
tained. As the impulsive spirit subsides, and the

* "Thiodolf, the Icelander and Aslauga s Knight." No.
60 of Wiley & Putnam s Foreign Series of "The Library of
Choice Reading."



MARGINALIA 69

critical uprises, there will appear the polished insi
pidity of the later England, or that ultimate throe of
taste which has found its best exemplification in Sue.
At present the German literature resembles no other
on the face of the earth for it is the result of cer
tain conditions which, before this individual instance
of their fulfilment, have never been fulfilled. And
this anomalous state to which I refer is the source of
our anomalous criticism upon what that state pro
duces is the source of the grossly conflicting opin
ions about German letters. For my own part, I
admit the German vigor, the German directness,
boldness, imagination, and some other qualities
of impulse, just as I am willing to admit and admire
these qualities in the first (or impulsive) epochs of
British and French letters. At the German criti
cism, however, I cannot refrain from laughing all
the more heartily, all the more seriously I hear it
praised. Not that, in detail, it affects me as an ab
surdity but in the adaptation of its details. It
abounds in brilliant bubbles of suggestion, but these
rise and sink and jostle each other, until the whole
vortex of thought in which they originate is one in
distinguishable chaos of froth. The German criti
cism is unsettled, and can only be settled by time.
At present it suggests without demonstrating, or con
vincing, or effecting any definite purpose under the
sun. We read it, rub our foreheads, and ask
"What then?" I am not ashamed to say that I
prefer even Voltaire to Goethe, and hold Macaulay
to possess more of the true critical spirit than Augus
tus William and Frederick Schlegel combined.
"Thiodolf" is called by Foqu6 his "most success
ful work." He woulc not have spoken thus had he
considered it his best. It is admirable of its kind
but its kind can never oe appreciated by Americans.



70 EDGAR ALLAN POE

It will affect them much as would a grasp of the
hand from a man of ice. Even the exquisite "Un
dine" is too chilly for our people, and, generally,
for our epoch. We have less imagination and
warmer sympathies than the age which preceded us.
It would have done Foqu6 more ready and fuller
justice than ours. Has any one remarked the
striking similarity in tone between "Undine" and
the "Libussa" of Musceus?

XXI.

What can be more soothing, at once to a man s
Pride and to his Conscience, than the conviction,
that, in taking vengeance on his enemies for *jus-
tice done him, he has simply to do them justice m
return ?

XXII.

Bielfeld, the author of "Les Premiers Traits de
L* Erudition Universelle," defines poetry as "Tart
d exprimer les penstes par la fiction." The Germans
have two works in full accordance with this definition
absurd as it is the terms Dichtkunst, the art of
fiction, and Dichten, to feign which are generally
used for poetry and to make verses.

XXIII.

Brown, in his "Amusements," speaks of having
transfused the blood of an ass into the veins of an
astrological quack and there c;,n be no doubt that
one of Hague s progenitors wa> the man.

XXIV.

The chief portion of Profess >r Espy s theory has
been anticipated by Roger Ba on.



MARGINALIA 71

XXV.

Whatever may be the merits or demerits, generally,
of the Magazine Literature of America, there can be
no question as to its extent or influence. The
Topic Magazine Literature is therefore an im
portant one. In a few years its importance will be
found to have increased in geometrical ratio. The
whole tendency of the age is Magazine-ward. The
Quarterly Reviews have never been popular. Not
only are they too stilted, (by way of keeping up a due
dignity,) but they make a point, with the same end
in view, of discussing only topics which are caviare
to the many, and which, for the most part, have
only a conventional interest even with the few.
Their issues, also, are at too long intervals, their sub
jects get cold before being served up. In a word,
their ponderosity is quite out of keeping with the
rusk of the age. We now demand the light artillery
of the intellect: we need the curt, the condensed, the
pointed, the readily diffused in place of the ver


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