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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,
state 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
says is true. He has a pond in his garden full of herrings ! Ah! 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 mar
vellously 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. 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
sure—to which the English language is so little adaptedrenders it very difficult to do justice in it even to the finest poetry. The hexameter is the grave of poetry. It is the crowning monotony of writing. A sort of stale prose. An author like Mr. Longfellow should not deprive himself of so much fame, by pushing to the utmost a peculiarity by which he had attained, in so many quarters, a somewhat undeserved reputation. Imitation has been charged on all poets, and we know that the indignation of Robert Green was so soured by the appropriations of Shakspeare, that he denounced him “as a jay strutting about in our feathers, and fancying himself as the only Shakscene of the country.” This charge is always more or less true of a young author, and it is in the very nature of things : it arises from the very susceptibility of his system. The Beautiful is his idol ; his commonest thought is an anthem to her praise ; and, like a true disciple, he insensibly adopts the manner of the priest he has confessed to, till he himself becomes one of the elect. A curious volume of psychological biography is opened to our study if we trace the young poet to his progenitor. Life itself is an imitation: we are all copies of each other : the shades of difference are minute; and as in a herd of buffaloes one is scarcely distinguishable from another, yet each is as distinct in its own individuality as though one were an animalcule and the other a mastodon. The laws of the intellectual being are as recognisable as those of the physical, and we never yet heard the right of a separate existence denied to Julius Cæsar, Wellington, or Washington, on account of their having had a parent. On the same ground we claim individuality for