Edgar Allan Poe and poetic sentiment

annabel_1850The soul of poetry and the soul of art originate from those persons who are sometimes identified, knowingly or unwittingly, as sentimental idealists. And though this label may have pinched the reader, for there are some who would not wish to be considered sentimental, it bears further scrutiny. This ‘sentiment’ is not to be confused with being soft, sappy, nor mushy, but rather a sentiment that indulges the senses and emotions excessively. Such feelings can influence our intellectual or emotional consciousness and depending upon the value we extend to it, we assign these sentiments different names: beauty, pleasure, awe, love, and the like.

As we look back through time and then proceed again forward to the present, opinions of what we believe as having artistic merit and sentiment may have changed. It is here that sets us to wonder; why some artists and authors and musicians were elevated to the highest level of admiration, why some continue to balance upon the pinnacle of fame even after so many centuries, and why those who were once considered great have been relegated to a mere footnote. How is it that our tastes have been so radically altered through the ages, for that which was considered sweet is now bitter? Such a paradox, for sugar still sweetens our tea and a lemon still puckers our lips, yet a poem that once heightened emotions of our ancestors now lies dormant upon the pages like a solemn epitaph.

Alas, there seems to be no real answer only opinions and ideas to be considered. Yet we will continue to nourish our imaginations and hope that we will be roused by those who remain timelessly sentimental…

Edgar Allan Poe 2 Today’s blog brings back America’s great author, the esteemed Edgar Allan Poe (b. Boston 1809-1849). One of the greatest and most influential poet and short story writers of the early 1800s, Poe’s literary genius crosses over into other genres of writing which include critical essays.

In his essay titled “The Poetic Principal”, Poe indulges the reader by providing his critical view and rational pertaining to contemporary poetry and fundamental elements of poetry. I now present a bit of Mr. Poe, and hope that you will take time from your busy day to enjoy his thoughts about Poetic Sentiment and the poet.

“… The Poetic Sentiment, of course, may develop itself in various modes—in Painting, in Sculpture, in Architecture, in the Dance—very especially in Music,—and very peculiarly and with a wide field, in the composition of the Landscape Garden….

We shall reach, however, more immediately a distinct conception of what the true Poetry is, by mere reference to a few of the simple elements which induce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect. He recognizes the ambrosia, which nourishes his soul, in the bright orbs that shine in Heaven, in the volutes of the flower, in the clustering of low shrubberies, in the waving of the grain-fields, in the slanting of the tall, Eastern trees, in the blue distance of mountains, in the grouping of clouds, in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks, in the gleaming of silver rivers, in the repose of sequestered lakes, in the star-mirroring depths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds, in the harp of Aeolus, in the sighing of the night-wind, in the repining voice of the forest, in the surf that complains to the shore, in the fresh breath of the woods, in the scent of the violet, in the voluptuous perfume of the hyacinth, in the suggestive odor that comes to him at eventide from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over dim oceans, illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble thoughts, in all unworldly motives, in all holy impulses, in all chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman, in the grace of her step, in the lustre of her eye, in the melody of her voice, in her soft laughter, in her sigh, in the harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels it in her winning endearments, in her burning enthusiasms, in her gentle charities, in her meek and devotional endurances; but above all—ah! far above all—he kneels to it, he worships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty of her love…”

First Image: The cover of the January, 1850 Sartain’s Union Magazine, Philadelphia, which contained the first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”.

Esteemed thinker: Edgar Allan Poe

raven Producers of creative works, may they be literary, visual, theatrical, musical, or any other artistic forms, are all open to interpretation. There are no disclaimers on their product such as those printed on food labels containing peanuts: “this product may cause allergic reactions”. Rather, the work is completed and delivered like an artist stepping out of the shower nude; for without any coverings or explanations the receiver simply accepts or rejects what is presented to them.

The hurried visitor at a museum may scan the walls as one may scan the shelves of the grocery store looking for just the right item that will satisfy their gastronomical craving. The patron of the book store may glance at the illustrations on the book covers searching for just the right image that catches their eye, and the driver in the car may select a song to listen to at the same pace they are driving. Yet regardless of how the selection was chosen, the hours spent during preparation by the artist may never be known nor revealed. For works of art often take on the persona of “a grown up” even though they were nurtured and developed like “someone’s baby”.

For those who create the element of time to arrive at the end product is the “art”. The ponderings, the self-musings, the formal course of action, the step by step workings; all these intimate processes are embedded into the work. And though not noticeable to the eye, or audible to the ear, they are invisibly woven into the piece like a soul.

edgar allen poe Today’s post invites you to join a most esteemed thinker: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849 b. Boston, Massachusetts) American short story writer, poet, and critic; a most remarkable author whose individual name alone sets our very own minds reeling with wonderment. A man who claims so much interest to readers that many of the tales about his life often rival in fascination the stories he has written. Poe earned the title of “father of detective stories,” when in late 1830s, he published “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque”, a collection of stories containing several of his most sensational and macabre tales, one of which was “The Fall of the House of Usher”. In 1841 with the publication of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a new genre of detective story was discovered inviting the solving of crimes with the help of codes and ciphers. Poe became a literary sensation in 1845 with the publication of the poem “The Raven,” considered one of the great American literary works.

I now give you a portion of his essay snipped from his piece “The Philosophy of Composition”; a work that will neither tingle your spine nor keep you up at night, but rather tempts you to look at his ‘critical’ side. I present to you Mr. Poe, not the story teller, but rather the observer and examiner of the art he understood and created so perfectly… writing.

“…I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any author who would—that is to say, who could—detail, step by step, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given to the world, I am much at a loss to say—but, perhaps, the autorial vanity has had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Most writers—poets in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy—an ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought—at the true purposes seized only at the last moment—at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view—at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable—at the cautious selections and rejections—at the painful erasures and interpolations—in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene-shifting—the step-ladders and demon-traps—the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, constitute the properties of the literary histrio…

I am aware, on the other hand, that the case is by no means common, in which an author is at all in condition to retrace the steps by which his conclusions have been attained. In general, suggestions, having arisen pell-mell, are pursued and forgotten in a similar manner.

For my own part, I have neither sympathy with the repugnance alluded to, nor, at any time, the least difficulty in recalling to mind the progressive steps of any of my compositions; and, since the interest of an analysis, or reconstruction, such as I have considered a desideratum, is quite independent of any real or fancied interest in the thing analyzed, it will not be regarded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the modus operandi by which some one of my own works was put together…”

First image: U.S. Lithograph Co., c1908.
Second image: 1896, Edgar Allan Poe, head-and-shoulders portrait by William Sartain, mezzotint