Sunday, December 4, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 37.1 (Edgar Allan Poe)

Essays and Reviews
Poe, Edgar Allan
Essays and Reviews

Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Book Store.

This book has one, thin, orange post-it index note that wraps around page 11 and onto page 12, suggesting I marked it. It seems to be marking off two paragraphs in which Poe is discussing poetry. Instead of writing anything myself, I'll just leave you this morning with these.

from Letter to B–

What is poetry?–Poetry! that Proteus-like idea, with as many appellations as the nine-titled Corcyra! Give me, I demanded of a scholar some time ago, give me a definition of poetry? "Tres-volontiers,"–and he proceeded to his library, brought me a Dr. Johnson, and overwhelmed me with a definition. Shade of the immortal Shakespeare! I imagined to myself the scowl of your spiritual eye upon the profanity of that scurrilous Ursa Major. Think of poetry, dear B–, think of poetry, and then think of–Dr. Samuel Johnson! Think of all that is airy and fairy-like, and then of all that is hideous and unwieldy; think of his huge bulk, the Elephant! and then–and then think of the Tempest–Midsummer Night's Dream–Prospero–Oberon–and Titania!

***

A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as the object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without music is prose from its very definitiveness.

What was meant by the invective against him who had no music in his soul?

***

To sum up this long rigmarole, I have, dear B–, what you no doubt perceive, for the metaphysical poets, as poets, the most sovereign contempt. That they have followers proves nothing–

          No Indian prince has to his palace
          More followers than a thief to the gallows.

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