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Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Poetical Works eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 182 pages of information about Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Poetical Works.
One word first, my Una, in regard to man’s general condition at this epoch.  You will remember that one or two of the wise among our forefathers—­wise in fact, although not in the world’s esteem—­had ventured to doubt the propriety of the term “improvement,” as applied to the progress of our civilization.  There were periods in each of the five or six centuries immediately preceding our dissolution when arose some vigorous intellect, boldly contending for those principles whose truth appears now, to our disenfranchised reason, so utterly obvious —­principles which should have taught our race to submit to the guidance of the natural laws rather than attempt their control.  At long intervals some master-minds appeared, looking upon each advance in practical science as a retrogradation in the true utility.  Occasionally the poetic intellect—­that intellect which we now feel to have been the most exalted of all—­since those truths which to us were of the most enduring importance could only be reached by that analogy which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone, and to the unaided reason bears no weight—­occasionally did this poetic intellect proceed a step farther in the evolving of the vague idea of the philosophic, and find in the mystic parable that tells of the tree of knowledge, and of its forbidden fruit, death-producing, a distinct intimation that knowledge was not meet for man in the infant condition of his soul.  And these men—­the poets—­living and perishing amid the scorn of the “utilitarians”—­of rough pedants, who arrogated to themselves a title which could have been properly applied only to the scorned—­these men, the poets, pondered piningly, yet not unwisely, upon the ancient days when our wants were not more simple than our enjoyments were keen—­days when mirth was a word unknown, so solemnly deep-toned was happiness—­holy, august, and blissful days, blue rivers ran undammed, between hills unhewn, into far forest solitudes, primeval, odorous, and unexplored.  Yet these noble exceptions from the general misrule served but to strengthen it by opposition.  Alas! we had fallen upon the most evil of all our evil days.  The great “movement”—­that was the cant term—­went on:  a diseased commotion, moral and physical.  Art—­the Arts—­arose supreme, and once enthroned, cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated them to power.  Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty of Nature, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and still-increasing dominion over her elements.  Even while he stalked a God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him.  As might be supposed from the origin of his disorder, he grew infected with system, and with abstraction.  He enwrapped himself in generalities.  Among other odd ideas, that of universal equality gained ground; and in the face of analogy and of God—­in despite of the loud warning voice of the laws of gradation so visibly pervading all things in
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