Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Philosophy of Composition".
- beauty and truth are incompatible
- the aim of fiction is Truth, i.e. the satisfaction of the Intellect
- the aim of poetry is Beauty, i.e. an intense and pure elevation of soul, not of intellect or of heart
- emphasizes forethought: every plot must be elaborated to its precision before anything is attempted with the pen
- denies some other poets' claim that they compose by a species of frenzy
- claims that his poem "The Raven" was composed by applying the following points:
- a long poem is in fact a succession of brief poems and of brief poetical effects
- limits the length of a poem to about 100 lines that can be read in a single sitting
- the effect of a poem must be Beauty, not Truth (demands precision), and not Passion (demands homeliness)
- Truth and Passion are antagonistic to Beauty
- consciousness should be filled with the object
- sadness, melancholy
(4) Artistic Effects, or Points
- keynote (refrain) must be monotone both in sound and thought
- the refrain must not be repeated by a human being, but by a beast
- rejects the idea of a parrot and prefers the raven
- the raven in equally capable of speech and is more in keeping with the intended tone
- the raven is also a bird of ill omen
- the refrain is pronounced at the moment when it has the meaning
- a close, to have force, must be sonorous (must include [o] and/or [r])
- the most melancholy topic is death, the most poetical topic is Beauty
- the best subject for a poem is the death of a beautiful woman
(6) Locale, or Setting
- it must be a close circumscription of space
- prefers indoor setting
- trochaic rhythm, octameter
- not original in itself, but the combination into stanza was never attempted before
- the raven is introduced by tapping at the door
- the student adopts the half-fancy that is is the spirit of his mistress
- contrast between the marble of the bust of Pallas and the plumage of the raven
- contrast between the whiteness of the bust and blackness of the bird
- Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, is related to the scholarship of the lover
- first: the student's nonchalance
- then: his superstition
- finally: his self-torture
- the student's address to the raven whether the lovers will meet in another world
AuthorPoe, Edgar Allen. (1809 - 1849).
Full Title"The Philosophy of Composition".
First PublishedIn: Philadelphia: Graham's Magazine, 1846.
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Philosophy of Composition". (1846). In: The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd Compact Edition. NY: Harper & Collins, 1996.