Whitman and Poe

“Toward the last i had among much else look’d over Edgar Poe’s poems — of which i was not an admirer, tho’ i always saw that beyond their limited range of melody (like perpetual chimes of music bells, ringing from lower b flat up to g) they were melodious expressions, and perhaps never excell’d ones, of certain pronounc’d phases of human morbidity. (The poetic area is very spacious– has room for all — has so many mansions!) But i was repaid in Poe’s prose by the idea that (at any rate for our occasions, our day) there can be no such thing as a long poem. The same thought had been haunting my mind before, but Poe’s argument, though short, work’d the sum out and proved it to me.”

Here is also a quote from Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition”

“Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which i deemed not above the popular, while not below the critical, taste, i reached at once what i conceived the proper length for my intented poem [The Raven] — a length of about one hundred lines. It is, in fact, a hundred and eight.”

In whitman’s quote, he seems to agree with Poe — that the longer the poem the less elevation it transmits, thus no long poem… i wonder if that is why Whitman’s poems are always broken into shorter sections… (except for section 33, which is quite a bit over a 100 lines, most of the other sections are fewer than 100….) — well, just wanted to throw that out there — found it odd that whitman would agree that there is no long poem when his poems are soooo long — perhaps the serialization is to illustrates the point; that the serial poem is a way to push the length and maintain the excitement and elevation….am curious what everyone else thinks


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