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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 5
The Poetic Principle
On the other hand, it is clear that a poem may be improperly brief. Undue brevity degenerates into mere epigrammatism. A very short poem, while now and then producing a brilliant or vivid, never produces a profound or enduring effect. There must be the steady pressing down of the stamp upon the wax. De Beranger has wrought innumerable things, pungent and spirit-stirring, but in general they have been too imponderous to stamp themselves deeply into the public attention, and thus, as so many feathers of fancy, have been blown aloft only to be whistled down the wind.
A remarkable instance of the effect of undue brevity in depressing a poem, in keeping it out of the popular view, is afforded by the following exquisite little Serenade--
I arise from dreams of thee
The wandering airs they faint
O, lift me from the grass!
Very few perhaps are familiar with these lines--yet no less a poet than Shelley is their author. Their warm, yet delicate and ethereal imagination will be appreciated by all, but by none so thoroughly as by him who has himself arisen from sweet dreams of one beloved to bathe in the aromatic air of a southern midsummer night.
One of the finest poems by Willis -- the very best in my opinion which he has ever written--has no doubt, through this same defect of undue brevity, been kept back from its proper position. not less in the
The shadows lay along Broadway,
Peace charm'd the street beneath her feet,
She kept with care her beauties rare
Now walking there was one more fair --
No mercy now can clear her brow
In this composition we find it difficult to recognize the Willis who has written so many mere "verses of society." The lines are not only richly ideal, but full of energy, while they breathe an earnestness, an evident sincerity of sentiment, for which we look in vain throughout all the other works of this author.