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[66] The Haunted Palace, Dream-Land, The Raven, Ulalume, For Annie, and Annabel Lee. And most of his earlier verses are manifestly imitative, Byron and Moore and Coleridge and Shelley being his chief models; while much of his earlier work, including all of the volume of 1827, and some of his latest— notably the verses addressed to Mrs. Osgood and Mrs. Shew and Mrs. Lewis—are either fragmentary and ‘incondite’ or mere ‘verses,’ or both. It has been justly said that ‘there is almost no poet between whose best and worst verse there is a wider disparity.’1 His range, too, is narrower than that of any other American poet of front rank. Consistently with one of his theories already adverted to, he wrote no long poem, save the juvenile Tamerlane and Al Aaraaf, both of them extremely crude performances (though Al Aaraaf contains excellent passages and played a large part in his development as poet), and an abortive play, Politian, which he never saw fit to publish in its entirety; so that he lives as poet solely by reason of his lyrics. And within the realm of the lyric he confined himself to the narrowest range of ideas. Nature he employed merely as ornament or as symbol or to fill in the background; and nowhere in his poems does he deal with the life about him, except in so far as he writes of friends and kindred. His most constant theme—if we exclude the poet himself, for few writers have so constantly reflected themselves in their work—is either the death of a beautiful woman and the grief occasioned thereby, or the realm of shades—the spirit-world —a subject to which he was strongly attracted, especially in his middle years. Hence, although most European critics have accorded him first place among American poets, most American critics have hesitated to accept their verdict.

Much of the excellence of his best poems arises from the never-ending revisions to which he subjected them. The Raven, for example, exists in upwards of a dozen variant forms, and some of his earlier verses were so radically altered as to be scarcely recognizable in their final recast. His melody, especially in his later poems, grows in large measure out of his all but unexampled use of parallelism and of the refrain.2 Not a little of his charm, moreover, both in his earlier and in

1 J. M. Robertson, New essays, p. 76.

2 C. A. Smith, Repetition and parallelism in English Verse, pp. 44 f.

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