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[67] his later work, results from his use of symbolism. It is idle to complain that his best verses—as Israfel or The haunted Palace —are superficial; and it is futile to contend that such poems as Annabel Lee or the sonnet To My mother are not sincere, or that his poems, one and all, lack spontaneity. But it is not to be denied that some of his best-known poems—as Lenore and The Raven—exhibit too much of artifice; that The Conqueror Worm and passages in still other poems approach too near to the melodramatic; and that, with many readers, his verses must suffer by reason of their sombreness of tone.

Poe's tales, which exceed in number his fully authenticated poems, have been held by some of the most judicious of his critics to constitute his chief claim to our attention.1 There are those who will not subscribe to this view, but it is plain that he was the most important figure in the history of the short story during his half-century. Hawthorne alone may be thought of as vying with him for this distinction; but although the New Englander is infinitely Poe's superior in some respects—as in the creation of character and in wholesomeness and sanity—he must yield place to him in the creation of incident, in the construction of plot, and in the depicting of an intensely vivid situation. Whether or not we allow Poe the distinction of having invented the short story will depend on our interpretation of terms; but at least he invented the detective story, and more than any other he gave to the short story its vogue in America.

Like his poems, his tales are notably unequal. Some of his earlier efforts—especially his satirical and humorous extravaganzas, as Lionizing and Bon-Bon—are properly to be characterized as rubbish; and he was capable in his later years of descending to such inferior work as The Sphinx, Mellonta Tauta, and X-ing a Paragrab. One feels, indeed, that Lowell's famous characterization of him:

Three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge,

applies with entire justice to him as a maker of short stories. The best of his narrative work is to be found in his analytical

1 E. C. Stedman in the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe, Vol. x, p. XIII; and Robertson,l.c., p. 75.

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