Understanding Poe

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Understanding Poe

Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay on the creation of "The Raven," entitled "The Philosophy of Composition." The essay is a first-rate source of information concerning Poe's theories and practice, while providing all at once a model of analytical criticism. Poe describes the creation of his works much like a mathematical problem. The writer mocks the poets that claim they compose by a "species of fine frenzy". As we begin to identify with his composition we are able to see a guided principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste as is relates to "The Raven". It was important to Poe to make the "Raven" universally appreciable by both public and critics. As it relates, an important principle expressed in Poe' s composition is creating a single effect to his poems. Poe believed that a poem should not far exceed 100 lines and the reader should be able to not only finish reading the poem but also draw ones own conclusions of the work in one sitting. The "Raven" only being 108 lines gives the reader this satisfaction. Bearing in mind the structure of the poem we begin to understand the theme and topic of "The Raven" as it is expressed in the "Composition". Poe chose Beauty to be the theme of the poem, since "Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem" (Poe, 1296). After choosing Beauty as the province, Poe considered sadness to be the chief manifestation of beauty. "Beauty of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones" (Poe, 1296). Of all melancholy topics, Poe wanted to use the one that was universally understood, death. The writer believed that the death of a beautiful woman was the most poetical use of death, because it closely partners itself with beauty. Finally after establishing subjects and tones of the poem we are brought back most importantly to the structure of the poem as Poe writes it backwards.

As we...
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