Edgar A. Poe and Henry C. Watson (essay date 1845)
SOURCE: A review of The Lost Pleiad; and other Poems, in The Broadway Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, August 2, 1845, pp. 55-6.
[Considered one of America's outstanding men of letters, Poe was a distinguished poet, novelist, essayist, journalist, short story writer, editor, and critic. In the following essay, Poe and Watson assess Chivers's The Lost Pleiad; and Other Poems, stating that many of the poems in the volume possess "merit of a very lofty—if not the very loftiest order."]
This volume is evidently the honest and fervent utterance of an exquisitely sensitive heart which has suffered much and long. The poems are numerous, but the thesis is one—death—the death of beloved friends. The poet seems to have dwelt among the shadows of tombs, until his very soul has become a shadow. Here, indeed, is no mere Byronic affectation of melancholy. No man who has ever mourned the loss of a dear friend, can read these poems without instantly admitting the palpable truth which glows upon every page.
The tone of the composition is, in these latter days, a marvel, and as a marvel we commend it to our readers. It belongs to the first era of a nation's literature—to the era of impulse—in contra-distinction to the era of criticism—to the Chaucerian rather than to the Cowperian days. As for the trans-civilization epoch, Doctor Chivers' poems have really nothing of affinity with it—and this we look upon as the greatest miracle of all. Is it not, indeed, a miracle that today a poet shall compose sixty or seventy poems, in which there shall be discoverable no taint—absolutely none—of either Byron, or Shelley, or Wordsworth, or Coleridge, or Tennyson? In a word, the volume before us is the work of that rara avis, an educated, passionate, yet unaffectedly simple-minded and single-minded man, writing from his own vigorous impulses—from the necessity of giving utterance to poetic passion—and thus writing not to mankind, but solely to himself. The whole volume has, in fact, the air of a rapt soliloquy.
We have leisure this week only to give, without comment, a few extracts at random—but we shall take an opportunity of recurring to the subject.
I hear thy spirit calling unto me
From out the Deep,
Like Arcbytas from out Venetia's Sea,
While I here weep;
Saying, Come, strew my body with the sand,
And bury me upon the land, the land!
Oh, never, never more! no, never more!
Lost in the Deep!
Will thy sweet beauty visit this dark shore,
While I here weep;
For thou art gone forever more from me,
Sweet Mariner! lost—murdered by the Sea!
Ever—forever more, bright, glorious One!
Drowned in the Deep!
In Spring-time—Summer—Winter—all alone—
Must I here weep!
(The entire section is 1243 words.)