Page:Edgar Allan Poe - how to know him.djvu/212

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192 EDGAR ALLAN POE �is but a constant alternation of excitement and depres- sion. After a passage of what we feel to be true poetry, there follows, inevitably, a passage of platitude which no critical pre-judgment can force us to admire ; but if, upon completing the work, we read it again, omitting the first book that is to say, commencing with the second we shall be surprised at now finding that admirable which we before condemned that damnable which we had previously so much admired. It follows from all this that the ultimate, aggregate, or absolute effect of even the best epic under the sun, is a nullity : and this is precisely the fact. �In regard to the "Iliad," we have, if not positive proof, at least very good reason for believing it in- tended as a series of lyrics: but, granting the epic intention, I can say only that the work is based in an imperfect sense of art. The modern epic is, of the sup- posititious ancient model, but an inconsiderate and blind imitation. But the day of these artistic anom- alies is over. If, at any time, any very long poem were popular in reality, which I doubt, it is at least clear that no very long poem will ever be popular again. �That the extent of a poetical work is, ceteris pan- bus, the measure of its merit, seems undoubtedly, when we thus state it, a proposition sufficiently absurd yet we are indebted for it to the Quarterly Reviews. Surely there can be nothing in mere size, abstractly considered there can be nothing in mere bulk, so far as a volume is concerned, which has so continuously elicited admiration from these saturnine pamphlets! A mountain, to be sure, by the mere sentiment of phy- sical magnitude which it conveys, does impress us ��� �