Tales -, Volume 2

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Read Books, 2008 - Literary Collections - 340 pages
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THE MEASURED MOVEMENT OF THE PENDULUM DISTURBED THEM NOT AT ALL As HE NEARLY FAINTED AS HE GAZED . 268 THE TELL--TALE HEART RUE -nervous, - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am but why WILL you say that I am mad The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad Hearken and ob- serve how healthily -how calmly I can tell you the whole story. It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye I yes, it was this One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture, a pale blueeye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold and so by degrees, very gradualIy, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. Now, this is the point. You fancy me mad. Mad-men know nothing. But you should have seen ME. YOU should have seen how wisely I proceeded with what caution, with what foresight, with what dissimulation I went to work I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, 1 turned the latch of his door and opened it-oh, so gentIy And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, ail closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in I moved it slowly -very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old mans sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha would a mad- man have been so wise as this And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously - oh, so cautiously, cautiously for the hinges creaked I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye aIways closed and so it was impossible to do the work for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his evil eye. And every morning, when the day broke, l went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, l looked in upon him while he slept. Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watchs minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I FELT the extent of my own powers - of my sagacity. I could scarceIy contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea and perhaps he heard me for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back, but no..

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About the author (2008)

There has never been any doubt about Poe's enormous literary significance, but, with regard to his ultimate artistic merit, there has been considerable disagreement. To some he is little more than a successful charlatan, whose literary performances are only a virtuoso's display of stunning, but finally shallow, effects. Others, however, are struck by Poe's profound probing of the human psyche, his philosophical sophistication, and his revolutionary attitude toward literary language. No doubt both sides of this argument are in part true in their assessments. Poe's work is very uneven, sometimes reaching great literary heights, at other times striking the honest reader as meaningless, pathetic, or simply wrong-headed. This is not surprising, considering the personal turmoil that characterized so much of Poe's short life. Poe was extreme in his literary views and practices; balance and equilibrium were not literary values that he prized. Scorning the didactic element in poetry, Poe sought to separate beauty from morality. In his best poems, such as "The City in the Sea" (1836), he achieved an intensification of sound sufficient to threaten the common sense of the poetic line and release a buried, even a morbid, sense that would enchant the reader by the sonic pitch of the poem. Defining poetry as "the rhythmic creation of beauty," Poe not only sought the dream buried beneath the poetic vision---Coleridge had already done that---but also abandoned the moral rationale that gave the buried dream symbolic meaning. The dream, or nightmare, was itself the content of the verse. Some readers, however, such as T. S. Eliot, have found Poe's poetry extremely limited, both in its content and in its technique. While it is true that Poe was one of the few American poets to achieve international fame during the nineteenth century, critics point out that his influence on such literary movements as French symbolism and literary modernism was largely through the superb translations and criticisms of his writings by Baudelaire (see Vol. 2), Mallarme (see Vol. 2), and Valery (see Vol. 2). Poe's theory of the short story, as well as his own achievements in that genre, contributed substantially to the development of the modern short story, in Europe as well as in the United States. Poe himself regarded his talent for fiction writing as of less importance than his poetry and criticism. His public preferred his detective stories, such as "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842--1843) and "The Gold Bug" (1843); and his analytic tales, such as "A Descent into the Maelstrom" (1841), "The Black Cat" (1843), and "The Premature Burial" (1844). His own preference, however, was for the works of the imagination, such as "Ligeia" (1838), "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), and "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), tales of horror beyond that of the plausible kind found in the analytic stories. Just as with his poetry, however, readers have been strongly divided in their appreciation of the deeper worth of Poe's fiction. For many, they are at best merely an effective display in Gothicism, good horror stories, an enjoyable experience in vicarious terror, but nothing more. This was the view of Henry James, that other great nineteenth-century master of the ghost story, who claimed that "an enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection." But others have found in these carefully crafted pieces something far more profound, a way of seeing into our unconscious, that place where, for a while at least, terrifying conflicts coexist. As Poe so well put it himself in the preface to his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), "If in many of my productions terror has been the basis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany but of the soul.

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