By Eric Nicholson
Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay, ‘The Philosophy of Composition’, in which he details the writing of his sensational poem ‘The Raven’. If we are to believe the account, he carefully planned the theme, the setting, the metre and every poetic effect – ‘each step with the precision of a mathematical problem’. He downplayed the role of intuition and accident but elevated Beauty to ‘the sole legitimate province of the poem’. Poe elaborates that the apprehension of Beauty ‘excites the soul’ and furthermore hitches it to its cousin, Melancholy. The third member of this abstract trio is Death! This Poe-esque trio is memorably summed up by his assertion, ‘the death of a beautiful woman is . . . the most poetical topic in the world’.
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