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The Arnheim Trilogy: Cosmic Landscapes in The Shadow of Poe's Eureka E.W. PITCHER EdgarAllan Poe had been prospecting in the field of metaphysical realities from the earliest moments in his writing career, but only in the final ten years of his life did his speculations take coherent shape, and his suggestions assume the status of convictions. There is a direct line of development from "The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" (December, 1839) to Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848) -- from the vagueness of the one to the myriad of details in the other. Limitations of space here prohibit a full accounting of the steps taken by Poe in his progress from a mere glimpsing of the "supernal realm" to a full mapping of the spatial and temporal cosmicplan. However, I wish to intimate the importance of such developments for our understanding of the revisions that changed "The Landscape Garden" into "The Domain of Arnheim," and that led Poe to supplant both with "Landor' s Cottage." It is obvious to readers of "The Landscape Garden" (October, 1842) that Ellison is to be identified as Poe's spokesman. The narrator describes Ellison as being "in the widest and noblest sense ... a poet. He comprehended , moreover, the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty and dignity of the poetic sentiment." 1 Ellison's credo is to have an "object of unceasing pursuit" with the highest possible degree of "spirituality" (Works, IV, 261); Poe argued later, in "The Poetic Principle/' that in all men is to be found "the Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty" which is the principle of poetry itself. Poe's aesthetic prescribed that the c.1spirationis partially satisfied through novel combinations of beauty; the narrator remarks of Ellison that "the proper gratification of the sentiment he instinctively felt to lie in the creation of novel forms of Beauty" (Ibid., 263). What Ellison hoped to achieve, and the manner of executing his aspiration, is stated in terms that echo several statements made elsewhere by Poe: The creation of the Landscape-Garden offered to the true Muse the most magnificent of opportunities. Here was, indeed, the fairest field for the display of invention, or imagination, in the endless combining of forms of novel Beauty ... he perceived that he should be employing the best means - labouring to the greatest advantage - in fulfillment of his destiny as Poet. (Ibid., 264-265) THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. VI, NO. 1, SPRING 1975 Ellison endorses a theory of art which, in landscape-gardening, is referred to as the "artificial" in contrast to the "natural" mode of landscaping. He suggests that the artificial mode of arrangement appeals to a "loftier virtue" which as it "flames in invention or creation, can be apprehended solely in its results" (Ibid., 269). He alludes to an article on the subject to explain what he finds legitimately artful: 'A mixture of pure art in a garden scene, adds to it a great beauty.' This is just; and the reference to the sense of human interest is equally so. I repeat that the principle here expressed is incontrovertible; but there may be something even beyond it. There may be an object in full keeping with the principle suggested - an object unattainable by the means ordinarily in possession of mankind, yet which, if attained, would lend a charm to the landscape-garden immeasurably surpassing that which a merely human interest could bestow. The true poet, possessed of very unusual pecuniary resources, might possibly, while retaining the necessary idea of art or interest or culture, so imbue his designs at once with extent and novelty of Beauty, as to convey the sentiment of spiritual interference. It will be seen that, in bringing about such result, he secures all the advantages of interest or design, while relieving his work of all the harshness and technicality of Art. (Ibid., 269-270) The "sentiment of spiritual interference" Ellison accounts for as the result of unusual "extent and novelty of Beauty." I believe it was an important step forward for Poe to recognize the desirability of making the art-work appear to have been designed by "beings superior, yet akin to humanity" so that it exudes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 27-35
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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