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lower place, but, in any case, it is read, and will continue to be read.
Poe's imagination was so vivid and so unhealthy that he dwelt very largely in the realm of the purely mystical, and even of the grotesque and repulsive, but he treated all of his subjects with such masterful art as to produce the most vivid sense of reality.
His principal writings were poems and short stories, and it is difficult to say in which of these he chiefly excelled. Most of his stories are weird but thrilling. His poems illustrate particularly his ability to use musical words. Indeed, the sound of a word seems to have usually been his foremost reason for choosing it. The Raven and The Bells are his best known poems, and The Raven certainly is his greatest.
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 1
This story well shows Poe's peculiar power to produce weird effects, yet it is without the dreadful conclusion that mars some of his tales. The belief in the existence of a vast maelstrom or whirlpool in the northern ocean is very old, and upon that Poe bases this realistic tale.
We had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For some minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.
1 Maelstrom, māl-strum.
“Not long ago," said he at length, "and I could have guided you on this route as well as the youngest 5 of my sons; but, about three years past, there happened to me an event such as never happened before to mortal man or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of — and the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken me up body 10 and soul. You suppose me a very old man - but I am not. It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at 15 a shadow. Do you know I can scarcely look over this little cliff without getting giddy?”
The "little cliff” upon whose edge he had so carelessly thrown himself down to rest that the weightier portion of his body hung over it, while he was only 20 kept from falling by the tenure 1 of his elbow on its extreme and slippery edge - this little cliff”
arose, a sheer,” unobstructed: precipice of black, shining rock, some fifteen or sixteen hundred feet from the world of crags beneath us. Nothing would have 25 tempted me to within half a dozen yards of its brink. In truth, so deeply was I excited by the perilous position of my companion, that I fell at full length upon the ground, clung to the shrubs around me, and dared not even glance upward at the sky, Tenure, holding power. 2 Sheer, perpendicular.
3 Unobstructed, with nothing in the way.
while I struggled in vain to divest ' myself of the idea that the very foundations of the mountain were in danger from the fury of the winds. It was long be
fore I could reason myself into sufficient courage to 35 sit up and look out into the distance.
"You must get over these fancies,” said the guide, "for I have brought you here that you might have the best possible view of the scene of that event I
mentioned — and to tell you the whole story with the 40 spot just under your eye.
“We are now," he continued, "we are close upon the Norwegian coast, in the sixtyeighth degree of latitude, in the great province
of Nordland, and in the dreary district of Lofoden. 45 The mountain upon whose top we sit is Helseggen,
the Cloudy. Now raise yourself up a little higher hold on to the grass, if you feel giddy — so — and look out, beyond the belt of vapor beneath us, into the sea."
I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the Nubian geographer's account of the Mare Tenebrarum.2 A panorama: more de
plorably desolate no human imagination can con55 ceive. To the right and left, as far as the eye could
reach, there lay outstretched, like ramparts of the world, lines of horridly black and beetling cliff,
1 Divest, rid.
2 Mā-rē Ten-e-brā'-rum, the sea of shadows. 3 Panorama, wide view.
whose character of gloom was but the more forcibly illustrated by the surf which reared high up against its white and ghastly crest, howling and shrieking 60 forever. Just opposite the promontory upon whose apex' we were placed, and at a distance of some five or six miles out at sea, there was visible a small, bleak looking island; or, more properly, its position was discernible ? through the wilderness of surge : in 65 which it was enveloped. About two miles nearer the land arose another, of smaller size, hideously craggy and barren, and encompassed 4 at various intervals by a cluster of dark rocks.
The appearance of the ocean, in the space between 70 the more distant island and the shore, had something very unusual about it. Although, at the time, so strong a gale was blowing landward that a brig in the remote offing 5 lay to under a double reefed trysail’ and constantly plunged her whole hull out of 75 sight, still there was here nothing like a regular swell, but only a short, quick, angry cross dashing of water in every direction, as well in the teeth of the wind as otherwise. Of foam there was little except in the immediate vicinity 8 of the rocks.
1 Apex, highest point.
Lay to, turned, head toward the wind.
“The island in the distance," resumed the old man, "is called by the Norwegians, Vurrgh. The one midway is Moskoe. That a mile to the north
ward is Ambaaren. These are the true names of 85 the places — but why it has been thought necessary
to name them at all is more than either you or I can understand. Do you hear anything? Do you see any change in the water ?”
We had now been about ten minutes upon the top 90 of Helseggen, to which we had ascended from the
interior 1 of Lofoden, so that we had caught no glimpse of the sea until it had burst upon us from the summit. As the old man spoke, I became aware of a loud and
gradually increasing sound, like the moaning of a 95 vast herd of buffaloes upon an American prairie;
and at the same moment I perceived that what seamen term the chopping character of the ocean beneath us, was rapidly changing into a current which
set to the eastward. Even while I gazed, this cur100 rent acquired a monstrous velocity. Each moment
added to its speed — to its headlong impetuosity.” In five minutes the whole sea, as far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovernable fury; but it was between
Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its 105 sway. Here the vast beds of the waters, seamed and
scarred into a thousand conflicting channels, burst suddenly into frenzied 3 convulsion 4 — heaving,
1 Interior, inner part.
3 Frenzied, mad.