It seems to me that imagination and reasoning have reached magnificent heights with some writers, especially poets. Among them, I strongly believe, the highest ever was Edgar Allan Poe. With Baudelaire I state that "le poete est souverainement intelligent, qu'il est l'intelligence par excellence, -et que l'imagination est la plus scientifique des facultes, parce que seule elle comprend l'analogie universelle...". One of those poets was Edgar Allan Poe. I reproduce here "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe" as a gesture against what Baudelaire called "la ferocite de l'hypocrisie bourgeoise", and what I personally call mediocrity, imbecility, and comprehensive intellectual dishonesty, all of which is presented as "realistic thinking". And, as we know, contemporary development studies are full of  "realistic thinking". So, let us learn something from Edgar Allan Poe!.  (Róbinson Rojas - 1996)
The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1
Volume 1 of the Raven Edition  #6 in our series by Edgar Allan Poe

VOLUME I  Contents
Edgar Allan Poe, An Appreciation
Life of Poe, by James Russell Lowell
Death of Poe, by N. P. Willis
The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
The Gold Bug
Four Beasts in One
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Rogęt
The Balloon Hoax
MS. Found in a Bottle
The Oval Portrait                          BACK TO MAIN INDEX

                         MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE
                   Qui n'a plus qu'un moment a vivre
                   N'a plus rien a dissimuler.
                                 -- Quinault -- Atys.
OF my country and of my family I have little to say. Ill usage and 
length of years have driven me from the one, and estranged me from 
the other. Hereditary wealth afforded me an education of no common 
order, and a contemplative turn of mind enabled me to methodize the 
stores which early study very diligently garnered up. -- Beyond all 
things, the study of the German moralists gave me great delight; not 
from any ill-advised admiration of their eloquent madness, but from 
the ease with which my habits of rigid thought enabled me to detect 
their falsities. I have often been reproached with the aridity of my 
genius; a deficiency of imagination has been imputed to me as a 
crime; and the Pyrrhonism of my opinions has at all times rendered me 
notorious. Indeed, a strong relish for physical philosophy has, I 
fear, tinctured my mind with a very common error of this age -- I 
mean the habit of referring occurrences, even the least susceptible 
of such reference, to the principles of that science. Upon the whole, 
no person could be less liable than myself to be led away from the 
severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatui of superstition. I have 
thought proper to premise thus much, lest the incredible tale I have 
to tell should be considered rather the raving of a crude 
imagination, than the positive experience of a mind to which the 
reveries of fancy have been a dead letter and a nullity.
After many years spent in foreign travel, I sailed in the year 18 -- 
, from the port of Batavia, in the rich and populous island of Java, 
on a voyage to the Archipelago of the Sunda islands. I went as 
passenger -- having no other inducement than a kind of nervous 
restlessness which haunted me as a fiend.
Our vessel was a beautiful ship of about four hundred tons, 
copper-fastened, and built at Bombay of Malabar teak. She was 
freighted with cotton-wool and oil, from the Lachadive islands. We 
had also on board coir, jaggeree, ghee, cocoa-nuts, and a few cases 
of opium. The stowage was clumsily done, and the vessel consequently 
We got under way with a mere breath of wind, and for many days stood 
along the eastern coast of Java, without any other incident to 
beguile the monotony of our course than the occasional meeting with 
some of the small grabs of the Archipelago to which we were bound.
One evening, leaning over the taffrail, I observed a very singular, 
isolated cloud, to the N.W. It was remarkable, as well for its color, 
as from its being the first we had seen since our departure from 
Batavia. I watched it attentively until sunset, when it spread all at 
once to the eastward and westward, girting in the horizon with a 
narrow strip of vapor, and looking like a long line of low beach. My 
notice was soon afterwards attracted by the dusky-red appearance of 
the moon, and the peculiar character of the sea. The latter was 
undergoing a rapid change, and the water seemed more than usually 
transparent. Although I could distinctly see the bottom, yet, heaving 
the lead, I found the ship in fifteen fathoms. The air now became 
intolerably hot, and was loaded with spiral exhalations similar to 
those arising from heat iron. As night came on, every breath of wind 
died away, an more entire calm it is impossible to conceive. The 
flame of a candle burned upon the poop without the least perceptible 
motion, and a long hair, held between the finger and thumb, hung 
without the possibility of detecting a vibration. However, as the 
captain said he could perceive no indication of danger, and as we 
were drifting in bodily to shore, he ordered the sails to be furled, 
and the anchor let go. No watch was set, and the crew, consisting 
principally of Malays, stretched themselves deliberately upon deck. I 
went below -- not without a full presentiment of evil. Indeed, every 
appearance warranted me in apprehending a Simoom. I told the captain 
my fears; but he paid no attention to what I said, and left me 
without deigning to give a reply. My uneasiness, however, prevented 
me from sleeping, and about midnight I went upon deck. -- As I placed 
my foot upon the upper step of the companion-ladder, I was startled 
by a loud, humming noise, like that occasioned by the rapid 
revolution of a mill-wheel, and before I could ascertain its meaning, 
I found the ship quivering to its centre. In the next instant, a 
wilderness of foam hurled us upon our beam-ends, and, rushing over us 
fore and aft, swept the entire decks from stem to stern.
The extreme fury of the blast proved, in a great measure, the 
salvation of the ship. Although completely water-logged, yet, as her 
masts had gone by the board, she rose, after a minute, heavily from 
the sea, and, staggering awhile beneath the immense pressure of the 
tempest, finally righted.
By what miracle I escaped destruction, it is impossible to say. 
Stunned by the shock of the water, I found myself, upon recovery, 
jammed in between the stern-post and rudder. With great difficulty I 
gained my feet, and looking dizzily around, was, at first, struck 
with the idea of our being among breakers; so terrific, beyond the 
wildest imagination, was the whirlpool of mountainous and foaming 
ocean within which we were engulfed. After a while, I heard the voice 
of an old Swede, who had shipped with us at the moment of our leaving 
port. I hallooed to him with all my strength, and presently he came 
reeling aft. We soon discovered that we were the sole survivors of 
the accident. All on deck, with the exception of ourselves, had been 
swept overboard; -- the captain and mates must have perished as they 
slept, for the cabins were deluged with water. Without assistance, we 
could expect to do little for the security of the ship, and our 
exertions were at first paralyzed by the momentary expectation of 
going down. Our cable had, of course, parted like pack-thread, at the 
first breath of the hurricane, or we should have been instantaneously 
overwhelmed. We scudded with frightful velocity before the sea, and 
the water made clear breaches over us. The frame-work of our stern 
was shattered excessively, and, in almost every respect, we had 
received considerable injury; but to our extreme Joy we found the 
pumps unchoked, and that we had made no great shifting of our 
ballast. The main fury of the blast had already blown over, and we 
apprehended little danger from the violence of the wind; but we 
looked forward to its total cessation with dismay; well believing, 
that, in our shattered condition, we should inevitably perish in the 
tremendous swell which would ensue. But this very just apprehension 
seemed by no means likely to be soon verified. For five entire days 
and nights -- during which our only subsistence was a small quantity 
of jaggeree, procured with great difficulty from the forecastle -- 
the hulk flew at a rate defying computation, before rapidly 
succeeding flaws of wind, which, without equalling the first violence 
of the Simoom, were still more terrific than any tempest I had before 
encountered. Our course for the first four days was, with trifling 
variations, S.E. and by S.; and we must have run down the coast of 
New Holland. -- On the fifth day the cold became extreme, although 
the wind had hauled round a point more to the northward. -- The sun 
arose with a sickly yellow lustre, and clambered a very few degrees 
above the horizon -- emitting no decisive light. -- There were no 
clouds apparent, yet the wind was upon the increase, and blew with a 
fitful and unsteady fury. About noon, as nearly as we could guess, 
our attention was again arrested by the appearance of the sun. It 
gave out no light, properly so called, but a dull and sullen glow 
without reflection, as if all its rays were polarized. Just before 
sinking within the turgid sea, its central fires suddenly went out, 
as if hurriedly extinguished by some unaccountable power. It was a 
dim, sliver-like rim, alone, as it rushed down the unfathomable 
We waited in vain for the arrival of the sixth day -- that day to me 
has not arrived -- to the Swede, never did arrive. Thenceforward we 
were enshrouded in patchy darkness, so that we could not have seen an 
object at twenty paces from the ship. Eternal night continued to 
envelop us, all unrelieved by the phosphoric sea-brilliancy to which 
we had been accustomed in the tropics. We observed too, that, 
although the tempest continued to rage with unabated violence, there 
was no longer to be discovered the usual appearance of surf, or foam, 
which had hitherto attended us. All around were horror, and thick 
gloom, and a black sweltering desert of ebony. -- Superstitious 
terror crept by degrees into the spirit of the old Swede, and my own 
soul was wrapped up in silent wonder. We neglected all care of the 
ship, as worse than useless, and securing ourselves, as well as 
possible, to the stump of the mizen-mast, looked out bitterly into 
the world of ocean. We had no means of calculating time, nor could we 
form any guess of our situation. We were, however, well aware of 
having made farther to the southward than any previous navigators, 
and felt great amazement at not meeting with the usual impediments of 
ice. In the meantime every moment threatened to be our last -- every 
mountainous billow hurried to overwhelm us. The swell surpassed 
anything I had imagined possible, and that we were not instantly 
buried is a miracle. My companion spoke of the lightness of our 
cargo, and reminded me of the excellent qualities of our ship; but I 
could not help feeling the utter hopelessness of hope itself, and 
prepared myself gloomily for that death which I thought nothing could 
defer beyond an hour, as, with every knot of way the ship made, the 
swelling of the black stupendous seas became more dismally appalling. 
At times we gasped for breath at an elevation beyond the albatross -- 
at times became dizzy with the velocity of our descent into some 
watery hell, where the air grew stagnant, and no sound disturbed the 
slumbers of the kraken.
We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream 
from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. "See! see!" cried 
he, shrieking in my ears, "Almighty God! see! see!" As he spoke, I 
became aware of a dull, sullen glare of red light which streamed down 
the sides of the vast chasm where we lay, and threw a fitful 
brilliancy upon our deck. Casting my eyes upwards, I beheld a 
spectacle which froze the current of my blood. At a terrific height 
directly above us, and upon the very verge of the precipitous 
descent, hovered a gigantic ship of, perhaps, four thousand tons. 
Although upreared upon the summit of a wave more than a hundred times 
her own altitude, her apparent size exceeded that of any ship of the 
line or East Indiaman in existence. Her huge hull was of a deep dingy 
black, unrelieved by any of the customary carvings of a ship. A 
single row of brass cannon protruded from her open ports, and dashed 
from their polished surfaces the fires of innumerable 
battle-lanterns, which swung to and fro about her rigging. But what 
mainly inspired us with horror and astonishment, was that she bore up 
under a press of sail in the very teeth of that supernatural sea, and 
of that ungovernable hurricane. When we first discovered her, her 
bows were alone to be seen, as she rose slowly from the dim and 
horrible gulf beyond her. For a moment of intense terror she paused 
upon the giddy pinnacle, as if in contemplation of her own sublimity, 
then trembled and tottered, and -- came down.
At this instant, I know not what sudden self-possession came over my 
spirit. Staggering as far aft as I could, I awaited fearlessly the 
ruin that was to overwhelm. Our own vessel was at length ceasing from 
her struggles, and sinking with her head to the sea. The shock of the 
descending mass struck her, consequently, in that portion of her 
frame which was already under water, and the inevitable result was to 
hurl me, with irresistible violence, upon the rigging of the 
As I fell, the ship hove in stays, and went about; and to the 
confusion ensuing I attributed my escape from the notice of the crew. 
With little difficulty I made my way unperceived to the main 
hatchway, which was partially open, and soon found an opportunity of 
secreting myself in the hold. Why I did so I can hardly tell. An 
indefinite sense of awe, which at first sight of the navigators of 
the ship had taken hold of my mind, was perhaps the principle of my 
concealment. I was unwilling to trust myself with a race of people 
who had offered, to the cursory glance I had taken, so many points of 
vague novelty, doubt, and apprehension. I therefore thought proper to 
contrive a hiding-place in the hold. This I did by removing a small 
portion of the shifting-boards, in such a manner as to afford me a 
convenient retreat between the huge timbers of the ship.
I had scarcely completed my work, when a footstep in the hold forced 
me to make use of it. A man passed by my place of concealment with a 
feeble and unsteady gait. I could not see his face, but had an 
opportunity of observing his general appearance. There was about it 
an evidence of great age and infirmity. His knees tottered beneath a 
load of years, and his entire frame quivered under the burthen. He 
muttered to himself, in a low broken tone, some words of a language 
which I could not understand, and groped in a corner among a pile of 
singular-looking instruments, and decayed charts of navigation. His 
manner was a wild mixture of the peevishness of second childhood, and 
the solemn dignity of a God. He at length went on deck, and I saw him 
no more.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken possession of my soul 
-- a sensation which will admit of no analysis, to which the lessons 
of bygone times are inadequate, and for which I fear futurity itself 
will offer me no key. To a mind constituted like my own, the latter 
consideration is an evil. I shall never -- I know that I shall never 
-- be satisfied with regard to the nature of my conceptions. Yet it 
is not wonderful that these conceptions are indefinite, since they 
have their origin in sources so utterly novel. A new sense -- a new 
entity is added to my soul.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
It is long since I first trod the deck of this terrible ship, and the 
rays of my destiny are, I think, gathering to a focus. 
Incomprehensible men! Wrapped up in meditations of a kind which I 
cannot divine, they pass me by unnoticed. Concealment is utter folly 
on my part, for the people will not see. It was but just now that I 
passed directly before the eyes of the mate -- it was no long while 
ago that I ventured into the captain's own private cabin, and took 
thence the materials with which I write, and have written. I shall 
from time to time continue this Journal. It is true that I may not 
find an opportunity of transmitting it to the world, but I will not 
fall to make the endeavour. At the last moment I will enclose the MS. 
in a bottle, and cast it within the sea.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
An incident has occurred which has given me new room for meditation. 
Are such things the operation of ungoverned Chance? I had ventured 
upon deck and thrown myself down, without attracting any notice, 
among a pile of ratlin-stuff and old sails in the bottom of the yawl. 
While musing upon the singularity of my fate, I unwittingly daubed 
with a tar-brush the edges of a neatly-folded studding-sail which lay 
near me on a barrel. The studding-sail is now bent upon the ship, and 
the thoughtless touches of the brush are spread out into the word 
I have made many observations lately upon the structure of the 
vessel. Although well armed, she is not, I think, a ship of war. Her 
rigging, build, and general equipment, all negative a supposition of 
this kind. What she is not, I can easily perceive -- what she is I 
fear it is impossible to say. I know not how it is, but in 
scrutinizing her strange model and singular cast of spars, her huge 
size and overgrown suits of canvas, her severely simple bow and 
antiquated stern, there will occasionally flash across my mind a 
sensation of familiar things, and there is always mixed up with such 
indistinct shadows of recollection, an unaccountable memory of old 
foreign chronicles and ages long ago.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
I have been looking at the timbers of the ship. She is built of a 
material to which I am a stranger. There is a peculiar character 
about the wood which strikes me as rendering it unfit for the purpose 
to which it has been applied. I mean its extreme porousness, 
considered independently by the worm-eaten condition which is a 
consequence of navigation in these seas, and apart from the 
rottenness attendant upon age. It will appear perhaps an observation 
somewhat over-curious, but this wood would have every, characteristic 
of Spanish oak, if Spanish oak were distended by any unnatural means.
In reading the above sentence a curious apothegm of an old 
weather-beaten Dutch navigator comes full upon my recollection. "It 
is as sure," he was wont to say, when any doubt was entertained of 
his veracity, "as sure as there is a sea where the ship itself will 
grow in bulk like the living body of the seaman."
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
About an hour ago, I made bold to thrust myself among a group of the 
crew. They paid me no manner of attention, and, although I stood in 
the very midst of them all, seemed utterly unconscious of my 
presence. Like the one I had at first seen in the hold, they all bore 
about them the marks of a hoary old age. Their knees trembled with 
infirmity; their shoulders were bent double with decrepitude; their 
shrivelled skins rattled in the wind; their voices were low, 
tremulous and broken; their eyes glistened with the rheum of years; 
and their gray hairs streamed terribly in the tempest. Around them, 
on every part of the deck, lay scattered mathematical instruments of 
the most quaint and obsolete construction.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
I mentioned some time ago the bending of a studding-sail. From that 
period the ship, being thrown dead off the wind, has continued her 
terrific course due south, with every rag of canvas packed upon her, 
from her trucks to her lower studding-sail booms, and rolling every 
moment her top-gallant yard-arms into the most appalling hell of 
water which it can enter into the mind of a man to imagine. I have 
just left the deck, where I find it impossible to maintain a footing, 
although the crew seem to experience little inconvenience. It appears 
to me a miracle of miracles that our enormous bulk is not swallowed 
up at once and forever. We are surely doomed to hover continually 
upon the brink of Eternity, without taking a final plunge into the 
abyss. From billows a thousand times more stupendous than any I have 
ever seen, we glide away with the facility of the arrowy sea-gull; 
and the colossal waters rear their heads above us like demons of the 
deep, but like demons confined to simple threats and forbidden to 
destroy. I am led to attribute these frequent escapes to the only 
natural cause which can account for such effect. -- I must suppose 
the ship to be within the influence of some strong current, or 
impetuous under-tow.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
I have seen the captain face to face, and in his own cabin -- but, as 
I expected, he paid me no attention. Although in his appearance there 
is, to a casual observer, nothing which might bespeak him more or 
less than man-still a feeling of irrepressible reverence and awe 
mingled with the sensation of wonder with which I regarded him. In 
stature he is nearly my own height; that is, about five feet eight 
inches. He is of a well-knit and compact frame of body, neither 
robust nor remarkably otherwise. But it is the singularity of the 
expression which reigns upon the face -- it is the intense, the 
wonderful, the thrilling evidence of old age, so utter, so extreme, 
which excites within my spirit a sense -- a sentiment ineffable. His 
forehead, although little wrinkled, seems to bear upon it the stamp 
of a myriad of years. -- His gray hairs are records of the past, and 
his grayer eyes are Sybils of the future. The cabin floor was thickly 
strewn with strange, iron-clasped folios, and mouldering instruments 
of science, and obsolete long-forgotten charts. His head was bowed 
down upon his hands, and he pored, with a fiery unquiet eye, over a 
paper which I took to be a commission, and which, at all events, bore 
the signature of a monarch. He muttered to himself, as did the first 
seaman whom I saw in the hold, some low peevish syllables of a 
foreign tongue, and although the speaker was close at my elbow, his 
voice seemed to reach my ears from the distance of a mile.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
The ship and all in it are imbued with the spirit of Eld. The crew 
glide to and fro like the ghosts of buried centuries; their eyes have 
an eager and uneasy meaning; and when their fingers fall athwart my 
path in the wild glare of the battle-lanterns, I feel as I have never 
felt before, although I have been all my life a dealer in 
antiquities, and have imbibed the shadows of fallen columns at 
Balbec, and Tadmor, and Persepolis, until my very soul has become a 
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
When I look around me I feel ashamed of my former apprehensions. If I 
trembled at the blast which has hitherto attended us, shall I not 
stand aghast at a warring of wind and ocean, to convey any idea of 
which the words tornado and simoom are trivial and ineffective? All 
in the immediate vicinity of the ship is the blackness of eternal 
night, and a chaos of foamless water; but, about a league on either 
side of us, may be seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous 
ramparts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky, and looking 
like the walls of the universe.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
As I imagined, the ship proves to be in a current; if that 
appellation can properly be given to a tide which, howling and 
shrieking by the white ice, thunders on to the southward with a 
velocity like the headlong dashing of a cataract.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
To conceive the horror of my sensations is, I presume, utterly 
impossible; yet a curiosity to penetrate the mysteries of these awful 
regions, predominates even over my despair, and will reconcile me to 
the most hideous aspect of death. It is evident that we are hurrying 
onwards to some exciting knowledge -- some never-to-be-imparted 
secret, whose attainment is destruction. Perhaps this current leads 
us to the southern pole itself. It must be confessed that a 
supposition apparently so wild has every probability in its favor.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
The crew pace the deck with unquiet and tremulous step; but there is 
upon their countenances an expression more of the eagerness of hope 
than of the apathy of despair.
In the meantime the wind is still in our poop, and, as we carry a 
crowd of canvas, the ship is at times lifted bodily from out the sea 
-- Oh, horror upon horror! the ice opens suddenly to the right, and 
to the left, and we are whirling dizzily, in immense concentric 
circles, round and round the borders of a gigantic amphitheatre, the 
summit of whose walls is lost in the darkness and the distance. But 
little time will be left me to ponder upon my destiny -- the circles 
rapidly grow small -- we are plunging madly within the grasp of the 
whirlpool -- and amid a roaring, and bellowing, and thundering of 
ocean and of tempest, the ship is quivering, oh God! and -- going 
NOTE. -- The "MS. Found in a Bottle," was originally published in 
1831, and it was not until many years afterwards that I became 
acquainted with the maps of Mercator, in which the ocean is 
represented as rushing, by four mouths, into the (northern) Polar 
Gulf, to be absorbed into the bowels of the earth; the Pole itself 
being represented by a black rock, towering to a prodigious height.
~~~ End of Text ~~~