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

                       The Oval Portrait
THE chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible 
entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, 
to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled 
gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, 
not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe. To all 
appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We 
established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously 
furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its 
decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung 
with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial 
trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited 
modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque. In these 
paintings, which depended from the walls not only in their main 
surfaces, but in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of 
the chateau rendered necessary -- in these paintings my incipient 
delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest; so that I 
bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room -- since it was 
already night -- to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which 
stood by the head of my bed -- and to throw open far and wide the 
fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself. I 
wished all this done that I might resign myself, if not to sleep, at 
least alternately to the contemplation of these pictures, and the 
perusal of a small volume which had been found upon the pillow, and 
which purported to criticise and describe them.
Long -- long I read -- and devoutly, devotedly I gazed. Rapidly and 
gloriously the hours flew by and the deep midnight came. The position 
of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with 
difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so 
as to throw its rays more fully upon the book.
But the action produced an effect altogether unanticipated. The rays 
of the numerous candles (for there were many) now fell within a niche 
of the room which had hitherto been thrown into deep shade by one of 
the bed-posts. I thus saw in vivid light a picture all unnoticed 
before. It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into 
womanhood. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my 
eyes. Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own 
perception. But while my lids remained thus shut, I ran over in my 
mind my reason for so shutting them. It was an impulsive movement to 
gain time for thought -- to make sure that my vision had not deceived 
me -- to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain 
gaze. In a very few moments I again looked fixedly at the painting.
That I now saw aright I could not and would not doubt; for the first 
flashing of the candles upon that canvas had seemed to dissipate the 
dreamy stupor which was stealing over my senses, and to startle me at 
once into waking life.
The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a 
mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a 
vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. 
The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted 
imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the 
back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and 
filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more 
admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither 
the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the 
countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least 
of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half 
slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person. I saw at 
once that the peculiarities of the design, of the vignetting, and of 
the frame, must have instantly dispelled such idea -- must have 
prevented even its momentary entertainment. Thinking earnestly upon 
these points, I remained, for an hour perhaps, half sitting, half 
reclining, with my vision riveted upon the portrait. At length, 
satisfied with the true secret of its effect, I fell back within the 
bed. I had found the spell of the picture in an absolute 
life-likeliness of expression, which, at first startling, finally 
confounded, subdued, and appalled me. With deep and reverent awe I 
replaced the candelabrum in its former position. The cause of my deep 
agitation being thus shut from view, I sought eagerly the volume 
which discussed the paintings and their histories. Turning to the 
number which designated the oval portrait, I there read the vague and 
quaint words which follow:
"She was a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of 
glee. And evil was the hour when she saw, and loved, and wedded the 
painter. He, passionate, studious, austere, and having already a 
bride in his Art; she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely 
than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young 
fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was 
her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward 
instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. It 
was thus a terrible thing for this lady to hear the painter speak of 
his desire to portray even his young bride. But she was humble and 
obedient, and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark, high 
turret-chamber where the light dripped upon the pale canvas only from 
overhead. But he, the painter, took glory in his work, which went on 
from hour to hour, and from day to day. And be was a passionate, and 
wild, and moody man, who became lost in reveries; so that he would 
not see that the light which fell so ghastly in that lone turret 
withered the health and the spirits of his bride, who pined visibly 
to all but him. Yet she smiled on and still on, uncomplainingly, 
because she saw that the painter (who had high renown) took a fervid 
and burning pleasure in his task, and wrought day and night to depict 
her who so loved him, yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak. 
And in sooth some who beheld the portrait spoke of its resemblance in 
low words, as of a mighty marvel, and a proof not less of the power 
of the painter than of his deep love for her whom he depicted so 
surpassingly well. But at length, as the labor drew nearer to its 
conclusion, there were admitted none into the turret; for the painter 
had grown wild with the ardor of his work, and turned his eyes from 
canvas merely, even to regard the countenance of his wife. And he 
would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were 
drawn from the cheeks of her who sate beside him. And when many weeks 
bad passed, and but little remained to do, save one brush upon the 
mouth and one tint upon the eye, the spirit of the lady again 
flickered up as the flame within the socket of the lamp. And then the 
brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, 
the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but 
in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, 
and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life 
itself!' turned suddenly to regard his beloved: -- She was dead!

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1