Supplementary Pinakidia

  “Related” links below are to items identified as sources or potential sources in the Harvard edition, ed. B. R. Pollin, “Supplementary Pinakidia,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. 424-453. This version shortens “Supplementary Pinakidia” to “SP” in the numbering; numerals match Pollin’s scheme.

SP 1

Southern Literary Messenger, I, 698 (August 1835)  

The Unities.

Aristotle’s name is supposed to be authority for the three unities. The only one of which he speaks decisively is the unity of action. With regard to the unity of time he merely throws out an indefinite hint. Of the unity of place not one word does he say.

SP 2

By what bizarrerie does it happen that Sardanapalus is discovered in Greek literature under the name of Tenos Concoleros?

SP 3

Milton is indebted for some of the finest passages in the Paradise Lost to Marino’s “Sospetti D‘Herode.”

SP 4

The “Acajou et Zirphile” of Du Clos is a whimsical and amusing Fairy Tale, ingeniously composed in illustration of a series of grotesque, and extravagant engravings, whose figures, rats, apes, butterflies, and men, have no earthly meaning or connection but that given by the pen of the writer.

SP 5

Among ridiculous conceits may be selected par excellence, the thought of a celebrated Abbé — “that the heart of man being triangular, and the world spherical in form, it was evident that all worldly greatness could not fill the heart of man.” The same person concluded, “that since among the Hebrews the same word expresses death and life, (a point only making the difference,) it was therefore plain that there was little difference between life and death.” The chief objection to this is, that no one Hebrew word signifies life and death.

SP 6

Le Brun, a Jesuit, wrote what he called a Christian Virgil, and a Christian Ovid. The Virgil consists, of Eclogues, Georgics, and an Epic of twelve books, all however on devotional subjects. The Ovid is in the same taste. The Epistles are pious ones — the Fasti are the six days of the Creation — the Elegies are the Lamentations of Jeremiah — the Art of Love is a poem on The Love of God, and the history of some Conversions supplies the place of the Metamorphoses.

SP 7

A. W. Schlegel says, that in a German drama is the following stage direction. “He flashes lightning at him with his eyes, and exit.” (Er blitzt ihn mit den augen an.)

SP 8


The gourd mentioned in Jonah as springing up in one night, is in the Hebrew ‘Kikajon.’ St. Jerom (sic) and many others call it ivy. St. Jerom (sic) however, acknowledges ivy to be an improper translation. The Kikajon, according to Galmet, is a non-parasitical shrub found in the sandy places of Palestine. It grows with rapidity, and has thick leaves resembling those of a vine.

SP 9


Mr. H. N. Coleridge says there would be no difficulty in composing a complete epic poem with as much symmetry of parts as is seen in the Iliad, from the English ballads on Robin Hood.

SP 10


Martorelli was occupied for two years in a treatise to prove that the use of glass for windows was unknown to the ancients. Fifteen days after the publication of his folio, a house was found in Pompeii all whose windows were paned with glass.

SP 11


The Greek of the New Testament is by no means, whatever some zealots assert, the Greek of Homer, of Anacreon, or of Thucydides. It is thickly interspersed with Hebraisms, barbarisms, and theological expressions. The Evangelists differ much in style among themselves. St. Matthew is not as pure as St. John, nor he as St. Paul. St. Luke is the most correct — especially in the Acts.

SP 12

Gibbon, the historian, was at one time a zealous partisan of Charles Fox. No man denounced Mr. Pitt with a keener sarcasm, or more bitter malignity. But he had his price. A lucrative office won him over to the ministry. A week before his appointment he had said in Mr. Fox’s presence, “that public indignation should not be appeased, until the heads of at least six of the ministers were laid on the table of the House of Commons.”

This fact is found stated in the hand writing of Mr. Fox, on a blank leaf of a copy of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which was purchased after Mr. F’s death, at a sale of his effects. The anecdote is followed by these lines, also in Mr. F’s hand writing.

King George, in a fright,

Lest Gibbon should write

The story of Britain’s disgrace,

Thought no means so sure

His pen to secure,

As to give the Historian a place.

But the caution was vain —

‘Tis the curse of his reign,

That his projects should never succeed.

Though he write not a line,

Yet a cause of decline

In the Author’s example we read.

His book well describes

How corruption and bribes

Overthrew the great Empire of Rome;

And his writings declare

A degeneracy there

Which his conduct exhibits at home.

SP 13

In Statius’ Poem on the Via Domitiana, are these lines.

Qui primo Tiberim reliquit ortu,

Primo vespere navigat Lucrinum —

making a distance of one hundred and twenty-seven miles commonly travelled by the Romans in one day.

SP 14


Bai was the Egyptian term for the branch of the Palm-tree. Homer says that one of Diomede’s horses, Phoenix, was of a palm-color, which is a bright red. It is therefore not improbable that our word bay as applied to the color of horses, may boast as remote an origin as the Egyptian Bai.

SP 15


Adam Smith has decided that authors are “manufacturers of certain wares for a very paltry recompense.”

SP 16

Lucian calls unmeaning verbosity, anemonæ verborum. The anemone, with great brilliancy, has no fragrance.

SP 16A

Mr. Fay wishes us to believe that the sale of a book is the proper test of its merit. To save time and trouble we will believe it, and are prepared to acknowledge, as a consequence of the theory, that the novel of Norman Leslie is not at all comparable to the Memoirs of Davy Crockett, or the popular lyric of Jim Crow.

SP 17

The “Corpus Juris,” which is written in Latin, has never been translated into any living tongue; yet it is the basis of law in nearly all Europe and America. It was written by Tribonien, Theophilus, Dorotheus, and John, and although called The Roman Law, is in nothing Roman but the name. It is in four parts — Institutes, Pandects or Digests, The Code, and The Novel Law. This celebrated book is full of pedantry, and abounds in the most whimsical platitudes. For example, in the chapter, “De patria potestate,” ‘The father loses his authority over the son in many ways, firstly, when the father dies, secondly, when the son dies,’ &c. There is a Greek version of the Institutes by Angelus Politianus.

SP 18

“Pierce Plowman’s Vision,” by William Langlande, in the reign of Edward III, is the longest specimen extant of alliterative poetry. It proceeds in this manner without rhyme, and with few pretensions to metre —

It befell on a Friday two friars I mette

Maisters of the minours, men of great wytte.

SP 19


Otto Venius, the designer of “Le Theatre moral de la Vie Humaine,” illustrates Horace’s “Raro antecedentem scelestum deseruit pede poena claudo,” by sketching Punishment with a wooden leg.

SP 20


There exists a prose version of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which was innocently translated from the French version of that epic. One Green, also, published a new version of the poem into blank verse.

SP 21

In “Dodsley’s Collection” is an old play called “Eastward Hoe!” It was written by Ben Jonson, and published in 1605 by George Chapman and John Marston. This probably suggested to our Paulding the title of his “Westward Ho!”

SP 22

Wherever the Inquisition had power, the word fata was not allowed in any book. An author wishing to use the word, printed in his book facta, and put in the errata “for facta read fata.”

SP 23

Swift’s “Liliputian Ode” is an imitation from Scarron. The French poet concludes a long tri-syllabic poetical epistle to Sarrazin, who had failed to pay him a visit, in the following words.

Mais pourtant


Si to viens

Et to tiens


Un moment

Avec nous,

Mon corroux


Et cætera.

SP 24


“The Rainbow,” by Campbell, “Triumphal Arch,” &c. is indeed a glorious piece, and worthy at once of the subject and the poet. Nor does it derogate much from his genius, though it does a little perhaps from his honesty, that he has borrowed (without acknowledgment) two or three of the finest thoughts and phrases in it from an older bard, a certain Henry Vaughan, who flourished about two centuries ago, and whose poems, says Montgomery, “amidst much harshness and obscurity, show gleams of rare excellence.” Thus these lines of Vaughan,

How bright wert thou when Shem’s admiring eye,

Thy burning, flaming arch did first descry;

When Zerah, Nahor, Haram, Abram, Lot,

The youthful World’s gray fathers, in one knot,

Did, with intentive looks, watch every hour

For thy new light, and trembled at each shower:

evidently suggested that fine stanza of Campbell —

When o‘er the green undeluged earth

Heaven’s covenant thou didst shine,

How came the world’s gray fathers forth

To watch thy sacred sign.

But the verse which follows is an admirable addition of his own.

And when its yellow lustre smiled,

O‘er mountains yet untrod,

Each mother held aloft her child,

To bless the bow of God.

This finishes the picture, and makes it perfect. And Vaughan’s two first lines,

Still young and fine, but what is still in view,

We slight as old and soil‘d, though fresh and new,

together with his two last,

Who looks upon thee from his glorious throne,

And minds the covenant betwixt ALL and ONE,

obviously kindled Campbell’s two closing stanzas —

As fresh in yon horizon dark,

As young thy beauties seem,

As when the eagle from the ark

First sported in thy beam.

For faithful to its sacred page,

Heaven still rebuilds thy span,

Nor lets the type grow pale with age

That first spoke peace to man.

A splendid improvement indeed! In short, Campbell’s Rainbow (or the best part of it, from the fifth verse to the end,) is but a sort of secondary of Vaughan’s, though it is not in this case, as in nature, fainter, but triumphantly brighter and more beautiful than the first.*

* Perhaps the reader may like to see Vaughan’s piece entire. Here it is.

THE RAINBOW. — By Henry Vaughan.

Still young and fine! but what is still in view

We slight as old and soil‘d, though fresh and new;

How bright wert thou when Shem’s admiring eye,

Thy burning, flaming arch did first descry;

When Zerah, Nahor, Haram, Abram, Lot,

The youthful world’s gray fathers, in one knot,

Did, with intentive looks, watch every hour

For thy new light, and trembled at each shower.

When thou dost shine, darkness looks white and fair;

Storms turn to music, clouds to smiles and air;

Rain gently spends his honey-drops, and pours

Balm on the cleft earth, milk on grass and flowers.

Bright pledge of peace and sunshine! the sure tie

Of thy Lord’s hand, the object of his eye!

When I behold thee, though my light be dim,

Distant and iow, I can in thine see Him,

Who looks upon thee from his glorious throne,

And minds the covenant betwixt All and One.

SP 25


Balzac’s real name was Guez — Metastasio’s was Trapasso — Melancthon’s Hertz Schwartz — Erasmus’ Gerard.

SP 26


The first Polyglot Bible is that of Cardinal Ximenes, printed in 1515. It contains the Hebrew text, the Chaldaic Paraphrase, the Greek Septuagint, and the ancient Latin edition. The second is the Royal Bible, Anvers, 1752: the third that of Le Jay, Paris, 1645: the fourth that of England, London, 1657, edited by Walton. There are many since, but of less celebrity.

SP 27


Sir W. Scott’s reputation prompted some German publishers to make a bold attempt at imposition. A work was announced under the title of Walladmor, and professing to be a free translation from the English of Sir Walter. It was a miserable failure.

SP 28

Sir John Hill, who passed for the translator of Swammerdam’s work on insects, understood not a word of Dutch. He was to receive 50 guineas for the translation, and bargained with another translator for 25 — this other being in a like predicament paid a third person 12 pounds for the job.

SP 29


In Sir Thomas Bodley’s Remains is a curious letter to Lord Bacon, in which Sir Thomas remonstrates with Bacon on his new mode of philosophising. Sir Edward Coke wrote some miserable, but bitter verses on a copy of the Instauratio, and James I. declared, that “like God’s power it surpassed all understanding.”

SP 30


There is a curious work by the emperor Julian entitled “The Misopogon, or the Antiochian, the Enemy of the Beard.” It is a reply to some lampoons of the Antiochians on the beard of the monarch.

SP 31


Plato compares Socrates to the gallipots of the Athenian apothecaries which were painted on the outside with the figures of apes and owls, but contained within a precious balm.

SP 32


Goldoni, in his drama of Torquato Tasso, thus contrasts the poet’s writings and conversation:

Ammiro il suo talento, gradisco; carmi suoi;

Ma piacer non trove a conversar con lui.

SP 33


Gibbon observes that some singular errors have been occasioned by the use of the word mil. in MSS., which is an abreviation for soldiers as well as for thousands.

SP 34


Milton in Paradise Lost has this passage —

— when the scourge

Inexorably, and the torturing hour

Calls us to penance.

Gray in his Ode to Adversity has the following —

Thou tamer of the human breast,

Whose iron scourge, and torturing hour

The bad affright.

SP 35

In the bull of the canonization of Ignatius Loyola, 1623, Luther is called “monstrum teterrimum, et detestabilis pestis.”

SP 36

“An unshaped kind of something first appeared,” is a line in Cowley’s famous description of the Creation.

SP 37

A religious hubbub, such as the world has seldom seen, was excited during the reign of Frederic II. by the imagined virulence of a book entitled “The Three Imposters.” It was attributed to Pierre des Vignes, chancellor of the king, who was accused by the Pope of having treated the religions of Moses, Jesus and Mahomet as political fables. The work in question, however, which was squabbled about, abused, defended, and familiarly quoted by all parties, is well proved never to have existed.

SP 38


There is no particular air known throughout Switzerland by the name of Ranz des Vaches. Every canton has its own song varying in words, notes, and even language.

SP 39


On a street in London, which was much infested by lawyers, and the bottom of which were wharves for shipping.

“At the top of my street the attorneys abound,

And down at the bottom the barges are found;

Fly, honesty, fly to some safer retreat,

For there’s craft in the river and craft in the street.”

SP 40

The heathen poets are mentioned three times in the New Testament. Aratus in the seventeenth chapter of Acts — Menander in the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians — also Epimenides.

SP 41

The vulgar Christian era is the invention of Dionysius Exiguus.

SP 42

According to Lord Bolingbroke, Virgil preferred Livy and Tacitus to any Grecian historians. He founds this idea upon the celebrated lives commencing, “Excudent alii,” etc. This is a singular blunder on his Lordship’s part, for Virgil died before Livy had written his history, and before Tacitus was born.

SP 43

Gilbert Wakefield in his edition of Pope, supposes the well-known “Song by a Person of Quality,” to be a serious composition, and in a long commentary goes about to prove the whole a disgrace to its author.

SP 44

The magnificent edition of Camoen’s As Lusiadas printed in 1817 by Dom Jose Souza, assisted by Didot, is perhaps the most immaculate specimen of typography in existence. In a few copies, however, one error was discovered occasioned by one of the letters in the word Lusitano getting misplaced during the working of a sheet.

SP 45

Congora (sic), in one of his odes calls the river of Madrid, “the Duke of Streams and Viscount of Rivers.”

Manzanares, Manzanares,

Os que en todo el aguatismo,

Estois Duque de Arroyos

Y Visconde de los Rios.

SP 46

The following inscription intended for the Louvre possesses both simplicity and dignity —

Pande fores populis, sublimis Lupara: non est

Terrarum imperio dignior ulla domus.