'The Power Of Words' by Edgar Allen Poe

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OINOS. Pardon, Agathos, the weakness of a spirit new-fledged with immortality!
AGATHOS. You have spoken nothing, my Oinos, for which pardon is to be demanded. Not even here is knowledge thing of intuition. For wisdom, ask of the angels freely, that it may be given!
OINOS. But in this existence, I dreamed that I should be at once cognizant of all things, and thus at once be happy in being cognizant of all.
AGATHOS. Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of knowledge! In for ever knowing, we are for ever blessed; but to know all were the curse of a fiend.
OINOS. But does not The Most High know all?
AGATHOS. That (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the one thing unknown even to Him.
OINOS. But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must not at last all things be known?
AGATHOS. Look down into the abysmal distances!- attempt to force the gaze down the multitudinous vistas of the stars, as we sweep slowly through them thus- and thus- and thus! Even the spiritual vision, is it not at all points arrested by the continuous golden walls of the universe?- the walls of the myriads of the shining bodies that mere number has appeared to blend into unity?
OINOS. I clearly perceive that the infinity of matter is no dream.
AGATHOS. There are no dreams in Aidenn- but it is here whispered that, of this infinity of matter, the sole purpose is to afford infinite springs, at which the soul may allay the thirst to know, which is for ever unquenchable within it- since to quench it, would be to extinguish the soul's self. Question me then, my Oinos, freely and without fear. Come! we will leave to the left the loud harmony of the Pleiades, and swoop outward from the throne into the starry meadows beyond Orion, where, for pansies and violets, and heart's- ease, are the beds of the triplicate and triple- tinted suns.
OINOS. And now, Agathos, as we proceed, instruct me!- speak to me in the earth's familiar tones. I understand not what you hinted to me, just now, of the modes or of the method of what, during mortality, we were accustomed to call Creation. Do you mean to say that the Creator is not God?
AGATHOS. I mean to say that the Deity does not create.
OINOS. Explain.
AGATHOS. In the beginning only, he created. The seeming creatures which are now, throughout the universe, so perpetually springing into being, can only be considered as the mediate or indirect, not as the direct or immediate results of the Divine creative power.
OINOS. Among men, my Agathos, this idea would be considered heretical in the extreme.
AGATHOS. Among angels, my Oinos, it is seen to be simply true.
OINOS. I can comprehend you thus far- that certain operations of what we term Nature, or the natural laws, will, under certain conditions, give rise to that which has all the appearance of creation. Shortly before the final overthrow of the earth, there were, I well remember, many very successful experiments in what some philosophers were weak enough to denominate the creation of animalculae.
AGATHOS. The cases of which you speak were, in fact, instances of the secondary creation- and of the only species of creation which has ever been, since the first word spoke into existence the first law.
OINOS. Are not the starry worlds that, from the abyss of nonentity, burst hourly forth into the heavens- are not these stars, Agathos, the immediate handiwork of the King?
AGATHOS. Let me endeavor, my Oinos, to lead you, step by step, to the conception I intend. You are well aware that, as no thought can perish, so no act is without infinite result. We moved our hands, for example, when we were dwellers on the earth, and, in so doing, gave vibration to the atmosphere which engirdled it. This vibration was indefinitely extended, till it gave impulse to every particle of the earth's air, which thenceforward, and for ever, was actuated by the one movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our globe well knew. They made the special effects, indeed, wrought in the fluid by special impulses, the subject of exact calculation- so that it became easy to determine in what precise period an impulse of given extent would engirdle the orb, and impress (for ever) every atom of the atmosphere circumambient. Retrograding, they found no difficulty, from a given effect, under given conditions, in determining the value of the original impulse. Now the mathematicians who saw that the results of any given impulse were absolutely endless- and who saw that a portion of these results were accurately traceable through the agency of algebraic analysis- who saw, too, the facility of the retrogradation- these men saw, at the same time, that this species of analysis itself, had within itself a capacity for indefinite progress- that there were no bounds conceivable to its advancement and applicability, except within the intellect of him who advanced or applied it. But at this point our mathematicians paused.
OINOS. And why, Agathos, should they have proceeded?
AGATHOS. Because there were some considerations of deep interest beyond. It was deducible from what they knew, that to a being of infinite understanding- one to whom the perfection of the algebraic analysis lay unfolded- there could be no difficulty in tracing every impulse given the air- and the ether through the air- to the remotest consequences at any even infinitely remote epoch of time. It is indeed demonstrable that every such impulse given the air, must, in the end, impress every individual thing that exists within the universe;- and the being of infinite understanding- the being whom we have imagined- might trace the remote undulations of the impulse- trace them upward and onward in their influences upon all particles of an matter- upward and onward for ever in their modifications of old forms- or, in other words, in their creation of new- until he found them reflected- unimpressive at last- back from the throne of the Godhead. And not only could such a thing do this, but at any epoch, should a given result be afforded him- should one of these numberless comets, for example, be presented to his inspection- he could have no difficulty in determining, by the analytic retrogradation, to what original impulse it was due. This power of retrogradation in its absolute fulness and perfection- this faculty of referring at all epochs, all effects to all causes- is of course the prerogative of the Deity alone- but in every variety of degree, short of the absolute perfection, is the power itself exercised by the whole host of the Angelic intelligences.
OINOS. But you speak merely of impulses upon the air.
AGATHOS. In speaking of the air, I referred only to the earth; but the general proposition has reference to impulses upon the ether- which, since it pervades, and alone pervades all space, is thus the great medium of creation.
OINOS. Then all motion, of whatever nature, creates?
AGATHOS. It must: but a true philosophy has long taught that the source of all motion is thought- and the source of all thought is-
AGATHOS. I have spoken to you, Oinos, as to a child of the fair Earth which lately perished- of impulses upon the atmosphere of the Earth.
OINOS. You did.
AGATHOS. And while I thus spoke, did there not cross your mind some thought of the physical power of words? Is not every word an impulse on the air?
OINOS. But why, Agathos, do you weep- and why, oh why do your wings droop as we hover above this fair star- which is the greenest and yet most terrible of all we have encountered in our flight? Its brilliant flowers look like a fairy dream- but its fierce volcanoes like the passions of a turbulent heart.
AGATHOS. They are!- they are! This wild star- it is now three centuries since, with clasped hands, and with streaming eyes, at the feet of my beloved- I spoke it- with a few passionate sentences- into birth. Its brilliant flowers are the dearest of all unfulfilled dreams, and its raging volcanoes are the passions of the most turbulent and unhallowed of hearts.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Power of Words: A Literary Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's Prose

Have you ever stopped to think about the incredible power that words hold? The way they can inspire, uplift, and move us to tears, or the way they can wound, hurt, and leave us feeling broken? In his classic prose piece, "The Power of Words," Edgar Allan Poe explores the fascinating and often dark world of language and its ability to shape our lives in profound ways.


The piece begins with an exploration of the concept of language and how it has been used throughout history. Poe notes that language has been used to do both great good and great harm, from inspiring great works of art and literature to inciting wars and violence. He suggests that there is a power inherent in language that can be used for good or evil, and that we must be careful how we use it.

Poe goes on to explore the idea of the written word, noting that it has a special power all its own. He suggests that the written word has the ability to endure long after its author has passed away, and that it can be used to inspire and educate future generations. He also notes that the written word has the power to deceive and manipulate, as evidenced by the many fraudulent books and documents that have been created throughout history.

Finally, Poe explores the idea of the spoken word, noting that it has a power all its own. He suggests that the spoken word can be used to inspire, uplift, and motivate, but that it can also be used to hurt, tear down, and destroy. He warns of the dangers of using the spoken word carelessly and suggests that we must be mindful of the impact our words have on others.

Literary Analysis

One of the most striking aspects of Poe's prose in "The Power of Words" is the way he uses language to convey his message. His writing is rich and evocative, drawing the reader in and immersing them in his world. He uses a range of literary devices, including metaphor, personification, and allusion, to create a vivid and compelling picture of the power of language.

For example, Poe uses metaphor to describe the power of the written word, noting that it "can speak to the soul in a thousand ways." This metaphorical language creates a sense of depth and complexity, suggesting that the written word is more than just a collection of letters on a page, but rather a profound and multifaceted force that can touch us in ways we can't even begin to imagine.

Poe also uses personification to bring his ideas to life. For example, he describes the spoken word as having "a living and breathing soul." This personification creates a sense of intimacy and connection with the reader, as if the spoken word is a real entity that we can relate to and understand.

Finally, Poe uses allusion to connect his ideas to the broader literary tradition. He references the works of Shakespeare, Milton, and other great writers, suggesting that his ideas on the power of words are part of a long and rich tradition of literary exploration.


So what is the message that Poe is trying to convey in "The Power of Words"? At its heart, the piece is a warning about the dangers of language and the need to use it responsibly. Poe suggests that there is a power inherent in language that can be used for good or evil, depending on how it is wielded.

He also suggests that there is something profound and almost mystical about language, whether written or spoken. He describes it as a force that can touch us in ways that other forms of communication cannot, and as something that can endure long after its author has passed away.

Ultimately, Poe seems to be suggesting that we must be mindful of the power of our words and use them wisely. Whether we are writing a book or giving a speech, we must be aware of the impact our words can have on others and use them in a way that is responsible and compassionate.


In conclusion, "The Power of Words" is a thought-provoking and powerful piece of prose that explores the many facets of language and its ability to shape our lives in profound ways. Through his use of rich and evocative language, Poe creates a vivid and compelling picture of the power of language, both for good and for ill.

At its core, the piece is a warning about the dangers of language and the need to use it responsibly. Through his exploration of the written and spoken word, Poe suggests that we must be mindful of the impact our words have on others and use them in a way that is compassionate and responsible.

Overall, "The Power of Words" is a timeless and profound piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether we are writers, speakers, or simply individuals trying to communicate with others, it reminds us of the incredible power that words hold and the need to use them wisely.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Power of Words: An Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's Classic Prose

Edgar Allan Poe, the master of macabre, is known for his dark and haunting tales of horror. However, his lesser-known work, "The Power of Words," is a thought-provoking and insightful piece that explores the impact of language on the human psyche. In this essay, we will delve into the themes and motifs of this classic prose and analyze how Poe's ideas are still relevant today.

The Power of Words is a short essay that was first published in 1845 in Graham's Magazine. In this piece, Poe argues that words have the power to shape our thoughts and emotions, and that the way we use language can have a profound impact on our lives. He begins by stating that "words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality." This statement sets the tone for the rest of the essay, as Poe explores the ways in which language can be used to evoke strong emotions in the reader.

One of the key themes of The Power of Words is the idea that language can be used to manipulate and control people. Poe argues that "the most powerful of all words are those which are least defined," and that these words can be used to "enslave the mind." He gives the example of the word "liberty," which can mean different things to different people, and can be used to justify both freedom and oppression. This idea is still relevant today, as we see politicians and advertisers using vague and ambiguous language to sway public opinion.

Another theme that Poe explores in The Power of Words is the idea that language can be used to create beauty and art. He writes that "the true genius shudders at incompleteness - imperfection - and usually prefers silence to saying the something which is not everything that should be said." This statement highlights the importance of precision and clarity in language, and the idea that words can be used to create works of art that are both beautiful and meaningful.

Poe also touches on the idea that language can be used to express the ineffable - those things that cannot be put into words. He writes that "there are things which cannot be adequately expressed in words, and which are not thoughts." This idea is particularly relevant to the genre of horror, as Poe often used language to create a sense of unease and terror that could not be fully explained or understood.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Power of Words is the way in which Poe uses language to illustrate his ideas. He employs a variety of literary devices, such as metaphor, alliteration, and repetition, to create a sense of rhythm and flow in his prose. For example, he writes that "the sound of the words which we hear is but the faint echo of the sense which is in the soul of the speaker." This sentence uses alliteration and repetition to create a musical quality that draws the reader in and emphasizes the importance of language.

Poe also uses vivid imagery to illustrate his points. He writes that "words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think." This metaphorical image of ink as a drop of dew emphasizes the power of language to create something out of nothing, and to inspire others to think and create.

In conclusion, The Power of Words is a fascinating and insightful piece of prose that explores the impact of language on the human psyche. Poe's ideas about the power of language to manipulate, create, and express the ineffable are still relevant today, and his use of literary devices and vivid imagery make this essay a pleasure to read. As we navigate a world where language is increasingly used to manipulate and control, it is important to remember the true power of words, and to use them wisely and thoughtfully.

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