POEtry Wednesday*

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
—“Alone,” by Edgar Allen Poe

What can I say about Edgar Allen Poe that hasn’t been said before? What can anyone say about a man who achieved fame and fortune after death largely because a fellow writer** he insulted in life tried to ruin him with lies that made him immortal?

(Edgar Allen Poe)

A dark unfathomed tide
Of interminable pride –
A mystery, and a dream,
Should my early life seem;
I say that dream was fraught
With a wild and waking thought
Of beings that have been,
Which my spirit hath not seen,
Had I let them pass me by,
With a dreaming eye!
Let none of earth inherit
That vision of my spirit;
Those thoughts I would control,
As a spell upon his soul:
For that bright hope at last
And that light time have past,
And my worldly rest hath gone
With a sigh as it passed on:
I care not though it perish
With a thought I then did cherish

What do you say about a man who wrote about Ravens and invented detective fiction and did Gothic Horror like whoa and fell in love with a fourteen-year old girl and married her, and made her happy until her death?

(Edgar Allen Poe)

I dwelt alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride-
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.

Ah, less- less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl-
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl.

Now Doubt- now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarte within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye-
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.

What’s left to say about this man who died under mysterious circumstances that, as it seems now, had nothing to do with alcoholism or drugs or psychosis, or even heartbreak?*** Who inspired such affection that a secret admirer left roses and cognac on his grave on his birthday for decades until his centennial?

Well . . .

You could say that he wrote some damn fine poems, some of which^ move from bright to dark and straight to skewed like a lively song played by a violinist suffering from a slow-acting poison, until the bow drags down on the strings and mocks the melody:

Bridal Ballad
(Edgar Allen Poe)

The ring is on my hand,
And the wreath is on my brow;
Satin and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
And I am happy now.

And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swell-
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
And who is happy now.

But he spoke to re-assure me,
And he kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o’er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D’Elormie,
“Oh, I am happy now!”

And thus the words were spoken,
And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken,
Here is a ring, as token
That I am happy now!

Would God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,-
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.

You might also say he’s the perfect poet—the perfect writer—for a Halloween post, and you would be right.^^
But that’s not all that he is, or was.

When you get beyond the Tell-Tale Hearts and Nevermore, you find a clever, talented man—not necessarily a cheerful one, granted—who wanted to make a living as a writer and did everything he could to make it work.

And a man who, despite all this, was anything but self-delusioned:

The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour
(Edgar Allen Poe)

The happiest day- the happiest hour
My sear’d and blighted heart hath known,
The highest hope of pride and power,
I feel hath flown.

Of power! said I? yes! such I ween;
But they have vanish’d long, alas!
The visions of my youth have been-
But let them pass.

And, pride, what have I now with thee?
Another brow may even inherit
The venom thou hast pour’d on me
Be still, my spirit!

The happiest day- the happiest hour
Mine eyes shall see- have ever seen,
The brightest glance of pride and power,
I feel- have been:

But were that hope of pride and power
Now offer’d with the pain
Even then I felt- that brightest hour
I would not live again:

For on its wing was dark alloy,
And, as it flutter’d- fell
An essence- powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well.


*I’d apologize, but you know I wouldn’t mean it.

**One Rufus Griswold, whose revenge backfired so badly his only remembered literary achievement is his enemy’s biography.

***It actually might have been politics—he went missing and was found delirious in a polling place, possibly shanghaied there to vote more than once.

^Though not all:

I’ll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trade or leases —
Take a bank note and fold it up,
And then you will find your money in creases!
This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;
And every time that you fold it across,
‘Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!
—“Epigram for Wall Street”

^^But Christina Rossetti is a close second. Maybe next year.


5 thoughts on “POEtry Wednesday*

    • I’m wondering if that story is true or another fabrication. Poe doesn’t really strike me as the ironic nudist type . . . But I’ve been fooled before.

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