Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday to Edgar Allen Poe

Oh, how we adore the works of Edgar Allen Poe! We are celebrating his 203nd birthday today.

Poe is famous for his mastery of the macabre and the mysterious. If you've ever read his books, you'll never forget the beating heart of guilt in the "Tell-Tale Heart." Or, the horrified remorse of the mutilation of "The Black Cat."

In his time, he was a famous literary critic and also published cryptograms in newspapers, a tradition now in most daily newspapers. This hobby influenced his story "The Gold Bug."

His stories and works speak for themselves and they are timeless, classic pieces. Poe lived and died almost twenty years before the Civil War. He was a HUGE early influence on literature and many future writers to come.

It is a fact that Edgar Poe created the modern detective story. Arthur Conan Doyle, mastermind of the Sherlock Holmes stories, credited Poe for wholly re-inventing the genre.

Poe pioneered science fiction and the short story format with Jules Verne and H.G.Wells counting themselves admirers and fans of Poe's work each praising Poe as ahead of his time.

Poe also was the first person in America to write for a living full time. He was successful, famous and popular in life.

He is buried in Baltimore where every January 19th, the Poe Toaster leaves cognac and roses at his grave. This mysterious man has created a legend of itself for his annual midnight homage of Poe. Alas, it is Nevermore! Sadly the tradition seems to be at an end. The Toaster was a no-show in 2010, 2011 and last night he also failed to show.

Well, maybe tonight we'll pick up 3 roses and a bottle of cognac and toast Poe ourselves. Let's start a new trend. The "At Home Poe Toast."

"O Death, thy comest when I had thee least in mind." -
The Masque of the Red Death

He died, under still unexplained circumstances, on October 7th 1849. All medical records and documents, including Poe's death certificate, have been lost.

On October 3rd, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, "in great distress, and ... in need of immediate assistance." He was wearing clothes that were not his own and called out the name "Reynolds." It is a fallacy that he died of alcoholism. No one knows what killed him. In fact, he was travelling by train from Virginia to New York City when he was found in Baltimore. The unkempt appearance and shabby clothes he was found in were "completely out of character" for the well-groomed man.

It's a shame really, that we will never know what befell this great author, who died at aged 40, and had so much more to give. It's a tragedy that for a hundred years his memory has been soiled by the label of drunkard. And it's amazing that he was probably poisoned and robbed and that the perpetrator got away with it. Who the hell was Reynolds?

His poem "The Raven" is a hauntingly beautiful example of one of his most famous works. The poem we love the most is "The Bells." A perfect example of how his work was not all macabre, doom and gloomy.

"Hear the mellow wedding bells, Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune, What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens,
while she gloats On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells! How it dwells On the Future!
How it tells Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!"

His poem Annabel Lee it has a haunting, soft macabre quality:

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

For fun road trips:
Visit the Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia. Or...

The Edgar Allen Poe memorial in Baltimore. Or....

The Edgar Allen Poe NY Cottage.

Read more of his work:
Poe Stories

Read about his life:
Wiki Article

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