Thursday, March 29, 2012

Influences #6 Edgar Allan Poe



Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary ….

What a chilling opening line for one of the most famous poems ever written. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.

I remember the first time I read that poem. I was in my local library on a class field trip. I was in the 5th grade and I wandered upon a book by Poe called “The Raven - and other poems by Edgar Allan Poe” and was drawn to the cover. My eyes grew the size of coconuts when I read that opening line and I thought - “What have I found here?”

My teacher appeared pleased with my choice. She asked me why I picked out that book. I told her, “because I like that word, dreary.”



Edgar Allan Poe was born Edgar Poe on January 19, 1809 and died on October 7, 1849. He was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American romantic movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.


I think I was also drawn in by the mere name, Poe. It sounds scary and as a young boy, I loved anything that was scary. My mother would always say I was an odd kid because I was fascinated with the dark and all the perceived notions of creatures and monsters written that lurked in that darkness. We lived on a farm once and my mother hated it because when night would fall, I was nowhere to be seen. Only to discover I was out in the middle of the woods trying to find out what creatures did lurk in the shadows. Real creatures, that is. Just me and my dog, Pepper. I was never afraid when Pepper was by my side.

She and I used to go camping together. I would take my two man roll up tent, strap it on back of my motorcycle along with my sleeping bag and ride five miles into the dense forest around me and to the edge of a creek bank and spend the night with my dog, a flashlight and an Edgar Allan Poe book.

Good times.



Even to this day, my parents and I will talk about those days when I would disappear on the weekend or during the summer to go hide out and read. Once, I took my fishing pole and was gone for five days. My mother was set to send the cops looking for me, knowing I had probably gone off to the creek but I went further down the creek than normal and my older brother eventually found me on his motorcycle. “Mom is freaking out. You have been gone for almost a week. Don’t you think it’s time to go home and let her know you’re still alive?”

I was about 12 years old then.

I bet you couldn’t do that now a days. What with all the social fear of pedophiles and crap. Not to mention the way everybody overreacts to everything. Even an unmarked packaged left over by some forgetful elder becomes suspicious and the entire police department is called in to check it out along with the media from ten different countries. Only to find out it’s just a new pair of shoes.

But that was how I loved to read as a kid. By myself. Alone. Isolated.




Pepper has long passed away. I miss that dog to this day. And those summer nights camping by the rolling creek. But I cherish the fond memories of the moments I had and credit Edgar Allan Poe as being the inspiration in my subconscious for writing songs and poetry. That could also explain why I have a strange fascination with Boston. That is where he was born. My favorite baseball team is the Atlanta Braves but they originated in Boston before moving to Milwaukee and then, to Atlanta. And I also used to be a fan of the Boston Celtics in basketball.

Poe also attended college at the University of Virginia, having lived in Richmond, and I used to live in Norfolk, Virginia briefly for a couple of years. He also served in the United States Army. So did I.

At the age of 26, Poe married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia Clemm.


In January 1845, Poe published his poem, "The Raven", to instant success. His wife died of tuberculosis two years after its publication at the age of 25. He began planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though he died before it could be produced. On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents.


It’s just so amazing to me how much I have in common with this man. His life, his travels, his mannerisms. I often wonder if I am some kind of reincarnation of ….. Okay, I am snapping out of it. Still, how often do we read about the greats dying in poverty? In fact, he died pretty much in obscurity. His work, on the other hand, will live on forever in our society and will always be considered great if not, ground breaking.



One of my favorite Poe stories is “Murders In The Rue Morgue” Looking back, I now consider Poe as being the first Vincent Price.






Here is “The Raven” in its entirety. Enjoy.


THE RAVEN by Edgar Allan Poe


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."




Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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