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Welcome to my nightmare

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Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809. This would be his 194th birthday. Of course he famously died pretty much literally face down in the gutter. He was a tortured soul with a rough row to hoe, and problems with booze and dope.

He was, however, one of the top ten or so best users of the written English language ever. He just flat had the skills to pay the bills. He pretty much invented the modern detective story. He wrote exceptionally good, lucid poetry.

He is probably best remembered for some horror short stories, such as “The Telltale Heart” and the supernatural intricacies of “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Stephen King has done some good work, but Poe makes him look like a P-U-N-K. Poe was, among other things, the best fulfillment of a literary gothic tradition. Any little poser goth kids ought to be studying Poe. He is the great role model.

In his life of struggles, Poe was certainly one of the most morbid writers ever to write major work in all of the English language. Perhaps making the point most succintly would come by quoting the whole of one of his most famous poems:

Annabel Lee.
By Edgar A. Poe.

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 wingéd seraphs in 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 high-born kinsmen 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 her sepulchre there by the sea —
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Finally, there is the Poe grave schtick. Poe is buried in the Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. Every January 19, Poe’s birthday, for more than fifty years a man dressed in black and fedora has left cognac accompanied by three red roses on Poe’s grave. I can appreciate wanting to memorialize him, but methinks that’s just a bit much. It seems a little kitschy gay to me, frankly. Just a tad cheap and tacky for my taste.

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  • Well, A popular comic amoung goths is one called Lenore. I havent read it, but i know that its a reference to the poe poem of the same name which I absolutely love.

    I havent read much poe, but his vibe rocks. a few years back in HS I did “the mad mans poetry anthology” got big points from the teach for not being death or love. I hade 2 poe peices, and undoubtedly some poets who owe a debt to the man. And I do myself.
    rock on, happy birthday EAP

  • A collection of Edgar Allen Poe (not to be confused with David Allan Coe) stories was one of the first books I ever bought in elementary school via a mail order paperback book club (Scholastic book club? something like that). Needless to say it warped my wee little mind. Poe gave us Roger Corman’s best movies starring Vincent Price, and on teevee, quoth the raven, “eat my shorts”.

  • “Not to be confused with David Allan Coe”?

    What the hell is wrong with you? 🙂

    I neglected to mention the Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” parody. It was quite good, sticking pretty close to the Poe even. Take it as a mark of Poe’s excellence that this was one of the relatively few times that a Simpsons parody wasn’t more interesting and entertaining than the original item.

  • What the hell is wrong with you?

    You sound like one of my ex-girlfriends. All I was doing was keeping the impressionable youths from turning down that Outlaw-Country-Goth road. Cause it will only mean bleak heartbreak, a trailer home painted black (with The House of Usher on the mailbox) and Tale-tell Heart means a used eight track of Heart’s Greatest Hits in your pickup truck. And Willie Nelson drinking all your Amontillado, and you thinking it’s Amarillo, and how did I wind up in Austin anyways.

  • Re: The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” parody of “The Raven” – to this day I can’t hear a stanza of that poem without mentally adding “Eat my shorts” to the raven’s refrain. Corrupted once again by television . . .

  • to this day I can’t hear a stanza of that poem without mentally adding “Eat my shorts”

    Excellent! [tenting fingers]

  • Just a bit of lit triv:
    The Annabel Lee of the poem above got ripped off by Nabokov in Lolita.

    Humbert has a little pre-pubescent make-out action with Annabel Leigh, which he blames for setting him on his lifetime fascination with little girls.

    Thanks for bringing up Poe, Al. He’s one of the best.

  • “Ripped off” by Nabokov? It was an homage in a book that was not only filled to the gills with literary cross-references, but was told in the voice of a thoroughly unreliable narrator whose book-length confession changed all the supposed “actual” names. It’s no surprise that the man who gives himself the alliterative name “Humbert Humbert” would draw on a literary imagination for his own past love.

    I’ve read a lot of Poe in the past six months, and I can’t say it’s always a pleasureable experience. “Fall of the House of Usher” and “William Wilson” still holds up; but “The Gold-Bug,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget” yield no pleasure on a return visit. Some, like “The Oblong Box,” are just outright disappointments — with a title like that, are we supposed to be surprised that the box contained a dead body?

    I do enjoy his literary criticism, though.

  • monik

    I say that that poem even do its tragic, inside it says how much he loved that annabel lee(who i dont know who she is). but the thing is that he expresses himself with all his heart in his life of suffering. and i liked that poem. it went right to my heart.i never thought he could be so interesting!!!!

  • Monik, thanks for dropping by and commenting. Yup, Poe was from the heart. Speaking of which, have you ever read any of his short stories, such as “The Tell Tale Heart”? Fine reading for the Halloween season approaching.