Biographical Poetry posted January 21, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
A Gothic Great!

Edgar Allan Poe

by Debbie D'Arcy

Misfortune's shadow clung to him when orphaned, still just two,
and foster parents intervened to raise him through the years.
With rod of iron, his 'father' sought to discipline, get through,
but also treat indulgently to lighten woeful fears.
This crazed regime would stir and cause resentment day by day
which led, in turn, to waywardness in gambling and the like,
and, when those losses grew too great, this lad was torn away
from college freedom back to home where hopelessness would strike.
Impoverished, he tried his hand at milit'ry pursuit,
but stamina was lacking when his verse took precedence.
Inspired by the Romantics and those poets of repute,
like Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, his writing would commence.
His thirst for love consumed him when he chose to wed a child,
his cousin, still just thirteen years, Virginia, was her name -
a wife or 'sister' (who could tell?), he was, it's said, beguiled,
their bond would be a lasting one, surpassing slur and shame.
And all the while, his verse and prose would garner fame and praise:
he penned with skill macabre traits defining Gothic themes;
in death and sorrow, laced with fear, his works would shock and faze -
his anti-transcendental view eschewed folk's mystic dreams.
But, while his wife had given him the love and strength he yearned,
her life would sadly be curtailed at only twenty-four,
and Poe would be distraught and lost, his whole world was upturned,
with alcohol (his bane and crutch), his demons lured him more.
Then, as a tribute, he'd create his best work of them all -
The Raven - then with chilling air would mourn his dear Lenore.*
Its dialogue, twixt man and bird, would hold us in its thrall,
while edge of madness soon was crossed with heartache, Nevermore.*
He rued didactic, preachy verse that stultified the arts.
Instead, let undercurrent flow mid brevity of aim,
with duty, truth should merely serve to take more minor parts,
while beauty be the vital goal - the essence - he'd proclaim.
This modern man was not afraid to breach those social sways,
inventing genres, pushing through the angst of human mind,
and, in that lucid myth, he opened doors to future ways
of viewing life, perverse and true, with artform intertwined.
And, as in life and poetry, his death would then astound,
no record proved disease, the cause, or, worse, that he was killed.
With Poe-esque intrigue, darkly cast, the answer lies unfound -
perhaps an ending aptly set for one who stunned and thrilled?



Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)

Image: courtesy of Google free pics; data sources: Wikipedia and various other biographies

Stanza 1: Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts of actor parentage. After losing both parents, he was fostered by a childless, well-heeled couple, the Allans, his name subsequently changed to incorporate their surname. He was never formally adopted. His guardian alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son.

Stanza 2: After receiving a classical education in the UK, he returned to the US where it continued. He attended the University of Virginia but, after eleven months, was pulled out by his foster father, incensed by Poe's gambling losses. Finding nothing for himself back in Richmond (his sweetheart having become engaged in his absence), he moved to Boston where he published Tamerlane and other Poems.

Stanza 3 Neither the Army or West Point Military Academy held his interest amid his growing desire to pursue publishing. He was particularly drawn to the Dark Romanticism sub-genre (reflecting fascination with the irrational, demonic and grotesque).

Stanza 4: After reportedly courting his cousin for four years and, amid inevitable controversy, he married her in 1836. It's not conclusively known if the marriage was consummated and a theory exists that their relationship was more of a sibling one.

Stanza 5: Poe's burgeoning career as a poet, short story writer, critic and editor was gathering great momentum. His macabre themes appealed to public taste, a reaction against the likes of transcendentalism which he strongly disliked.His popularity inevitably upset and threatened mainstream writers of the time.

Stanza 6: His wife died in 1847 from tuberculosis. Even though Poe flirted whilst she was alive and courted other women afterwards, he could never strike up another meaningful relationship because he was so enamoured by her beauty and simplicity, an inspiration in his works, for example, The Raven, Annabel Lee and Lenora.

Stanza 7: The Raven - a narrative verse about a bereaved man mourning his lost Lenore late at night, and being visited by a raven, representing grief and loss. The themes are essentially death and the afterlife with the speaker opening up to the bird but getting nothing in return. This builds the tension and foreboding as the speaker becomes increasingly agitated, crossing the thin line of dark introspection between sanity and madness. *Lenore, represents his 'rare and radiant' wife, whom he will *nevermore meet again.

Stanza 8: In his essay, The Poetic Principle, he wrote that he dislikes didacticism (a literary movement encompassing works that instruct and entertain) and allegory, believing that meaning in literature should be an undercurrent just below the surface. According to him, works with obvious meaning cease to be art; they should be brief and focus on a specific single effect with each idea and sentiment carefully calculated; beauty and atmosphere should be the primary aim.

Stanza 9: Poe's classical background and fearlessness in pushing through social barriers to explore death in all its stages, the supernatural etc, opened doors for future writers. He is also credited with inventing the detective fiction genre and being a major contributor to science fiction.

Stanza 10: Poe's death, like much of his life has been the subject of debate. It was reported at the time that he died from disease relating to his alcoholism. But other theories abounded including: tuberculosis, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera, carbon monoxide poisoning and rabies. He was found in a dire condition, wearing clothes that were not his own. This latter reporting might indicate that he was a victim of cooping, in which election gangs would kidnap wayward individuals off the streets and ply their victims with alcohol to get them to vote, sometimes several times, for a particular candidate. Changing their clothes was an attempt to fool election officials.

Although, in the aftermath of his death, his reputation was badly slated, attributed not least to his outspoken criticism of other contemporary writers and, in turn, their resentment of his significant following, such bias has now been replaced with much more impartial respect and praise for this impressively talented artist. Despite a short and hapless life, his impact on a range of genres, his ingenious use of language and inspired and original imagination have left a legacy that will live on.

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