YES I AM
Called "America's Shakespeare," Edgar Allan Poe created or mastered
the short story, detective fiction, science fiction, lyric poetry and the horror story. His dark genius has invited children
and adults to read and love literature for over 150 years.
HE WENT TO HOUSE SIT
Poe's LifeWho is Edgar Allan Poe?The name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women
who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as “The Tell-Tale
Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This versatile writer’s oeuvre
includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundreds of essays and book reviews.
He is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the modern detective story and an innovator in the science fiction genre, but
he made his living as America’s first great literary critic and theoretician. Poe’s reputation today rests primarily
on his tales of terror as well as on his haunting lyric poetry.Just
as the bizarre characters in Poe’s stories have captured the public imagination so too has Poe himself. He is seen as
a morbid, mysterious figure lurking in the shadows of moonlit cemeteries or crumbling castles. This is the Poe of legend.
But much of what we know about Poe is wrong, the product of a biography written by one of his enemies in an attempt to defame
the author’s name.The real Poe was born to traveling
actors in Boston on January 19, 1809. Edgar was the second of three children. His other brother William Henry Leonard
Poe would also become a poet before his early death, and Poe’s sister Rosalie Poe would grow up to teach penmanship
at a Richmond girls’ school. Within three years of Poe’s birth both of his parents had died, and he was
taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his wife Frances Valentine Allan in Richmond, Virginia while Poe’s
siblings went to live with other families. Mr. Allan would rear Poe to be a businessman and a Virginia gentleman, but Poe
had dreams of being a writer in emulation of his childhood hero the British poet Lord Byron. Early poetic verses found written
in a young Poe’s handwriting on the backs of Allan’s ledger sheets reveal how little interest Poe had in the tobacco
business. By the age of thirteen, Poe had compiled enough poetry to publish a book, but his headmaster advised Allan against
allowing this. In 1826 Poe left Richmond to attend
the University of Virginia, where he excelled in his classes while accumulating considerable debt. The miserly Allan had sent
Poe to college with less than a third of the money he needed, and Poe soon took up gambling to raise money to pay his expenses.
By the end of his first term Poe was so desperately poor that he burned his furniture to keep warm. Humiliated by his poverty and furious with Allan for not providing enough funds
in the first place, Poe returned to Richmond and visited the home of his fiancée Elmira Royster, only to discover that
she had become engaged to another man in Poe’s absence. The heartbroken Poe’s last few months in the
Allan mansion were punctuated with increasing hostility towards Allan until Poe finally stormed out of the home in a quixotic
quest to become a great poet and to find adventure. He accomplished the first objective by publishing his first book Tamerlane
when he was only eighteen, and to achieve the second goal he enlisted in the United States Army. Two years later he heard
that Frances Allan, the only mother he had ever known, was dying of tuberculosis and wanted to see him before she died. By
the time Poe returned to Richmond she had already been buried. Poe and Allan briefly reconciled, and Allan helped Poe gain
an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Before
going to West Point, Poe published another volume of poetry. While there, Poe was offended to hear that Allan had remarried
without telling him or even inviting him to the ceremony. Poe wrote to Allan detailing all the wrongs Allan had committed
against him and threatened to get himself expelled from the academy. After only eight months at West Point Poe was thrown
out, but he soon published yet another book.Broke and
alone, Poe turned to Baltimore, his late father’s home, and called upon relatives in the city. One of Poe’s cousins
robbed him in the night, but another relative, Poe’s aunt Maria Clemm, became a new mother to him and welcomed him into
her home. Clemm’s daughter Virginia first acted as a courier to carry letters to Poe’s lady loves but soon
became the object of his desire. While Poe was in Baltimore, Allan died, leaving Poe out of his will, which did, however, provide for an
illegitimate child Allan had never seen. By then Poe was living in poverty but had started publishing his short stories, one
of which won a contest sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. The connections Poe established through the contest allowed
him to publish more stories and to eventually gain an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond.
It was at this magazine that Poe finally found his life’s work as a magazine writer.
|VIRGINIA ELIZA CLEMM
|ONLY 13 WHEN SHE MARRIED EDGAR
SIT WITH US? NO
year Poe helped make the Messenger the most popular magazine in the south with his sensational stories as well as
with his scathing book reviews. Poe soon developed a reputation as a fearless critic who not only attacked an author’s
work but also insulted the author and the northern literary establishment. Poe targeted some of the most famous writers in
the country. One of his victims was the anthologist and editor Rufus Griswold. At the age of twenty-seven, Poe brought Maria and Virginia Clemm to Richmond and married
his Virginia, who was not yet fourteen. The marriage proved a happy one, and the family is said to have enjoyed singing together
at night. Virginia expressed her devotion to her husband in a Valentine poem now in the collection of the Enoch Pratt Free
Library, and Poe celebrated the joys of married life in his poem “Eulalie.”Dissatisfied with his low pay and lack of editorial control at the Messenger, Poe moved to
New York City. In the wake of the financial crisis known as the “Panic of 1837,” Poe struggled to find magazine
work and wrote his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. After a year in New York, Poe moved to Philadelphia in 1838 and wrote for a number of different magazines.
He served as editor of Burton’s and then Graham’s magazines while continuing to sell articles
to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger and other journals. In spite of his growing fame, Poe was still barely
able to make a living. For the publication of his first book of short stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,
he was only paid with twenty-five free copies of his book. He would soon become a champion for the cause of higher wages for
writers as well as for an international copyright law. To change the face of the magazine industry, he proposed starting his
own journal, but he failed to find the necessary funding.In
the face of poverty Poe was still able to find solace at home with his wife and mother-in-law, but tragedy struck in 1842
when Poe’s wife contracted tuberculosis, the disease that had already claimed Poe’s mother, brother, and foster
in search of better opportunities, Poe moved to New York again in 1844 and introduced himself to the city by perpetrating
a hoax. His “news story” of a balloon trip across the ocean caused a sensation, and the public rushed to read
everything about it—until Poe revealed that he had fooled them all.
January 1845 publication of “The Raven” made Poe a household name. He was now famous enough to draw large crowds
to his lectures, and he was beginning to demand better pay for his work. He published two books that year, and briefly lived
his dream of running his own magazine when he bought out the owners of the Broadway Journal. The failure of the venture,
his wife’s deteriorating health, and rumors spreading about Poe’s relationship with a married woman, drove him
out of the city in 1846. At this time he moved to a tiny cottage in the country. It was there, in the winter of 1847 that
Virginia died at the age of twenty-four. Poe was devastated, and was unable to write for months. His critics assumed he would
soon be dead. They were right. Poe only lived another two years and spent much of that time traveling from one city to the
next giving lectures and finding backers for his latest proposed magazine project to be called The Stylus.While on lecture tour in Lowell, Massachusetts, Poe met and befriended
Nancy Richmond. His idealized and platonic love of her inspired some of his greatest poetry, including “For Annie.”
Since she remained married and unattainable, Poe attempted to marry the poetess Sarah Helen Whitman in Providence, but the
engagement lasted only about one month. In Richmond he found his first fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton was now a widow,
so began to court her again. Before he left Richmond on a trip to Philadelphia he considered himself engaged to her, and her
letters from the time imply that she felt the same way. On the way to Philadelphia, Poe stopped in Baltimore and disappeared
for five days. He was found in the bar room of
a public house that was being used as a polling place for an election. The magazine editor Joseph Snodgrass sent Poe to Washington
College Hospital, where Poe spent the last days of his life far from home and surrounded by strangers. Neither Poe’s
mother-in-law nor his fiancée knew what had become of him until they read about it in the newspapers. Poe died on October
7, 1849 at the age of forty. The exact cause of Poe’s death remains a mystery.
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 —
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,
some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber
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.
into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to
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.
the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
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; —
the wind and nothing more."
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
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!"
the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber
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
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
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters
is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed
faster till his songs one burden bore —
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
'Never — nevermore'."
But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and
ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerSwung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee —
by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite — respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! — prophet still,
if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all
undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —
On this home by horror haunted— tell me truly, I implore —
Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!"
the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil — prophet still,
if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us — by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with
sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting —
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy
soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!— quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart,
and take thy form from off my door!"
the Raven, "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating
on the floor
Shall be lifted — nevermore!
—Edgar Allan Poe
"The Raven" follows
an unnamed narrator who sits reading "forgotten lore" as a method to forget the loss of his love, Lenore. A "rapping at [his] chamber door" reveals nothing, but excites his soul to "burning". A similar rapping, slightly louder, is heard at his window. When he goes to investigate, a raven steps into his chamber.
Paying no attention to the man, the raven perches on a bust of Pallas.
Amused by the raven's comically serious disposition, the man demands that the
bird tell him its name. The raven's only answer is "Nevermore". The narrator is surprised that the raven can talk, though it says nothing further. The narrator remarks to himself
that his "friend" the raven will soon fly out of his life, just as "other friends have flown before" along with his previous hopes. As if answering, the raven responds again with "Nevermore". The narrator reasons that the bird learned the word "Nevermore" from some "unhappy master" and
that it is the only word it knows.
Even so, the narrator pulls his chair directly in front of the raven, determined to learn
more about it. He thinks for a moment, not saying anything, but his mind wanders back to his lost Lenore. He thinks the air
grows denser and feels the presence of angels. Confused by the association of the angels with the bird, the narrator becomes
angry, calling the raven a "thing of evil" and a "prophet". As he yells at the raven it only responds,
"Nevermore". Finally, he asks the raven whether he will be reunited with Lenore in Heaven. When the raven responds with its typical
"Nevermore", he shrieks and commands the raven to return to the "Plutonian shore", though it never moves. Presumably at the time of the poem's recitation by the narrator, the raven "still is sitting" on the bust of Pallas. The narrator's final admission is that his soul is trapped beneath the raven's shadow and shall
be lifted "Nevermore".
YOU FOUND US AT THE JAIL