Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley – January 31, 2018: Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe

TRIBUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE
 
January is the birth month of Edgar Allan Poe, who lived from January 19, 1809 to October 7, 1849, dying at the age of forty under somewhat mysterious circumstances. On October 3, 1849, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance,” according to Joseph W. Walker who found him.He was taken to the Washington Medical College where he died on Sunday, October 7. Poe was not coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. The cause of death remains a mystery.Speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera, and rabies. One theory, dating from 1872, suggests that cooping was the cause of Poe’s death, a form of electoral fraud in which citizens were forced or induced to vote for a particular candidate several times. People would be grabbed off the street by so-called “cooping gangs” or “election gangs” working on the payroll of a political candidate, and they would be kept in a room, called the “coop,” and given alcoholic beverages in order for them to comply. If they refused to cooperate, they would be beaten or even killed. Often their clothing would be changed to allow them to vote several times.
 
Wikipedia: “Poe is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and 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.”
 
“Here comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge, / Three-fifths of him genius, and two fifths sheer fudge,” wrote James Russell Lowell. Poe’s raven was in fact partially derived from Charles Dickens’ pet raven, Grip, who shows up in Dickens’ book, Barnaby Rudge, published in 1841. Poe met Dickens in 1842 and told him he should have given his raven a more symbolic, prophetic presence in the story. In 1845 Poe produced his poem, “The Raven.” The poem featured a highly symbolic, prophetic raven and became a literary sensation.
 
“E. Allan Poe / Ho ho ho / Did it,” sang Noël Coward, “but he did it in verse.”
 
Poe’s life was tumultuous but his output was prodigious and at times amazing. Poetry, stories, criticism poured out of him. The fierceness of the latter earned him the title of “the tomahawk man.” One of his favorite targets was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author of “Hiawatha,” “Evangeline,” and “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Poe accused Longfellow of “the heresy of the didactic” and insisted that a poem had to be short, something that could be read at a single sitting. He writes in “The Philosophy of Composition,” “What we term a long poem is, in fact, merely a succession of brief ones—that is to say, of brief poetical effects. It is needless to demonstrate that a poem is such only inasmuch as it intensely excites, by elevating the soul; and all intense excitements are, through a psychal necessity, brief. For this reason, at least, one-half of the ‘Paradise Lost’ is essentially prose—a succession of poetic excitements interspersed, inevitably, with corresponding depressions.” “Beauty,” he goes on, “of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.” Poe’s insistence on the poem as lyric as opposed to narrative had history on its side, and his work is read today far more than that of his rival. Poe remarked of Longfellow, “We grant him high qualities, but deny him the future.”
 
Today’s show is a Poe-pourri, a presentation of the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. We’re going to begin with his most famous poem, “The Raven.”
 
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.
 
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.
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