I’m ALWAYS late with birthday greetings when it comes to anyone not living under my roof. I don’t forget exactly. I remember and get distracted a hundred times until I realize the day has passed and I feel like an ass. It’s happened again, but I don’t think the honored will be upset.
Happy belated birthday to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. He has been one of my favorites since my mother began reading him to me as a child (I’ve never said I came from a normal family). I knew the stories of The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Raven when other kids were just cutting their teeth on Judy Blume. I remember visiting a wax museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas as a child and going through the chamber of horrors. I immediately knew that one grisly scene was from the Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, even Wednesday Adams steered clear of me on the playground.
But just as I loved his macabre writings, I adored his love poem to his beautiful Annabel Lee. I wondered about her and about the kind of love that could produce that sort of haunting beauty. I know that at the age of 27 Edgar married a 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clem (I didn’t say the man was right in his life actions). She died of TB approximately 10 years later. He followed in two years. A tortured genius, victim to his own demons and mysterious last days, was dead at the age of 40.
He does say in the poem, “I was a child and she was a child,” but I’m not convinced Virginia was his “Annabel Lee.” I’m sure there are books out there that have identified her or at least hypothesised about her identity, and I’m sure I’ll get around to doing more research and welcome readers to educate me on what they know, but for now, I’ll just continue to imagine.
Whomever this Annabel Lee was, there is no doubt in my mind by reading his poems that Edgar felt great love for a woman at sometime in his life. It may have been unrequited, but he felt it in his soul. Most artists have the gift and the curse of feeling emotions at a more heightened level than the average Joe. It is what makes their work spectacular and what leaves them vulnerable to the monsters living in both the outside world and within themselves. As with most geniuses, Edgar Allan Poe died too young, or did he? Maybe he burned just long enough to share some of his beauty with the cruel and judging world before taking the rest with him; the parts he saved for only his Annabel Lee.
Thank Heaven! the crisis-
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last-
And the fever called “Living”
Is conquered at last.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)