February 23rd, 2017
Undoubtedly, Edgar Allen Poe was a master of the poetic arts. Often employing melancholy tones and somber diction, Poe showcased his brilliant creativity through countless poetic works. For example, in his “Conqueror Worm,” Poe does just that: he illustrates a grotesque creature “in human gore imbued.”
-Edgar Allan Poe, manuscript of “The Conqueror Worm,” October-November 1842.
However, not all of Poe’s literary specimens employ depressive tones and rhetoric through poetry, pointing to his creativity that extends beyond poetry and gloomy and ghastly imagery. For example, and surprising to many, Poe was indeed a romantic lover. In some of pieces, such as “Eulalie,” he venerates the women of his deepest, highly invested affections, showcasing his infatuation with his “blushing bride.” In addition, his prose pieces really emphasize the breadth of his writing genius, extending beyond the traditional realm of poetics. For example, “The Pit and The Pendulum” and Eureka provide a different, lesser-known aspect of Poe’s interests. Like his poetry, his prose also often takes advantage of emotional themes such as happiness and sadness, in order to convey philosophical aspects of life such as absolute levels of happiness and religious perspective. Specifically, in Eureka, Poe discusses a relationship between the happiness of all creatures and the “Divine Being,” proposing that “the general sum of their sensations is precisely that amount of Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when concentrated within Himself.” In “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe employs prose instead of poetry to illustrate the experience of the narrator who is set to be executed during the Spanish Inquisition, who declares that “the sentence– the dread sentence of death– was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears,” demonstrating his ability to incorporate dreary qualities within not just his poetry, but also his prose.
-Edgar Allan Poe, manuscript of “Eulalie-A Song,” circa 1845.
-Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: George P. Putnam, 1848. With Poe’s annotations.
-Edgar Allan Poe, “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The Gift: A Christmas and New Year’s Present for 1843. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1842.
Aside from the masterpieces crafted by Poe, external accounts of his accomplishments and work also provide insight into his life, possibly providing for a deeper understanding of just how incredibly boundless his creativity actually is . For example, John Philip Sousa’s “Annabel Lee: Song” adds a musical quality to Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” intertwining Poe’s piece and melody to enhance the poem’s aesthetic quality; this accentuates the beautifully constructed lyrical elements inherent in many of Poe’s literary specimens, again pointing to his creativity which extends beyond just dark poetry; it extends to musical realms as well. In, “Another Account of Poe’s Death” from an unidentified newspaper from around 1890, the author conveys Poe’s remarkable talent, noting a time where Poe “carried off the [one hundred dollar] prize,” after producing the best story in response to and advertisement found in a newspaper. Furthermore, an obituary, “Death of a Poet” published in the New York Organ from late 1849 paints Poe as “immortal” even after his passing. This “immortality” as perceived by the public eye certainly helps validate his unparalleled creativity, as such appreciation further supports how impressive his limitless imagination really was.
-John Philip Sousa, “Annabel Lee: Song,” lyrics by Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia: Thomas Presser Co., 1931.
-“Another Account of Poe’s Death.” Unidentified newspaper, circa 1890.
-“Death of a Poet.” The New-York Organ, October 13, 1849.
Overall, these objects from the Edgar Allen Poe exhibit in Baltimore all share something critical in common: they elucidate the unobvious concerning his literary foci and genius, highlighting his affinity for romance, both life and religious philosophies, lyrical qualities present in select poems, and, public appreciation of his many works. Ultimately, Poe was much, much more than a sulking, gifted poet. He was a highly inventive human being.
-The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore and Beyond: Selections from the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection. Johns Hopkins University, 2017.