Saturday, 19 January 2013

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe

Born on January 19th in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most recognised and revered names in gothic literature. Part of the American Romantic movement, Poe is best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Not only an author and a poet, he was also a literary critic and editor, and one of the earliest practitioners of the short story. Now widely regarded as inventing the detective fiction genre, Poe was also a forerunner of science fiction. As a popular crime and horror author, his influence spreads far and wide, and amongst the writers who owe a tremendous dept to his work are Herman Melville, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman and Jules Verne, to name but a few.

A true visionary, Poe was the first well-known American writer to attempt to irk out a living through writing alone, leading him down a path of financially instability and uncertainty. His gruesome stories reflected his inner turmoil. Haunted by the death of his mother, Poe wrestled with fears of abandonment throughout his life. He was drawn to, yet repelled by women, suffering from the inescapable notion that they, like his mother, would eventually abandon him. A morbid and melancholy romantic, Poe’s female characters are all either dead or dying, and he declared in his Philosophy of Composition, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.”

He died penniless, jobless, loveless and destitute on October 7, 1849, but his dark tales of madness, murder and doomed love continue to influence writers, artists and filmmakers to this day. Countless titles have been adapted for cinema throughout the years, some more loosely than others. My own particular favourites are those adapted by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. While they took massive liberties with Poe’s feverish narratives, they perfectly captured the doomful atmosphere of hopelessness which permeates Poe’s best work. The ‘Poe Cycle’ included titles such as Pit and the Pendulum, Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia, The Premature Burial and The Fall of the House of Usher.

Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'
 His influence over the work of Dario Argento is also undeniable, with the Italian director revealing: ‘On reading Poe as a child it disturbed me and left me, for a long time, feeling strange and slightly sad… When I began to make films, I recognised that my themes had some affinity with the events told by Poe in his stories, his hallucinatory worlds, his bloody visions… In my solitary moments when some frightening idea strikes me and I think: with this I will make a film – Poe’s handsome and intense face watches me, warns me to pay heed, to be careful.’

Happy Birthday Mr Poe, thank you for dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream.

Alone

'All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.'
From childhood's hour I have not been 
As others were; I have not seen 
As others saw; I could not bring 
My passions from a common spring. 
From the same source I have not taken 
My sorrow; I could not awaken 
My heart to joy at the same tone; 
And all I loved, I loved alone. 
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn 
Of a most stormy life- was drawn 
From every depth of good and ill 
The mystery which binds me still: 
From the torrent, or the fountain, 
From the red cliff of the mountain, 
From the sun that round me rolled 
In its autumn tint of gold, 
From the lightning in the sky 
As it passed me flying by, 
From the thunder and the storm, 
And the cloud that took the form 
(When the rest of Heaven was blue) 
Of a demon in my view. 

Edgar Allan Poe

4 comments:

Dr. Theda said...

I have decided to do "Poe Posts" here at the Crypt for the Evening ...
... Your "fiend" & follower ...Dr. Theda...

Jon Towlson said...

Happy Birthday, Edgar. I will toast you with a glass of red in 'The Fox Reformed'.

James Gracey said...

Jon that sounds perfect! Hope you had a lovely evening.

Dr. Theda I look forward with all my (tell-tale) heart to viewing your Poe Posts. Hope you're well!

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I had a celebratory read of my favourite Poe story...The Black Cat.