Thursday, 8 October 2009

'For Edgar'

Today is National Poetry Day.

I used to be quite the little poet back in the day, not so much now. Perhaps I'm no longer tormented enough. For me, poetry has always been about torment. I was introduced to reading and poetry at a very early age, however, it wasn't until just after I turned 9 that I stumbled upon a writer who I really connected with. No other writer has held such a place in my heart for so long. So this blog is for him, one Mr Edgar Allan Poe. I feel the timing for this blog is perfect as not only is today National Poetry Day, but yesterday was the anniversary of Poe's death.

Late November, 1989, Keble School For Boys Christmas Bazaar. I had been given around £2 for spending money (no sweets!), £2 could get you a lot at a Christmas Bazaar then, even one held by a nice public school. If my memory serves me correctly, I had already purchased 10 neon friendship bracelets and was proudly wearing them. It was when I was browsing the jumble stall that I noticed a very tatty, small, interesting looking book. The front cover told me this book had scary stories, just my sort of thing. I opened the book onto a random page and saw the title of a story; 'The Premature Burial' (a story which to this day is the cause of my irrational fear of being buried alive), I read a couple of paragraphs, getting more and more excited with each sentence. I knew then, I had found something so very special, I wasn't sure why anyone would have wanted to get rid of it, so I quickly bought it before this 'anyone' changed their mind! It cost me 50p. 50p for a book that in a round about way became the most influential book in my life.

Skip forward 20 years and I now own a sizable collection of various publications of Poe's work. Some books are old and worn, over-read, others I have managed to keep pristine despite reading, because they have been bound so beautifully. Needless to say I still have the book that started it all, it is very precious to me.
When I was about 18, I found my poem. The Poe poem that I fell in love with the most. Of course, the stories all have their special places, and The Raven, well, my photography business took it's name from that ("Darkness there, and Nothing More."), but for me, this poem had everything that made Poe my favourite writer. The poem in question is 'For Annie'.

'For Annie' was written by Poe in the year of his death. This poem was written for a woman called Nancy Richmond, Poe called her Annie, and she was one of his closest friends. In a letter dated March 23, 1849, Poe sent this poem to Nancy saying, "I think the lines 'For Annie' (those I now send) much the best I have ever written." I'm inclined to agree.
The poem takes the reader on a wonderful emotional journey, through the darkest recesses of a suicidal madness towards a light, a love and an acceptance of what has passed and what is to come. The rhythm is Poe's trademark rhythm, the words create a world both of nightmare and of daydream for the reader. I adore this poem and I would like to share it with you today.


by: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

      hank Heaven! the crisis--
      The danger is past,
      And the lingering illness
      Is over at last--
      And the fever called "Living"
      Is conquered at last.

      Sadly, I know
      I am shorn of my strength,
      And no muscle I move
      As I lie at full length--
      But no matter!--I feel
      I am better at length.

      And I rest so composedly,
      Now, in my bed
      That any beholder
      Might fancy me dead--
      Might start at beholding me,
      Thinking me dead.

      The moaning and groaning,
      The sighing and sobbing,
      Are quieted now,
      With that horrible throbbing
      At heart:--ah, that horrible,
      Horrible throbbing!

      The sickness--the nausea--
      The pitiless pain--
      Have ceased, with the fever
      That maddened my brain--
      With the fever called "Living"
      That burned in my brain.

      And oh! of all tortures
      That torture the worst
      Has abated--the terrible
      Torture of thirst
      For the naphthaline river
      Of Passion accurst:--
      I have drunk of a water
      That quenches all thirst:--

      Of a water that flows,
      With a lullaby sound,
      From a spring but a very few
      Feet under ground--
      From a cavern not very far
      Down under ground.

      And ah! let it never
      Be foolishly said
      That my room it is gloomy
      And narrow my bed;
      For man never slept
      In a different bed--
      And, to sleep, you must slumber
      In just such a bed.

      My tantalized spirit
      Here blandly reposes,
      Forgetting, or never
      Regretting its roses--
      Its old agitations
      Of myrtles and roses:

      For now, while so quietly
      Lying, it fancies
      A holier odor
      About it, of pansies--
      A rosemary odor,
      Commingled with pansies--
      With rue and the beautiful
      Puritan pansies.

      And so it lies happily,
      Bathing in many
      A dream of the truth
      And the beauty of Annie--
      Drowned in a bath
      Of the tresses of Annie.

      She tenderly kissed me,
      She fondly caressed,
      And then I fell gently
      To sleep on her breast--
      Deeply to sleep
      From the heaven of her breast.

      When the light was extinguished,
      She covered me warm,
      And she prayed to the angels
      To keep me from harm--
      To the queen of the angels
      To shield me from harm.

      And I lie so composedly,
      Now, in my bed,
      (Knowing her love)
      That you fancy me dead--
      And I rest so contentedly,
      Now, in my bed,
      (With her love at my breast)
      That you fancy me dead--
      That you shudder to look at me,
      Thinking me dead.

      But my heart it is brighter
      Than all of the many
      Stars in the sky,
      For it sparkles with Annie--
      It glows with the light
      Of the love of my Annie--
      With the thought of the light
      Of the eyes of my Annie.

If this blog has interested you in any way then please check out these links for further reading;

....and just because it's poetry day, here is The Raven, as recited by Vincent Price. You'll never hear it read better from anyone else. (...not biased at all.)