Classic Poe…try

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was a hard-working man of letters whose poems and stories were ahead of their time. Unfortunately, his editorial labors were not rewarded in his lifetime. At one particularly low point, he wrote the wealthy man who raised him, John Allan, “Without friends, without any means, consequently, of obtaining employment, I am perishing — absolutely perishing for want of aid. And yet I am not idle — nor addicted to any vice — nor have I committed any offence against society which would render me deserving of so hard a fate. For God’s sake, pity me and save me from destruction.” It was his last appeal to John Allan, who died shortly after, not even mentioning Poe in his will.

Much of the mystery that surrounds Poe’s life is unjustified, distorted by a series of biographers’ half-truths and outright falsehoods, according to Arthur Robson Quinn, who wrote the Introduction to “The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.” In the preface to “The Raven and Other Poems,” Poe wrote, “Events not to be controlled have prevented me from making, at any time, any serious effort in what, under happier circumstances, would have been the field of my choice. With me, poetry has been not a purpose but a passion.” How true still for so many people who do not have the means to pursue their dreams.

Here is one of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe poems, “A Dream Within a Dream,” written in 1827:

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if Hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

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