Today, by chance, I happened to find myself in the college library, with quite a considerable amount of time on my hand. While browsing through the literature section for books to read, I came across a fat volume titled: The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Now I had of course previously heard of Edgar Allan Poe, vaguely, as a writer of Gothic Romanticism, of macabre tales and dark poems. But this was the first time I had read (apart from a short story I had previously read for class – and which pretty much fell into the established and commonly accepted norm of his stories) any of his works. And was I fascinated!! Here are some of the poems I read and loved by Edgar Allan Poe:
But Octavia, do not strive to rob
My heart of all that soothes its pain
The mournful hope that every throb
Will make it break for thee!
It took me a minute to understand the last two lines, but when I did I was kept marveling at the sheer beauty of them. The original poem was written to Octavia Walton, daughter of George Walton, Secretary of West Florida under Governor William P. Duval. The poem manages to convey despite its brevity, a deluge of emotions. The narrator says how even in the most lively company of friends, and no matter how entertaining the conversation, his thoughts only turn to her, to Octavia, the girl he loves. He is fighting a losing battle with his heart, as he struggles to forget his Lady Love (who though it is not explicitly stated in the poem, must have turned down his proposal). The only hope the poet has is someday his heart will break, as he will realize that she is unattainable. It is only after this realization – no matter how painful – that he can never have her, strikes him, that he will be able to continue with his life. Because till then, he hopes (though he knows it to be in vain) that she will someday return his love, and that keeps him tied to her and her memories.
Lost and/or unattainable Love is a common theme in many of his poems. Here are two more that struck my fancy. The first one is only of two lines, and yet the couplet is one of my personal favorites.
Deep In Earth
Poe wrote this poem, I later learnt, courtesy of Google, in 1847 – the year of his wife’s death. In the poem he talks about the loneliness and grief he feels at her death.
The other poem, is not autobiographical, but the theme it discusses is similar to the previous poem – the loss of a loved one. It is one of the few poems written by Poe in a woman’s voice.
And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first he breathed his vow
I felt my bosom swell—
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
And who is happy now.
But he spoke to re-assure me,
And he kissed my pallid brow
While a reverie came o’er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D’Elormie,
“Oh, I am happy now!”
And thus the words were spoken,
And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken
Behold the golden token
That proves me happy now!
Would God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not now,
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,—
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.