One of my favorite poems also happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors. I’ve always found a strange connection with Edgar Allen Poe, even though our lives have little in common. Perhaps it’s that weird sense of spiritual connection that mystics often have with each other. Poe’s stories and poems, both in terms of the rhythm of the language as well as the subject matter and content seem to vibrate with my own consciousness.
Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 and died October 7, 1849 at age 40. He was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of American literature in general and was one of the first American writers to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. He was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story, considered the inventor of detective fiction, a key contributor to early science fiction, and an influence on the fields of cosmology and cryptography.
His father, an actor, abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother, also an actor, died the following year. Thus orphaned, Poe was taken in by an unrelated couple, John and Frances Allan, who never officially adopted him but raised him and gave him the middle name “Allan.” There was financial conflict in the family due to Poe’s gambling and alcohol addictions and young Edgar never finished school. He tried different careers including the military before publishing a collection of poems in 1827 with some success – after which he separated from John Allan.
For a time, Poe focused on prose writing and worked with several literary journals. He got married in 1836 to his 13-year-old cousin. Life was a struggle. In 1845 he published perhaps his best-known poem “the Raven” and things should have gone well after that – however, in 1847, his young wife died of tuberculosis. Career problems, gambling debts, alcoholism, melancholy and spiritual angst led to a strange incident that could have been drawn from one of his own stories. On October 3, 1849 Poe was found wondering the streets, delirious and in great distress. He was never able to explain what happened to him – especially why he was found wearing a stranger’s clothing. He was taken to a hospital and died October 7, 1849, at age 40. The cause of his death is still unknown. Was it due to syphilis, cholera, epilepsy, heart disease, alcoholism, substance abuse, suicide – even rabies? No one knows. All medical records associated with his death have been lost: including his death certificate.
This poem was written in 1829 but remained unpublished until 1875.
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 lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry 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 roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d 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—