Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poe Gets Fan Mail!

edgar allan poe the raven
A 19th-century painter named John Frankenstein (yes!) blamed his lack of success on the refusal of various prominent people to recognize his obvious genius. He got his revenge by savaging all his imagined enemies in print. Among his objects of attention was Edgar Allan Poe, as Frankenstein (erroneously) believed the late poet had insulted his work in 1845. Frankenstein responded to this supposed slight in 1864, with a poem that I can honestly say is one of the most unique tributes I have ever read:
"Come! be by searching truth's tribunal tried!
Come forth! if you've got sober since you died,
You, drunken mad-dog, Edgar Allan Poe--
Is it my fault that I must call you so?
Your works, like you, are born of alcohol;
Horrid monstrosities, distortions all;
It needs no doctor's gallipot or jar,
Filled with that stuff, to keep them as they are;
Soaked with its strange and strong insidious power,
Your tales the many eagerly devour
The Barnum of the Western Museum, FRANKS,
Here for apt illustration shall have thanks
He fitted up a noted murderers' room
Of victims, too, which they sent to the tomb
Wax figures with authentic, gaping gashes
The weapons that made all these hideous slashes
An hundred dollars covered the expense
Three thousand dollars was his recompense!

, Poe, through all your nature most debased,
You pandered to this craving tiger-taste;
King Alcohol through you once ruled our realm
Of literature, you staggered at its helm
By English critics, too, were recognized,
A fact which was by us most highly prized
You, with an impudence sublimely brazen,
In Art your frantic fumes must largely blazon;
Here I've got a crow to pick with you, my friend--
Your poor, poor raven that rhymes without an end?
No, mad dog, no! but do you recollect
How at my pictures once you picked and pecked?
They were done soberly, with anxious care,
No time, no labor on them did I spare
All that nigh any fool could have seen there
Nor was the labor lost
They were well painted
Then you, with every fiber liquor-tainted,
You, YOU, who all your life could not walk straight,
With swaggering ignorance my work berate?
When in the gutter that last time you lay,
When death, disgusted, almost turned away,
When you with rot-gut whisky dying stunk,
And thus into God's presence reeled dead-drunk--
I tell you, mad dog, when I heard all this,
I helped outraged humanity to hiss!
You need not say now nothing should be said
That I am living and that you are dead--
Not so; In prose to prick me you chose your own time
And I choose mine to pay you back in rhyme

Avaunt! And nevermore to me come nigh--
I do believe you stink of whisky yet--good-bye!"

Mr. Frankenstein missed his calling. Instead of wasting his time painting, he could have made a fine living writing inscriptions for Hallmark cards.