Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Poe's Cottage at Fordham

Edgar Allan Poe at FordhamMore Poe-inspired poetry. I'm just in that sort of mood.

Beginning during his own lifetime, and continuing down to the present day, Poe has been the subject of a remarkable number of poems (it is puzzling that, so far as I know, no one has ever published a full compilation of them.) One of the best-known is the following poem by John Henry Boner, "Poe's Cottage at Fordham," which was first published in 1889. As this is the anniversary of Virginia Poe's funeral at Fordham's Old Dutch Reformed Church--a day, I believe, that marked the beginning of the end for her husband--these lines seemed somehow appropriate. It also exemplifies the peculiar mythology Poe inspired. Boner's work was written a mere forty years after Poe's death, but it does not describe a flesh-and-blood man, but a creature out of legend.
Here lived the soul enchanted
By melody of song;
Here dwelt the spirit haunted
By a demoniac throng;
Here sang the lips elated;
Here grief and death were sated;
Here loved and here unmated
Was he, so frail, so strong.

Here wintry winds and cheerless
The dying firelight blew,
While he whose song was peerless
Dreamed the drear midnight through,
And from dull embers chilling
Crept shadows darkly filling
The silent place, and thrilling
His fancy as they grew.

Here with brows bared to heaven,
In starry night he stood,
With the lost star of seven
Feeling sad brotherhood.
Here in the sobbing showers
Of dark autumnal hours
He heard suspected powers
Shriek through the stormy wood.

From visions of Apollo
And of Astarte's bliss,
He gazed into the hollow
And hopeless vale of Dis,
And though earth were surrounded
By heaven, it still was mounded
With graves. His soul had sounded
The dolorous abyss.

Poor, mad, but not defiant,
He touched at heaven and hell.
Fate found a rare soul pliant
And wrung her changes well.
Alternately his lyre,
Stranded with strings of fire,
Led earth's most happy choir,
Or flashed with Israfel.

No singer of old story
Luting accustomed lays,
No harper for new glory,
No mendicant for praise,
He struck high chords and splendid,
Wherein were finely blended
Tones that unfinished ended
With his unfinished days.

Here through this lonely portal,
Made sacred by his name,
Unheralded immortal
The mortal went and came.
And fate that then denied him,
And envy that decried him,
And malice that belied him,
Here cenotaphed his fame.Poe's Cottage at Fordham

(Header Image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Footer: NYPL Digital Gallery)