Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, Born August 15, 1822

"She was an excellent linguist, and a perfect musician, and she was so very beautiful. How often has Eddie said: I see no one so dignified and so beautiful as my sweet little wife. And oh! how pure and beautiful she was even to the last."
-Maria Clemm, 1860
"Little Virginia I have a clear recollection of when she visited us in Exeter St., as well as of the fact that the fascinating little brunette awakened in me the first tender emotion I ever felt--calf love, I believe you call it."
-Henry Starr, a childhood neighbor of the Poe/Clemm household in Baltimore
“…Perhaps you knew him best of all,
Loving him best, the whole of him,
Listening with him to the fall
Of the soft-footed seraphim
Or other guests more grim--
And growing steadily strangely more
Like one implacable image, till
The footfalls on the tufted floor
Tinkled and stopped--and Death stood still--
And listened--as Death will.”
-Joseph Auslander, “Letter to Virginia Clemm”

D.H. Lawrence’s “Birthday” was not addressed to either of the Poes. However, for some reason, the 1914 poem has always so reminded me of Virginia that I couldn’t resist repeating it today. Hopefully, Edgar and Virginia will forgive me for quoting a man who wrote some of the worst attempts to analyze Poe I’ve ever read. (“His grand attempt and achievement was with his wife; his cousin, a girl with a singing voice. With her he went in for the intensest flow, the heightening, the prismayic shades of ecstasy. It was the intensest nervous vibration of unison, pressed higher and higher in pitch, till the blood-vessels of the girl broke, and the blood began to flow out loose. It was love. If you call it love.” Calm down, Dave.)
“If I were well-to-do
I would put roses on roses, and cover your grave
With multitude of white roses, and just a few
Red ones, a bloody-white flag over you.

So people passing under
The ash-trees of the valley road, should raise
Their eyes to your bright place, and then in wonder
Should climb the hill, and put the flowers asunder.

And seeing it is your birthday,
They would say, seeing each mouth of white rose praise
You highly, every blood-red rose display
Your triumph of anguish above you, they would say:

''Tis strange, we never knew
While she was here and walking in our ways
That she was as the wine-jar whence we drew
Our draught of faith that sent us on anew.’

And so I’d raise
A rose-bush unto you in all their hearts
A rose of memory with a scent of praise
Wafting like solace down their length of days.”

Happy birthday, Sissy!

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe birthday