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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems.




Edgar Allen Poe is known as one of the first detective writers but is also known for being a literary critic and theoretician. He was part scientist and part creative writer. Many of his most famous works are The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Raven. Even though he eventually achieved stardom upon death he lived a great portion of his life writing unpaid works and scrubbing out an existence looking for employment. 

Poe’s life was not easy and he struggled nearly every step of the way (1). Originally born into a group of traveling actors in 1809 he started in the artistic and nomadic lifestyle.  Even though both parents died a few years after his birth he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and raised to be a gentleman. 

In considerable debt from attending University of Virginia and tried to make up the difference through gambling which left him more in debt. As a poet and military oriented person Poe went to West Point (2). Beyond this he suffered a humiliating poverty, a fiancĂ©e who married someone else, and a love of his life who died like his parents with tuberculosis. 

He spent time harshly criticizing other’s works which often put him in precarious positions against his employer and members of the literary community. He worked for the Literary Messenger, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Graham’s Magazine, and Broadway Journal at different times (3). Poe wasn’t particularly well known at his time but gained fame and changed the literary world in ways that still have an impact today. 

You can purchase over 100 works in one book called the Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems. The book is published by Maplewood Books and can be purchased electronically under $1 for your cell phone and under $8.00 in hardcopy format. 

You can read an example of one of his works in The City in the Sea:

      Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
      In a strange city lying alone
      Far down within the dim West,
      Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
      Have gone to their eternal rest.
      There shrines and palaces and towers
      (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
      Resemble nothing that is ours.
      Around, by lifting winds forgot,
      Resignedly beneath the sky
      The melancholy waters lie.

      No rays from the holy heaven come down
      On the long night-time of that town;
      But light from out the lurid sea
      Streams up the turrets silently-
      Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-
      Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-
      Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-
      Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
      Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-
      Up many and many a marvellous shrine
      Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
      The viol, the violet, and the vine.
      Resignedly beneath the sky
      The melancholy waters lie.
      So blend the turrets and shadows there
      That all seem pendulous in air,
      While from a proud tower in the town
      Death looks gigantically down.

      There open fanes and gaping graves
      Yawn level with the luminous waves;
      But not the riches there that lie
      In each idol's diamond eye-
      Not the gaily-jewelled dead
      Tempt the waters from their bed;
      For no ripples curl, alas!
      Along that wilderness of glass-
      No swellings tell that winds may be
      Upon some far-off happier sea-
      No heavings hint that winds have been
      On seas less hideously serene.

      But lo, a stir is in the air!
      The wave- there is a movement there!
      As if the towers had thrust aside,
      In slightly sinking, the dull tide-
      As if their tops had feebly given
      A void within the filmy Heaven.
      The waves have now a redder glow-
      The hours are breathing faint and low-
      And when, amid no earthly moans,
      Down, down that town shall settle hence,
      Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
      Shall do it reverence.

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