Monday, May 18, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe

A happy belated 200th birthday to Edgar Allan Poe. (An event with brought out some controversy over which city can call itself Poe's hometown: Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, New York, or Philadelphia. There has also been talk of which city has claim on Poe's remains.)

Poe was born in Boston, January 19, 1809. I think we all know Poe for his horror writings, but he is also contributed greatly to the science fiction genre and is considered a founder of the detective-fiction genre.

To say Poe had loss in his life is an understatement. Both of Poe's parents died before he turned three. He was taken in by a wealthy merchant family, but the relationship with his foster father was often a rocky one and eventually Poe was disowned. His beloved foster mother and older brother both died when Poe was in his early 20's.

At age 27, he married his 13 year old first cousin, Virginia Clemm. Several years later, she became ill with tuberculosis. Around that time, Poe began to drink more. It's thought that his wife's illness was the inspiration for one of his most famous poems, The Raven. Virginia eventually died. The recurrent theme of dying young women (Annabel Lee, Lenore)in his work has been contributed to Virginia's illness and death and to the death's of other women (mother, foster mother) in his life.

After Virginia's death, Poe became very unstable. Two years later, he was found wandering delirious through the streets of Baltimore. He died soon after and the exact cause of his delirium and death has remained a mystery. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Baltimore but his remains were later moved.

Since 1949, the Poe Toaster (an unknown gentleman dressed in black) has been visiting the grave marker of Edgar Allan Poe's original burial site each year on his birthday. He toasts Poe and leaves behind a half bottle of cognac and three red roses.

I'll close with my favorite Edgar Allan Poe poem, Eldorado. (I don't know what that says about me. A sucker for hopeless causes?)

                Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

5 Responses to “Edgar Allan Poe”

Bram Hengeveld said...
July 5, 2009 at 11:07 PM

I just discovered this arts part of the pallimedblog: fantastic!!

Perhaps a nice 'palliative' addendum to this post about EA Poe: he appeared to be scared 'as hell' to be buried alive. It also appears to be a recurring theme in his work.

I read so in a Dutch translation of book by a scandinavian doctor (Jan Bondeson). The English Title is 'Buried Alive' (WW Norton & company New York).

In fact Bondeson claims no (english) writer used the theme of being buried alive more often than Poe.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
July 6, 2009 at 1:30 PM

Bram, glad you discovered us. I guess if you want to write about horror, what is more horrifying than being buried alive? I would believe that no English writer has covered this topic as much. It's not a topic I would relish writing about over and over.
Thanks for your comments.


geriatricare said...
July 9, 2009 at 6:23 AM

I guess there are few thing more horrifying than being buried alive.
But reflecting on the 'art' of palliative medicine: are really sick (and dying) people not buried alive also? Not in their graves, but in their own body: the anxiety of breathlessness, pain, senses of desperation and abandonment; all parts I have seen (as a nursing student) that can belong to the life of a really sick/dying person. All parts that are described as the horrifying feelings experienced when someone is buried alive, except our body is our coffin; taking away the ability to be a person. In our modern world death is the part we don't want to acknowledge as a very important part of life (perhaps even the part that is making life worth living). Life is the thing we do when we are 'young' and death is farthest from our mind. Death is scary, because we don't know it, and can't control it. Ask anyone about the way they want to die and most people would say; without breathlessness, pain and in a room filled with friends.

From that point of view palliative medicine is constantly 'digging up' in a forming grave: putting life in the days, removing the anxiety that comes with dying or living in the face of death.

This part of the pallimedblog is a very nice way of using arts to reflect on this very important questions and aspects of life. I've already written a Dutch Blogpost on this part of the pallimed blog to advertise it and will continue to do so when meeting students, teachers, colleagues and clients.

Rock on.


geriatricare said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

I guess there are few thing more horrifying than being buried alive.
But reflecting on the 'art' of palliative medicine: are really sick (and dying) people not buried alive also? Not in their graves, but in their own body: the anxiety of breathlessness, pain, senses of desperation and abandonment; all parts I have seen (as a nursing student) that can belong to the life of a really sick/dying person. All parts that are described as the horrifying feelings experienced when someone is buried alive, except our body is our coffin; taking away the ability to be a person. In our modern world death is the part we don't want to acknowledge as a very important part of life (perhaps even the part that is making life worth living). Life is the thing we do when we are 'young' and death is farthest from our mind. Death is scary, because we don't know it, and can't control it. Ask anyone about the way they want to die and most people would say; without breathlessness, pain and in a room filled with friends.

From that point of view palliative medicine is constantly 'digging up' in a forming grave: putting life in the days, removing the anxiety that comes with dying or living in the face of death.

This part of the pallimedblog is a very nice way of using arts to reflect on this very important questions and aspects of life. I've already written a Dutch Blogpost on this part of the pallimed blog to advertise it and will continue to do so when meeting students, teachers, colleagues and clients.

Rock on.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Bram, glad you discovered us. I guess if you want to write about horror, what is more horrifying than being buried alive? I would believe that no English writer has covered this topic as much. It's not a topic I would relish writing about over and over.
Thanks for your comments.