I recently read Laura Lippman's In A Strange City, a murder mystery novel in which a strange little man attempts to hire PI Tess Monaghan in order to unmask the Visitor (also known as the Poe Toaster), who has been visiting the Baltimore grave of Edgar Allan Poe every year on 19 January for the past fifty years. On each visit s/he leaves three red roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac. Since the Visitor is committing no crime Tess refuses the assignment, but she worries that a less scrupulous PI may take it on, so she goes to the 19 January vigil as an observer. She watches as two cloaked figures approach the grave, appear to embrace and then part, but as they walk off in different directions, there's a gunshot and one of them is killed. Tess quickly learns that the dead man is not the regular Visitor. So who is he? And why was he there? When it turns out that Tess's would-be client had given her a fake name, she knows she must try to find him. And when an old friend from her past surfaces, claiming that the shooting was a homophobic hate crime, things only get more complicated...
This was a fascinating novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also gave me a taste for reading Poe's poetry, so this week I'm sharing this poem:
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me —
Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we —
Of many far wiser than we —
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Today is the birthday of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's first cousin whom he married in 1835 (despite being only 13 years old, and there being a 14 year age gap between them. Virginia contracted tuberculosis when she was 19, and when she died in 1847, Poe was devastated and started drinking heavily. It is possible that she was the inspiration for this poem.
This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Read. Imagine. Talk!.