Monday, January 19, 2009

Toasting Poe

Quoth the Ravens, nevermore, this football season--but Baltimore can celebrate the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe, as the Poe Toaster makes his annual visit to his grave. (It's the 60th anniversary of that tradition.) I may have to dip into his collected works today, and perhaps complement that with a viewing of Roger Corman's The House of Usher or The Masque of the Red Death. The "master of the macabre," the inventor of detective fiction, and the great Romantic poet can also be considered the patron saint of freelance writers, as he was the first of his kind (200 years later the frustrations haven't changed).

Here's "A Dream Within a Dream," which inspired a Britney Spears tour of the same name, proving that Poe is indeed universal (and is not to be confused with "I Have a Dream," from today's other celebrant.) Published 160 years ago, the year of his death, and timeless.

"Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"

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