I don’t mean to offend any Poe fans out there. I mean, I love “The Raven” as much as anybody. And I thought of Poe today, not just because of Halloween and all things spooky, but because last weekend while digging around for my high school senior photos, I also found a pretty hilarious picture of my (future) husband and myself dressed as the Ushers for a Poe-themed party given by the Humanities department at our college. No, I’m not sharing that one.
Anyway. The thing is, while Poe definitely had a real talent for meter and rhyme, and a brilliant imagination… dude could sometimes stray pretty far into Melodramaville. Sometimes he was downright emo, even for a Victorian. Take this poem, “To — – –. Ulalume: A Ballad.” I mean, he even had to make the title mysterious making it clear it’s dedicated to somebody but he’s not saying who.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispèd and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Okay, pretty good so far, right? He’s doing what he does best: setting a spooky, supernatural tone; and that repetitive thing he’s doing is almost like a chant - maybe an invocation, maybe a talisman against some sort of malevolent power - which adds another layer of mysticism to the mix.