Have you ever loved, and lost?
Have you lived, liked, known beauty and joy, yet learned that one day, all such things may pass. Indeed much or many did?
Have you looked at the images of people who truly loved you, who are gone, and felt again how much they cared?
The love they had for you comes to life, inside. But you know, through your tears of joy, that they are dead.
That for me is Poe. I think people get him wrong when they see him as blasted, damned and doomed. Edgar Allan Poe – master of the macabre! Writer of terrible doomed tales. Lou Reeds double album The Raven has the effect of inducing real anxiety and despair in me. I cannot risk listening to it all if at all. Toxic material.
I think this is not getting Poe right. Because no matter how friendless, dysfunctional and ultimately in many ways disturbed the man has been portrayed by the biographers I have read, he did know beauty, love and tenderness.
Annabel Lee is an important poem for this, published months after Poe had died in 1849. Losing his mother at the age of two, his father having already run off from the family to die elsewhere in no time, Poe’s dye was cast. Love and death, pretty close together, would be universal themes of his work that still reasonate today. Just goes to show that people still experience the same things, 162 years later, eh?
LONG LONG AGO, IN A KINGDOM BY THE SEA,
THERE LIVED A MAIDEN WHOM YOU MAY KNOW,
BY THE NAME OF ANNABEL LEE.
AND THIS MAIDEN SHE LIVED FOR 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 ANNABLE LEE.
What a line, eh? Poe’s stories are full of gaps that the pure good light of honesty health, love and joy escape through. But for many of us, the jet-black shadows of the pendulum, the body of the Black Cat and the crimson of the Red-Death colour the very thought of the man.
So what I envisage in any performances of Poe’s works, is that the antithesis of Poe’s reputation is captured and conveyed. For the cruel and terrible to truly be appreciated, there must be good around it. crushed, destroyed, doomed…but still seen. Still heard and felt.
So let us perform Poe with a heart of gold, but in a body aged, decayed to putrid dust and prematurely buried. Poe always reminded us of the reality of old age, sickness and death. Poe actually frequented cemeteries and in The Raven, we find him alone and saddened.
ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY,
WHILST I PONDERED, SAD AND WEARY…
Alone come a stately raven, and tells him it is all over in life. Think Morrissey, and he completely makes sense for me.