“I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity”
A little more than a year ago, I decided that it was time to have all the literary work of Edgar Allan Poe in my hands.
Don’t get me wrong, I had already read many of his tales and poems, I even have a little book with a compilation of them that I had read a couple of times.
I wanted a book that contained all of them, I wanted an edition worthy of such an author, and with that in mind, I began the search for the perfect book. To my surprise it didn’t take me long to come across it, to find this collector’s edition that has been worth up to the last cent I spent.
I just fell in love with it and as soon as it got home I knew it was the best purchase of my life.
The book is bound in hard cover and lined with a luminous golden cloth that shines and changes its hue depending on the light, and on over golden cloth there is a black pattern drawn that confers a very gothic air to it. It has a black satin bookmark and goes inside a rigid carton box decorated in the same way as the covers of the book, but only in black.
But the beauty of the book doesn’t end here, the guards are decorated with the image of a crow’s wings (I suppose you will understand the reason) and the typography of all the titles is simply perfect.
All this not to mention that it is the book with the most pleasant smell I have ever had.
In this edition, the content of the book is divided into three different parts. On first place there is a brief biography (23 pages) of Edgar Allan Poe. On second place we can find his entire collection of tales, if I have count it right there are 73. And finally, his poems.
At the end of the book there is another small section in which you will find other information about the author and about his epoch.
Poe has served, throughout history, as a reference and inspiration for many other artists. And yes, I say artists because not only do I mean writers like Oscar Wilde or Sir Arthut Conan Doyle, I also mean painters like Harry Clarke or Édouard Manet, and musicians like Joseph Vargo from Nox Arcana who has a complete album dedicated to Poe’s work.
All these been said I would like to tell you a little about my three favourite tales and poems.
Regarding the tales I have chosen “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Mask of the Red Death” and “The Black Cat”.
The Pit and the Pendulum
“Down – still unceasingly – still inevitably down! I gasped and struggled at each vibration. I shrunk convulsively at its every sweep. My eyes followed its outward or upward whirls with the eagerness of the most unmeaning despair; they closed themselves spasmodically at the descent, although death would have been a relief, oh! how unspeakable!”
This tale can certainly be classified within the genre of horror literature. From the moment I started reading it I wasn’t able to stop, I remember I was reading it while I was coming back home on the subway and when I reached my stop I didn’t get down because I needed to finish it.
In short, I think I have never read anything that has caught me in such a way.
The story is narrated in first person by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. He relates the situation in which he finds himself, the tortures to which he is subjected, mostly psychological, and his own way of seeing and confronting them. The story keeps the intrigue and attention from the beginning till the end, to the point where I got into the character.
I must admit that this is one of Poe’s tales that influenced me the most. So much that if you know it you will find it easy to see its influence on my tale “Death’s Red Lips”.
The Mask of the Red Death
“And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”
I won’t be able to say whether my favourite tale is this one or the previous one, but I can say that both had a great impact on me and influenced me a lot.
This tale includes many of the characteristics of Gothic literature.
The tale speaks metaphorically about an epidemic of red plague. A rich prince isolates himself from the problem with a group of wealthy and noble friends, where they live in constant party and celebration completely alien to the suffering and death of the people. But ultimately there is no way to escape death, which comes to visit them during a masked ball.
The description of the rooms is sublime; it is even able to make you associate feelings to each of different chambers. The description of the costumes and the masks is equally good and reaches its culmination in the description of the mask of the red death.
The Black Cat
“Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates – the darkest and most evil of thoughts.”
It is true that this tale is not as well known as the previous ones, but it is equally good. It is a brilliant work that combines terror and psychology.
This tale tells the story and the ruin of a young couple in which the man gets carried away by drinking and ends up killing his beloved black cat. As a result of its death the situation is uncontrolled, their house is burnt down and another black cat appears leading them to its ultimate ruin.
It is possible that you know the tale “The Tell Tale Heart “, both of them are very similar in terms of story and style.
From within the poems I have chosen “The Raven”, “Annabel Lee” and “A Dream within a Dream”. I know that people generally find it harder to read poetry, so I will talk about them in much less detail that I would like to.
“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!”
Without a doubt his most famous poem and certainly my favourite one from all the poems I’ve ever read.
The poem, which stands out for its musicality and the supernatural environment that it is able to create, tells the visit of a raven to the home of a mourning lover and how he ends up succumbing to madness moved by his pain and loss.
In my opinion it is an authentic piece of art that everyone should read, at least once in a lifetime.
“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.”
This poem, considerably shorter than the previous one, talks about the death of a beautiful young woman and of the pain that it causes in its poor lover, a subject that is recurrent in his work.
Here Poe is able, once again, to transmit the pain and sadness as if he was really the one feeling it.
A Dream within a Dream
“Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?”
This poem is for Poe much more personal since on it he reflects his feelings regarding the life of his time, wondering how one is able to distinguish reality from fantasy.
And this is all I will say about this great writer and his work, at least for the moment. I still have some tales and poems left to read and, who knows, maybe I’ll find another that gets under my skin just as much as the ones I’ve just named and I end up writing about Poe again.
I have already mentioned this before, by its perfect edition, this is my favourite book from all the ones that I have at the moment. But when I bought this one I also ordered the complete fiction of H. P. Lovecraft, and I am sure that I will soon write about it too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed it and not having made it too long!
By the way, I would love to know which is your favourite Poe’s tale.