Thursday, October 27, 2011

Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall! (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress)

The Sleeper
Edgar Allan Poe

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin molders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!- and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

O, lady bright! can it be right-
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop-
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully- so fearfully-
Above the closed and fringed lid
'Neath which thy slumb'ring soul lies hid,
That, o'er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come O'er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress,
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
For ever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold-
Some vault that oft has flung its black
And winged panels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o'er the crested palls,
Of her grand family funerals-

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portal she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone-
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne'er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.


About the Poem: It's Halloween on Monday, so that means that everyone in the world has to post Halloween-related things between now and then, which is actually a custom I'm okay with, in that it will stop Christmas' eventual takeover of all holidays (we've already lost Thanksgiving, remember.)

The first and most common Poe poem to post (fun to say!) is The Raven, which I almost know by heart but which aren't we all a little sick of that one? Yes, it's rhythmic and all, but beyond that, it's an old guy and a bird and it's been done to death.

Poe wrote a bunch of other poems, you know, including one that seemed to somewhat obliquely trace his entire demeanor and life to seeing once a visage of a demon in a cloud, and I would've gone with that one, or the one that uses the word porphyrogene and is about a king being killed and then smiling spirits haunting the palace, but to be honest, they weren't very good.

*Collective gasp across the country; somewhere, my 9th grade English teacher Mr. Schaefer puts his hand to his head and cries silently to himself.*

But it's true. I don't think you have to love American icons just because they're icons. Yesterday I pointed out that Mark Twain may have had a less solely-American-literary-voice than Dashiell Hammett, which is true because Twain's writing was about America but wasn't peculiarly American.

So just because he was Edgar Allan Poe doesn't mean he didn't write some crummy poetry and The Haunted Palace in particular is kind of a bad one; the rhythm is all off and it reads like a Twilight-inspired poetry slam.

This one is better -- not perfect (don't try to rhyme lies with destinies. It doesn't work)-- but better, and in particular I liked the imagery.

Here's the thing: I'm not particularly good at figuring out what poems mean. In fact, I'm almost singularly bad at it. (The only thing I'm worse at is actually knowing what the lyrics to songs are.) So when I first read this poem, I read it as a guy in a forest watching a series of ghosts come to visit a dying woman.

But then I re-read it, and realized it's about this: Irene ("with her Destinies") is dying, and will soon be dead, and the poet is wishing she would stay asleep already, stay asleep forever and trade her bedroom for a church and then a tomb, the very tomb the rest of her family lies in, the tomb she used to throw rocks at as a girl and pretend the dead were "groaning" inside as she did so.

Why does he want her dead? I imagine, given the sorrow that is evident throughout the poem, that her illness has been terrible and it will be a relief to pass into the next world, where there is life -- outside, wanton airs laugh while inside the bodiless airs just flit.

So it went from a ghost story to a sad story, which I suppose all ghost stories are, in the end -- a ghost, after all, is someone who has died but stayed here, and isn't that the second-saddest thing that can happen to a dead person?

Try not to think about that this Halloween, that there may not be any happy ghosts, but only mean or sad ones.

About the Hot Actress:I asked Sweetie to name a Hot Actress, but she's got a terrible headache that wasn't made any better last night by the fact that while I was supposed to be watching the twins I got caught up in watching Toy Story with Mr F and Mr Bunches, who I thought was playing trains, had actually snuck into our bedroom where he wouldn't let Sweetie nap and instead made her read him stories that all had to begin "Once Upon A Time" and be about Rapunzel, so Sweetie couldn't think of a Hot Actress this morning.

So I picked up her most recent magazine, People/Us Weekly/In Touch/Whatever and opened it to a page and saw only Kardashians. I opened it to another page and saw only Kardashians. I opened it to a third page and saw Elizabeth Olsen, and said "She's too young."

Sweetie said "She's too young but she's very pretty."

So I went with it.


Rogue Mutt said...

That's like when I wrote a review of Updike's "Brazil" which I found godawful and some yutz on Amazon said I can only criticize it after I've won two Pulitzers like Updike. As you said, just because someone's an icon and done some great work doesn't mean EVERYTHING they do is awesome. I mean as much as I like say REM, I don't think "Monster" was the greatest album they ever made.

Andrew Leon said...

I don't even know who Elizabeth Olsen is.