170 years ago, Nevermore

While in Richmond last month, you know I had to make a pilgrimage to the Poe House Museum

On this day in 1849, at Washington Medical College around 5:00 in the morning, a man wearing clothes that were not his own died of “cerebral inflammation,” aged 40.

Born Edgar Poe in Boston in 1809, he published his first book at age 18, Tamerlane and Other Poems, to a poor reception. The disillusioned young poet, riddled with debt, enlisted in the Army as a private on 27 May 1827 for five years under the name “Edgar A. Perry,” claiming to be 22 years old.

He served in Boston at “The Castle” for the princely sum of $5 a month but was soon transferred to the recently-completed Fort Moultrie in Charleston where he served as a skilled artilleryman.

Discharged as a Sgt. Maj.,1st Artillery Regiment, on 15 April 1829– a year early– he proceeded to West Point for admission as a cadet, but was dismissed in 1831 as both he and the Army had mutually had enough of each other, although his third book of poetry was published in large part by subscriptions collected from among the Corps of Cadets.

The next 17 years was an oddity that saw much torment and little success in his time but left the world forever changed by his body of work.

At Fort Moultrie, every October 6th, they fly the 24-star flag, the same that flew while Poe was stationed there in Compay H, 1st Artillery, to remember the young man with the sad eyes who manned the guns and kept a notebook handy.

National Park Service

As a salute, here is A Dream within a Dream, by Edgar Allan Poe, first published just six months before his death, for which Poe received no money. To me, you can hear the lonely posting to Fort Moultrie in its words.

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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