Edgar Allan Poe was a writer best known for his weird and original short stories and poetry based on events in his life. Most of his works are a representation of his own personal experiences and incidents, such as his turbulent youth, destitution, and painful losses of loved ones. This, and other depressing life stories, influenced him to write his poetry and short stories, which helped him achieve success. This essay examines Poe’s life and how his poems provided real-life glimpses of his life.
Poe was born in Boston in 1809, the youngest of his parents’ three daughters. Poe never got to know his family as his father abandoned them before his birth and thereafter, his mother died of tuberculosis when he was just three. Poe was then adopted by a rich tobacco businessman and his wife hence he got separated from his siblings. This was not the end of his troubles though, when he joined college he was faced with financial problems as his foster father never sufficiently catered for him and hence, he had to gamble to cover his needs. This led him to accrue huge debts and in the end had to drop out of school. He went back home eager to see his longtime fiancée only to find her engaged to another man. This and the fact that his relationship with his father had become sour made him leave for Boston. He then joined the US Army where he was kicked out after a short period. During this time, he was living with his elder brother in Baltimore, but shortly after, his brother died of tuberculosis. His foster mother also died around this time and Poe had to cuts ties with his foster father as their relationship had worsened. Thereafter, Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia, and a year later they moved to New York where he released his first book. Later on, his foster father also died leaving him no inheritance. Poe progressed in his career and started to become popular after releasing The Raven (1845). Unfortunately, his wife’s health begun to deteriorate and she also, like the others, died of tuberculosis (Bibliography Editors).
Through his poems, Poe reflects on this life experiences hence one is able to draw a connection between his life and works. For example, in his poem Annabel Lee, Poe tells the story of his wife, Virginia, and how they loved each other. In the poem he says, “In a kingdom by the sea, /That a maiden there lived” (stanza 2 and 3). The kingdom by the sea here refers to New York where he lived with his maiden, Virginia. He goes on to say that “She was a child… But we loved with a love that was more than love” (stanza 7 and 9), in these stanzas we know that Virginia was just a little girl when he married her, and they got married because they loved each other. In the stanzas where he says that “A wind blew out of a cloud by night, /Chilling my Annabel Lee;” (stanza 15 and 16) he is talking about how his wife contracted tuberculosis. The wind here represents how the disease was transferred, probably, his wife contracted the disease from staying close to a person who had it. Tuberculosis is a contagious airborne disease and it eventually “chilled” and killed Virginia. In stanzas 27 and 28, Poe writes, “But our love it was stronger by far than the love /Of those who were older than we— “. By this he is referring to the relationship that his real parents had. The reason why his father walked out on her mother could be because they no longer loved each other and therefore, had to separate. They were older than Poe and Anabel, given that they even had three kids together, yet their love was not strong enough to bring their family together. Poe and Virginia were young and loved each other immensely until death did them part (Poe, Annabel Lee).
In The haunted palace (1839), the palace represents his home with Virginia. Everything starts off so well in this “palace” where he was the “monarch” or simply the head of their house. He describes all sorts of good things and happiness that they had, much like how a happily married couple might be – “Once a fair and stately palace/Banners yellow, glorious, golden” (stanzas 3 and 9), – everything was so perfect. However, “This- all this- was in the olden Time long ago” (stanza 11 and 12) before his wife died. In his poem, he notes that the palace had now degraded to a place that was assaulted by “evil things, in robes of sorrow” (stanzas 33 and 34). The “palace” is filled with sad memories and Poe mourns the death of his wife. In stanzas 36, 37 and 38 Poe writes, “Shall dawn upon him desolate!)/ And round about his home the glory/ That blushed and bloomed”. By this, he is implying that he now feels lonely, empty and deserted in the home that once gave him happiness. At the end of the poem, he indicates that “A hideous throng rush out forever/And laugh- but smile no more” meaning that his wife is now gone forever and with her, his joy and happiness, leaving him with a laughter of insanity and despair- he can no longer afford to smile (Poe, Edgar Allan Poe: The Haunted Palace).
Other poems such ass Alone also depicts Poe’s loneliness and misery. In the first and second stanzas Poe begins by saying that “From childhood’s hour I have not been/As others were”. By this, he is referring to his childhood that it was not normal as other children’s childhoods since his father left early in life and his mother died leaving him an orphan. In stanzas 8 and 12, he continues to say, “And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone — /The mystery which binds me still –“. Here, Poe is telling us all that he loved, like poetry, he had no support from the closest people in his life like his foster father who discouraged him at all costs from being a poet. Generally, Poe is revealing to us his loneliness and misery during his childhood and his life (Poe, Alone).
In summary, Poe’s life was rather miserable, and it is clear in many of his poems that his past life experiences played a major role on his literary works. In fact, had life not been so harsh on him, Poe may have composed the many literary works we have come to know and love.
Biography.com Editors. “Edgar Allan Poe Biography.” 2 May 2017. The Biography. http://www.biography.com/people/edgar-allan-poe-9443160. 10 May 2017.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Alone.” 1830. Academy of American Poets. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/alone-0. 10 May 2017.
—. “Annabel Lee.” 1849. Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44885. 10 May 2017.
—. “Edgar Allan Poe: The Haunted Palace.” 1839. The Collected Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. http://books.eserver.org/poetry/poe/haunted_palace.html. 10 May 2017.