Poe Places: A Historical East Coast Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Richmond 

It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to visit which I hope to do in the future.

This stop brings me to the city of Richmond in Virginia. Edgar spent most of his life here and even though he was born in Boston he always considered Richmond to be his home when asked. This city bleeds the history of the macabre master and it just so happens my nearest and dearest friend lives here so she was able to share the day with me as I dragged her around the city streets and a few cemeteries (we’re talking me here) searching for remnants of his life.

My first stop was that of St, John’s Episcopal Church  It boasts the recognition of being the oldest church in Richmond and happens to be the place of a famous speech in history. “Give me liberty or give me death!” Sound familiar? Yeah it does to me. I had to memorize that damn thing in fifth grade from beginning to end. Pretty sure I could still recite it on point. I’ll spare you the test….

So yeah, none other than patriot, Patrick Henry delivered his speech here right before the start of the Revolutionary War. Side note here..when I was fourteen I was honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution with a piece I wrote. Just thought I’d add that, clearly on a factual basis bordering I know any sort of significance to this. Not looking for cool points at all. Nope.

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me and the bestie getting a history lesson and reenactment of Patrick Henry’s famous speech at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

So even though me and Patrick go back, wayyyy back, that’s not what brought me here. The graveyard does. Duh. Of course. It just so happens that it is the final resting place of Edgars’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe. His mother, while performing in Richmond with a theatre company, took ill and died. Now much like Edgar’s original unmarked grave, his mother in death wasn’t respected very well either. Because she was an actress, a thought tawdry profession for a woman of that time, and although she was rightfully respected for her talent, she was placed in the back of the graveyard, in an unmarked grave and the service, held at midnight. And they wonder why Edgar was so dark….

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Elizabeth “Eliza” Arnold Poe

Thankfully a memorial was placed at the back of the churchyard, although it is uncertain as to exactly where her remains are located. 

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memorial marker for Elizabeth Arnold Poe, mother of Edgar Allan Poe as seen at St. John Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

My next stop was a home located just across the street from the church. A home that was thought Edgar would frequent after visiting his mother’s grave. The home of a known love interest, a girlfriend and later in life a fiance. The home of Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton. In the picture below it is the large brick building to the right. 

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As a teen, Edgar would find love with Elmira but unfortunately her father did not approve and sought to keep them apart. The two were a couple at the time Edgar left to study at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville but by the time he’d gotten back, two years later, Elmira was married to another. Later in life however when Poe returned to Richmond after the death of his beloved Virginia, fate found them together once again. Elmira,now a widow,  renewed her relationship with Edgar and soon agreed to marriage. Unfortunately they never married as he died shortly after her acceptance to his proposal. It can not go unsaid that Elmira joins the fairly long list of love interests for the poet and she is believed to be the inspiration behind “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” although there is a bit of a controversy with the true inspiration behind Annabel Lee, which will take me to a small island off the coast of South Carolina in another journey. 

My next stop takes me to the spot where one of Edgar’s childhood homes once stood. The home of his foster-father John Allan. He, along with his wife, Francis took Edgar in to their home upon his mother’s untimely death when Edgar was just barely three years old. The home, much like many of the other homes and buildings significant to Edgar’s life has been demolished. What remains is a plaque commemorating the spot in 1907.

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There is another home that is of significance to the Poe fan that actually still stands. It is the childhood home of who is believed to be Edgar’s first love. That of Jane Stith Craig Stanard. She was the mother of a school friend of Edgar’s and it’s believed his poem “To Helen” was dedicated to her. Of course this love was thought to be more a “puppy love” perhaps finding in her what he never had, a mother. Unfortunately she joined the list of women that left him early in his life. She died when Poe was just fifteen and upon her death he is noted saying “she was the first purely ideal love of my soul” and  “the truest, tenderest of this world’s most womanly souls, and an angelt o my forlorn and darkened nature.” La sigh…

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standing outside what once was the home of  Jane Stith Craig Stanard, Edgar Allan Poe’s first love.
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Jane Stith Craig Stanard

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Of course if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and you are in Richmond, Virginia then you know about the Poe Museum. The museum that boasts the world’s largest and finest of Poe memorabilia, manuscripts, letters, first editions and personal belongings. Also known as…the jackpot baby!

This by far is where I spent most of my time during my traipsing through the streets of Richmond. Located in the Old Stone House, the museum is just blocks away from another childhood home of Edgar’s. And this stone house is the oldest building in Richmond. Where’s my ghost equipment when I need it….

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Even upon first walking in its as if you step back in time. Poe’s time. If the model of the entire city of Richmond during Poe’s time doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then perhaps Poe’s walking stick he accidentally left behind at a friend’s home, or the key found in his pocket when he died that later was discovered unlocked his travelling truck that held what few possessions he had. Or maybe his clothing, or wait maybe a lock of his hair! The collection is endless nearly and quite certainly took me quite a while to peruse with absolute pleasure. I’m not going to lie. I was like a kid in a candy store!

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Poe’s walking stick he inadvertently left at a friend’s home in Richmond, Virginia
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clothing belonging to Edgar Allan Poe, as displayed at the Poe Museum, Richmond, Virginia

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Edgar Allan Poe’s desk while he worked as an editor at The Southern Messenger

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staircase from childhood home of Edgar Allan Poe as displayed at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia
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Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum, Richmond, Virginia

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Walking the streets of Richmond I made my next stop at what is now Monumental Episcopal Church erected as a memorial at the site of the tragic fire at the Richmond Theatre where it just so happens Edgar’s mother Elizabeth performed at. The Allan’s, Edgar’s foster parents, were members of the church and would sit at Pew number 80 which has been memorialized for them. Unfortunately the church was not open to the public at the time of my visit, therefore I was only able to snap a picture.

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Continuing on my journey, I found myself at the grounds of Virginia’s Capitol Building. It is here that a sitting statue of Edgar rests in Capitol Square, erected in 1958.

 

Of course at some point I had to eat right? Now because my dearest friend lives in Richmond, I often frequent the city and it was on a separate occasion that we stopped at a little family owned restaurant that the locals love. A place quite fitting for any Poe fan. Poe’s Pub. Unfortunately I’d find that while the restaurant bares the poets name, that is where the connection ends. Other than a single framed picture of Poe on the wall and “Raven Fries” on the menu, there is nothing else about this place that was reminiscent of the macabre master. However the food was excellent. I recommend the salmon and shrimp with fried green tomatoes and spinach. Most divine!

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My final stop this day would be that of Shockoe Hill Cemetary. It is here many of Edgar’s loved ones found their final resting places.

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the Allan family section of located in Shockoe Hill Cemetary
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the grave of Sarah Elmira Royster at Shockoe Hill Cemetary: childhood sweetheart and fiance of Edgar Allan Poe at the time of his death

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Poe’s Helen, the gravesite of Jane Stith Craig Stanard, believed to be Edgar’s “crush” and mentor with writing :Shockoe Hill Cemetary

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another woman in Poe’s life to leave him, the sister of his foster-mother Francis, this is the grave of Edgar’s “Aunt Nancy” as he lovingly called her, Anne Moore Valentine

Richmond by far holds the most history in its homes, in its streets and I’m certain in the hearts of its people of Edgar Allan Poe. I intend on going back to the few places I wasn’t able to cover this day to make this visit complete.

Thanks for reading and please make sure to check out my other installments of Poe Places on my blog.

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Poe Places: An historical East Coast journey in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Baltimore

It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.

This stop brings me to the home of the Ravens…Baltimore, Maryland. Poe left quite a legacy to this bustling city so much so they honor his memory by naming their NFL team after one of his most popular poems. Poe spent a lot of his life here and fate it seemed was deemed the place for him to die.

My first stop had to be the most notable place that Baltimore offers. His grave.

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What more fitting a place for Poe’s final resting place than that of Westminster Hall, a converted gothic style church built above Westminster Burying Ground, creating catacombs. Upon discovering them I was disappointed that time wasn’t allowing me the opportunity to take one of the tours that the church offers.

Not only is Poe buried here but his wife Virginia and her mother Maria Clemm as well. Historically however Poe originally was buried in the back of the church grounds in an unmarked grave that today has a stone memorializing his original resting place. However just like all things Poe, rumors grew of the accuracy of the move. To read more about it, check out http://www.eapoe.org.

Because I’m a geek when it comes to Poe, I already knew this upon entering the church yard and knew exactly where to go hunting for the original memorial. Some other fans that happened to be there at the same time as myself, clearly weren’t as obsessed….errrr prepared as I was and didn’t have this little tid bit of information so naturally I offered to show them. My daughter took a picture of me guiding the tourists so as to memorialize my Poe geek status reaching its all time high. And no, I will not share it. Grrrrr. But I will show you where I took them.

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Because I have a natural love for cemeteries, not only was I snapping multiple pictures of the grounds but I found words brewing and wrote this as I came upon this corner with the broken stones.

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The church and the grounds were quite lovely and offered a moment of solitude amidst the extremely busy streets of downtown Baltimore that pretty much nearly swallow it.

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Located on the same street as the church just a short drive up the road is what is left of the home that Edgar lived in along with his Aunt and wife while in Baltimore.

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Operating now as a museum by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the home was built around 1830 and was originally rented by Edgar’s aunt, Maria Clemm along with her mother, her daughter Virginia and Edgar. Poe left his family here however around August of 1835 moving to Richmond, Virginia where he’d been taken on as editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. Around this same time Ms. Clemm’s mother died resulting in a shortage of money and the family was faced with being unable to cover rent. Another family member having heard of their circumstances offered to take her and Virginia in but Edgar hearing the news and perhaps fearing he would lose his family, wrote a heartfelt letter proposing to Virginia at which she accepted and the family was rejoined in Richmond. Check out the emotional letters here. Good stuff. You won’t be disappointed.

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The tour of the house includes poems and short stories that Poe wrote while in Baltimore, facts about his life and death and features Poe’s chair, lap desk and telescope. The room in which the items are set up is thought to be the room that he would have slept in so yeah of course, I was needing my salts. To think I was in the same room as the macabre master had once laid his head and no doubt dreamt up who knows how many of his short stories humbled me. It was surreal. Well, for me. And yeah, I stood there for a bit soaking the moment in.

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Upon leaving his home I went next to the Edgar Allan Poe Room at The Enoch Pratt Free Library and to say I was blown away by the appearance of the library itself is an understatement. The architecture geek in me was bleeding a smile. But I’ll refrain from getting sidetracked and sharing the gazillion pictures I took once inside.

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Dedicated to Poe on the 125th anniversary of his birth, The Edgar Allan Poe Room is in essence an exhibit of letters, memorabilia, and a copy of a daguerreotype of Poe by Thomas Corner. It is used as a meeting room and this is where my OCD kicked in when upon arriving I discovered it remained locked unless it was being used and was not typically open to the public. Obviously that wasn’t acceptable. I mean hello. So the determined five foot three inches Poe fiend went searching until I found the biggest security guard I’d ever seen. I smiled and told him without using said words such as geek or stalking or obsessed that I would like to see inside the Poe Room. He gave me a look over, grinned and said “for a just few minutes, follow me.” Ahhhhh and the rebel wins again!

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After snapping pictures like a bat out of hell and speed rushing through my oooooh’s and ahhhhh’s I thanked the very kind giant and continued my journey. I couldn’t help but think he was probably saying “another crazy white girl.” under his breath. I giggled. Yep. No doubt I fit that bill.

Although Poe lived quite some time in Baltimore, many of the places that had a connection with him have over the years been demolished, so those places I skipped this trip as their quite a few. But I got them written down in my trusty notebook aka Poe app. Yes. Poe app. Nevermind that. So lots of pictures of what now might be Taco Bell’s and laundry mats is in my future next trip.

I saved the saddest for last. The site where he died. Such a shame I didn’t have any of my paranormal investigation tools back then. Just saying. At his time this was the location of Washington College Hospital where he was brought after being found near dead on a street nearby. Four days later he was dead. Many stories surround the hospital including kidnapping and body snatching. Of course. You can read an in-depth article about it here. http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poechh.htm

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Thanks so much for reading and please make sure to check out my other write ups as I journey up and down the East Coast to feed my need. The struggle is real…

J

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Poe Places: a historial East Coast journey in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Philadelphia

It’s taken me over two year’s thus far  to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the notable places of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been a notable muse to my own writing and the birth of my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.

My first stop took me to the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Poe resided for six years from 1838 until 1844. Here he lived with his wife/cousin Virginia and her mother, Maria Clemm. His time spent here is described as the happiest of his life. While most of the homes he lived in while in Philadelphia have been demolished, one still stands. It is the last home he lived in before he decided to leave with his young ailing wife with tuberculosis to the then tranquil outskirts of New York. Today the home located in the Spring Garden section of the city is owned and maintained by the state park service and listed on the registry of historical places.

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The home itself has been left to age with murals upon the walls depicting how the home would have looked when Poe lived within its walls.

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A room set up like a parlor lends a feel to the macabre feel that was Poe’s legacy. Within it contains many writings and advertisements over the years of Poe’s work. Also on display is a prized possession, a copy of the famous Annabelle Lee poem as written in Poe’s handwriting.

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Entering the basement the macabre feel continues with its spooky feel and truly one of my favorites among the whole house. Talk about getting some paranormal ju ju down here. Heck yeah.

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The Raven
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”
    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Namelessherefor evermore.
    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”
    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.
    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.
    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as “Nevermore.”
    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrowhewill leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”
    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
Sheshall press, ah, nevermore!
    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—isthere balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting,stillis 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!
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Next up the lively city of Baltimore, Maryland that holds beneath its branches quite a story of Poe’s footsteps…..

J

 

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