I’m back to blogging, after a fairly long absence, necessitated by my family’s moving from Seattle to the DC area. My husband’s job conveniently got transferred here, and now, after years of aching to visit Poe’s grave and being unable, I live a mere one hour south of it and can go pretty much whenever I want. I feel very, very lucky and I’m so grateful for this!
We arrived in Virginia on a Friday. As we pulled into the parking lot of our new home, my husband asked, “Do you want to go to Baltimore on Sunday?” My answer was an immediate “YES!” (What an awesome husband, right?)
Baltimore has always fascinated me, not only because of Poe, who I’ve now been reading for 30 years, but because my father (who got me into Poe) was born and raised there, along with three generations before him. With Poe’s bones lying there and all of the family lore taking place there, Baltimore is a place of myth, story, legend and magic for me. I have always loved it from afar, and I’m so happy to be so close to it now!
Upon arriving in Baltimore, we went to Poe’s grave first. It felt indescribably good to finally be there after so many years of longing to go. I figured I’d cry, but no, it was an occasion of pure joy.
After visiting his grave, we sought out his original burial place, which is a few steps away, in another part of the Burying Grounds.
To the left of that is the grave of his grandfather, David Poe, Sr., and I’ve just learned that his brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, is buried there as well.
As you can see, Westminster Hall and Burying Ground is a gorgeous, fascinating old cemetery. I look forward to going back and taking a tour, to learn more about the other inhabitants and to learn more about its quirks, like this:
Poor Didier, lying forever beneath the church’s HVAC system. I’d LOVE to know what possessed the church to build over these graves in such a goofy way.
Some markers are so old, they are weathered to the point that they are hard to read, and they stick out of the ground in all directions.
The vaults, now they are just cool.
These naturally make me think of Poe’s poem, “The Sleeper:”
AT midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapour, 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 mist about its breast,
The ruin moulders 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
With casement open to the skies,
Irene with her destinies!
O, lady bright, can it be right,
This lattice open to the night?
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 fringéd lid
‘Neath which thy slumbering soul lies hid,
That o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts, the shadows rise and fall.
O, 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 thy glorious length of tress,
And this all-solemn silentness!
The lady sleeps. O, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
This bed, being changed for one more holy,
This room for one more melancholy,
I pray to GOD that she may lie
Forever with uncloséd eye!
My love, she sleeps. O, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall tomb unfold —
Some tomb that oft hath flung its black
And wing-like pannels, 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 vault from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Nor thrill to think, poor child of sin,
It was the dead who groan’d within.
That last line echoed through my mind as we explored the Burying Grounds, reading the names on the vaults and examining their iron doors.
We brought my 4 and 6-year-old daughters along, who were very excited to see Edgar Allan Poe, as they have heard their Mommy talk so much about him. I neglected to tell them that he is, um, dead, though, and they were very sad to learn of his death. My 6-year-old berated me:
“Mommy, why didn’t you tell us that Edgar Allan Poe is dead?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to freak you out.”
“I’m not freaked out by dead people, I’m SIX!”
Well, now I know. 🙂
The Poe House and Museum, a few blocks away, wasn’t open that day (but I am told it will have its grand opening for 2014 on Memorial Day weekend!), so we could only drive by it. We will be back to see it when it’s open, and I absolutely can’t wait for that!
Afterwards, we explored the awesome Hampden neighborhood for a while. We bought some new Alan Moore at Atomic Books and indulged my other obsessions, knitting and spinning, at Lovelyarns and Threeravens Fiber Studio. We closed our fantastic visit to Baltimore with a visit to the Annabel Lee Tavern, in the Canton neighborhood.
The entire place is a beautiful homage to Poe and a loving tribute to Baltimore. And the food, oh my God, the food. I will dream of the duck fat fries until the next time I go to Baltimore and have them again. I think I’d better make a reservation for Memorial Day weekend…