“The Valley of Unrest” by Edgar Allan Poe

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

This poem reminds me very much of “The City in the Sea,” though far gentler and shorter. The opening suggests the inhabitants of this empty Valley got caught up in world affairs and left home, a kind of negligence (rather than the evil we find in the City). In his signature style, Poe ushers in the imagery of death, although it is not clear if there are any graves or ghosts—perhaps just a suggestion of them in the flowers that grow in the Valley.

I love how he expresses a sense of space and time in his use of words: wars, towers, trees, seas, and Heaven. A sense of looking up—and also far down. The emptiness conveyed is only rescued from City-like dystopia by the emphasis on beauty, even in sorrow, along with perpetual movement. There is life after death and loss; voids shall be filled by new growth. Still, those who remember the Valley as it was before keep a piece of the old life in their hearts.

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Poetry Reading: Dedication by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From The Seaside and the Fireside. This is one of my favorite poems, although somewhat obscure. Longfellow seemed to have a special regard for his readers – one that also reflects how I feel about the online book community, which I have been a part of since 2009. Across time and space, we have shared our thoughts about the books we’ve read and authors we treasure. I’ve made many long-time friendships, and learned more than I could ever possibly have on my own. Thanks for sticking around… the voyage isn’t over yet. 🙂

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The Last Chapter – A Poem for Frodo

One of the things I owe to Tolkien is inspiring in me a love of poetry. Before I read The Lord of the Rings, I had little interest in reading poetry, let alone writing it. It was the poems of Middle Earth that changed my mind…the way he used poems and songs to emphasize the emotional moments just made it “click” for me.

Early during my poetry exploration, I wrote this poem about Frodo in Mordor. It’s not really how I write poetry anymore, but it was definitely inspired by Tolkien. This seems like the right time to share it. 🙂

The Last Chapter

I wander through this valley of gloom
Seeking the mountain of death
Where has fled my strength, I wonder?
Uttering life’s last breath

So close around is darkness
It is all I understand
The mist around me, in my eyes
The stench of evil land

My greatest hope is victory
A sunrise for my kin
White daisies in the pastures
And gentle summer wind

Nearer and closer have I come
The slopes are at my feet
Somewhere a tower looms in dusk
Waiting for my defeat

If I can but reach that summit
And set my people free
Then I shall die, content and ready
To face the silver sea

Marian H. Rowe
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Falling in Love with Fiction

Occasionally you stumble across some historical story so weird it could only have happened in in real life.  Exhibit A: the mysterious lover of Nikolay Gumilyov.

Ngumil
Nikolay Gumilyov

Who was Nikolay Gumilyov?  Born in 1886, he grew up well educated and began writing poetry at a young age, becoming first published, in fact, at around age 16.  Gumilyov spent much of his life as a man of letters and established poet, but he also served in the Russian cavalry in WWI.  He was executed in 1921 on suspicions of being part of a monarchist conspiracy. 

When he was still a young man and writing for a journal called Apollon, he fell in love with the author of some poems which had been submitted for publication.  Here I quote Wikipedia:

In August 1909, the famous Russian artistic periodical Apollon received a letter with verses on a perfumed paper with black mourning edges, signed only by a single Russian letter Ch. The verses were filled with half-revelations about its author—supposedly a beautiful maiden with dark secrets . . . Over the next few months, publications of the newfound poetic star were the major hit of the magazine, and many believed that they had found a major new talent in Russian poetry. The identity of the author was slowly revealed: her name was Baroness Cherubina de Gabriak, a Russian-speaking girl of French and Polish ancestry who lived in a very strict Roman Catholic aristocratic family, who severely limited the girl’s contacts with the outside world because of an unspoken secret in her past. Almost all of Apollon’s male writers fell in love with her, most of all the great poet Nikolai Gumilyov. He wrote a series of passionate love letters to her and received quite passionate answers.

The mystery of the newfound genius was short-lived. In November it was discovered that the verses were written by a disabled schoolteacher, Elisaveta Ivanovna Dmitrieva, with the participation of a major Apollon contributor and editor, the poet Maximilian Voloshin. 

Apparently, Voloshin and Dmitrieva came up with this scheme as a sort of publicity stunt in order to get her published.  Gumilyov, as you can imagine, was not amused.  The fallout between him and Voloshin eventually led to a duel, which (fortunately) did nothing to help sore feelings but at least resulted in no casualties, as Gumilyov missed and Voloshin couldn’t handle a gun.

Elisaveta Ivanovna Dmitrieva, AKA
Cherubina de Gabriak

You can read more about the love triangle here.  It’s quite a soap opera and makes the Charlotte Bronte’s “Currer Bell” seem mild by comparison!