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It’s a rainy Sunday evening and I’m taking a pleasurable breather – before the madness of the week ensues- dipping my mind into Poe’s infamous short story Ligeia (1838). My curiosity was piqued whilst reading a chapter on Poe in D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature (1923) in which he tries to unravel the ‘American soul’ and expose its consciousness through selected writers. All the Poe-esque Romantic Gothic elements are there…and whatever could be wrong with a beautiful woman showing a man ‘forbidden’ wisdom and metaphysical secrets to the universe? Because that always ends well.
" Of all the women whom I have ever known, she, the outwardly calm, the ever-placid Ligeia, was the most violently a prey to the tumultuous vultures of stern passion. And of such passion I could form no estimate, save by the miraculous expansion of those eyes which at once so delighted and appalled me - by the almost magical melody, modulation, distinctness and placidity of her very low voice - and by the fierce energy (rendered doubly effective by contrast with her manner of utterance) of the wild words which she habitually uttered. " Ligeia, Edgar Allan Poe
" That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in a bosom such as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion. But in death only, was I fully impressed with the strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand, would she pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose more than passionate devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so blessed by such confessions? How had I deserved to be so cursed..." Ligeia, Edgar Allan Poe
Poe has a unique way of enticing and enthralling his readers. Those of us more Gothic-prone tend to surrender, without a fight, into the arms of his words where beautiful women and witchy things trap our souls. I find the short story form more appealing than the typical novel form. Open Culture’s 7 Tips from Edgar Allan Poe on How to Write Vivid Stories and Poems has this little piece of advice for budding writers out there :
Keep it short—the “single sitting” rule. Poe contends that “if any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression.” Force the reader to take a break, and “the affairs of the world interfere” and break the spell.
Happy Sunday reading! (I’m pretty sure an owl just hoo-hooed outside my bedroom window in deep reciprocation…at least it wasn’t a raven.) 😉
Recommended song choice to your Poe reading :
Music video by Muse , Unintended via Muse YouTube.