As a writer Poe is more about the macabre than about horror. His skill is to paint brooding and ominous mental pictures replete with gloomy portent. He explores the darkest recesses of our deepest fears and does it in style.
Born two years to the day after Robert E. Lee, Poe could, in different circumstances, have become a general on the Union side of the conflict. He enlisted as a soldier in 1827 and was rapidly promoted to rank of Sergeant Major. From there he bought out his enlistment as a soldier and entered Westpoint as a military cadet. Poe did not graduate Westpoint. Instead he had himself expelled on purpose, and pursued his writing career.
Robert E. Lee graduated from Westpoint the year before Edgar Allan Poe entered the college. Both of them were artillery men. Poe’s third volume of poems was published thanks to contributions from his fellow Westpoint cadets and contains a dedication to them.
Poe died at age 40, in 1849, a broken wreck of a man, probably from alcoholism. His family had a bad relationship with alcoholism. For Poe this appeared to be exacerbated by the fact that the women he loved had a habit of dying on him. His father abandoned the family with Poe was a baby and his mother died of Tuberculosis. He was adopted by the Allan family and had a very up and down relationship of spoiling and over-discipline. At age 26 he married his 15 year old cousin, Virginia. She died after a five year battle with tuberculosis in 1847. The darkness of his writing is a mirror of the demons that haunted his life.
The City In The Sea: by Edgar Allan Poe
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
in a strange city lying alone
far down within the dim West,
where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
resignedly beneath the sky
the melancholy waters he.
No rays from the holy heaven come down
on the long night-time of that town;
but light from out the lurid sea
streams up the turrets silently-
gleams up the pinnacles far and free-
up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-
up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-
up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-
up many and many a marvellous shrine
whose wreathed friezes intertwine
the viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
the melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
that all seem pendulous in air,
while from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves
yawn level with the luminous waves;
but not the riches there that lie
in each idol’s diamond eye-
not the gaily-jewelled dead
tempt the waters from their bed;
for no ripples curl, alas!
along that wilderness of glass-
no swellings tell that winds may be
upon some far-off happier sea-
no heavings hint that winds have been
on seas less hideously serene.
But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
in slightly sinking, the dull tide-
as if their tops had feebly given
a void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow-
the hours are breathing faint and low-
and when, amid no earthly moans,
down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
shall do it reverence.