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Unfortunately, it couldn’t have been any other way.
He was a tormented soul, haunted by nightmares and ghosts even during daylight, and he was unusual in almost everything he ever did.
Love wasn’t an exception.
Thankfully, Edgar Allan Poe was capable of transforming his anguished self into exquisite words, thus enriching our quotebooks with some of the most beautiful insights into the nature and majesty of love.
Let’s have a look at few of them and link the most famous among them to the biography of this great American writer.
Edgar Allan Poe – Love Quotes from His Early Life
Scholars think that Edgar’s solitude started before he was even able to comprehend it.
Born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, he was the second child of Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe Jr. – both actors.
Unsurprisingly, Edgar probably got his name from Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” a play both of his parents performed in during 1809!
Just a year later, Edgar’s father, an ill-tempered alcoholic, abandoned his family. His mother gave birth to a third child and died from tuberculosis when Poe was still in his cradle, on December 8, 1811. Interestingly enough, his father may have died on the very same day – or two-three days later.
So, Edgar was orphaned basically from birth, bereaved of the love of his mother.
Until the end of his life, he would look passionately for it – only to find what she inadvertently left him with death and solitude.
When Poe was fourteen, he fell in love for the first time – to Mrs. Jane Stith Craig Stanard, as he later wrote, “the first purely ideal love of [his] soul.” He described her later as “the truest, tenderest of this world’s most womanly souls, and an angel to my forlorn and darkened nature.”
And even though Jane Stanard was almost twice Poe’s age, she did have a startling effect on him:
This lady, on entering the room, took [Poe’s] hand and spoke some gentle and gracious words of welcome, which so penetrated the heart of the orphan boy as to deprive him of the power of speech, and, for a time, almost of consciousness itself.
Now, Poe had about as much luck as Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki: no matter wherever he went, it all turned to dust and pain.
Jane Stanard went mad and died in 1824 when he was barely 15 years of age.
He dedicated to her this beautiful love poem:
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfum’d sea,
The weary way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the beauty of fair Greece,
And the grandeur of old Rome.
Lo! in that little window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand!
The folded scroll within thy hand —
A Psyche from the regions which
Are Holy Land!
Next, Poe fell in love with Sarah Elmira Royster, who was just one year younger than him.
She loved him back, but her father disapproved of their relationship: Poe was both poor and an orphan. Even so, they may have been even secretly engaged, and Poe wrote to her some beautiful love verses.
However, most painful are those which he wrote when he learned that his father had given her to marriage to a businessman named Alexander Shelton.
I saw thee on thy bridal day—
When a burning blush came o’er thee,
Though happiness around thee lay,
The world all love before thee:
And in thine eye a kindling light
(Whatever it might be)
Was all on Earth my aching sight
Of Loveliness could see.
That blush, perhaps, was maiden shame—
As such it well may pass—
Though its glow hath raised a fiercer flame
In the breast of him, alas!
Who saw thee on that bridal day,
When that deep blush would come o’er thee,
Though happiness around thee lay;
The world all love before thee.
Edgar Allan Poe – Love Quotes from the Time with His Wife Virginia
Poe’s third and greatest love was his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm!
You’ve read that right!
The 27-year-old Poe, ever tortured and plagued by everything imaginable, fell in love with his twice younger cousin!
And when we say “fell in love,” we really mean it: he felt genuine and deep affection toward her for as long as she lived!
Once, he wrote to a friend:
I see no one among the living as beautiful as my little wife.
And a friend of his wrote of Edgar and Virginia’s relationship thus:
His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty.
Edgar loved Virginia so much that he wrote this wonderful little sonnet to his aunt (and now mother-in-law):
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.
And how did Virginia feel about Edgar?
Well – she basically idolized him!
She wrote him a poem as well, and we’ll feel bad if we don’t include it here:
Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we’ll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we’ll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we’ll be.
If you read the poem carefully, you may have already notice that it’s an acrostic. If not – read it again and focus on the first letters in each of the lines!
We wrote above that Poe loved Virginia for as long as she lived.
And you know what follows:
Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe died on January 30, 1847, at barely 24 years of age, leaving Edgar Poe distraught and hurt to his very core.
Also – probably sure that he’s cursed by some merciless god who, to add insult to injury, caused Virginia to die from the very same illness his mother did: tuberculosis!
You think your life is unfair?
Virginia’s death made Poe, the saddest man alive, even sadder.
A friend of his wrote soon after:
Many times, after the death of his beloved wife, was he found at the dead hour of a winter night, sitting beside her tomb almost frozen in the snow.
And his poetry testifies to this love.
The poem “Lenore,” for example, contains these heartbreaking verses:
Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!–a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?–weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read–the funeral song be sung!–
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young–
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.
In “The Raven,” a student mourns the death of his beloved Lenore while trying to find some solace in his books:
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—
Nameless here for evermore.
Then, a raven flies into his room.
The student, after some deliberation, asks the raven whether he’ll ever see his love again, if not on Earth, at least in Heaven. The raven’s answer is unforgettable and utterly painful:
“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.”
Finally, the student realizes that there’s no way out for him: the death of his beloved means his death as well:
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is 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!
As famous and as unforgettable “The Raven” is, it is not Poe’s best love poem about Virginia. That is, undoubtedly “Annabel Lee,” quite probably, one of the most beautiful love poems ever written in the history of literature.
We see no reason why anyone should mind if we quote it in full:
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Edgar Allan Poe – Love Quotes from His Later Life
“Annabel Lee” is the last poem Edgar Allan Poe wrote in his life, and a fitting monument to his work, love, and preoccupation.
It’s not that he didn’t try to love in the remaining few years of his life.
He wooed at least three different women during this period: Frances Sargent Osgood, Sarah Helen Whitman, and – surprise! surprise! – his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.
During this period, in a letter to Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe wrote:
Yes, I now feel that it was then on that evening of sweet dreams—that the very first dawn of human love burst upon the icy night of my spirit. Since that period I have never seen nor heard your name without a shiver half of delight half of anxiety.
And to Frances Osgood he wrote both an acrostic and this lovely stanza:
Thou wouldst be loved? — then let thy heart
From its present pathway part not!
Being everything which now thou art,
Be nothing which thou art not.
So with the world thy gentle ways,
Thy grace, thy more than beauty,
Shall be an endless theme of praise,
And love — a simple duty.
However, Osgood knew that it couldn’t be too honest.
And she said it best when she said “that [Virginia] was the only woman whom [Poe] ever loved.”
“Edgar Allan Poe Love Quotes: An Additional Selection”There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man. Click To Tweet For passionate love is still divine | I lov’d her as an angel might | With ray of the all living light | Which blazes upon Edis’ shrine. Click To Tweet O, human love! thou spirit given, | On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven! Click To Tweet Sound loves to revel in a summer night. Click To Tweet Years of love have been forgot | In the hatred of a minute. Click To Tweet Thou wast that all to me, love, | For which my soul did pine — | A green isle in the sea, love, | A fountain and a shrine, | All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, | And all the flowers were mine. Click To Tweet And all my days are trances, | And all my nightly dreams | Are where thy grey eye glances, | And where thy footstep gleams — | In what ethereal dances, | By what eternal streams. Click To Tweet
In “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe’s most famous 1846 essay, one year before Virginia died, Edgar wrote that “the death then of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.”
And he had the misfortune of experiencing this first hand.
All his life, Edgar wanted to find a woman who will love him the way a mother loves her child – for he never had one.
Nobody filled the void – and both his first and his greatest love (just like his mother) died!
Kenneth Silverman notes correctly that throughout Poe’s work “runs a vein of melancholy, sometimes despair, and . . . women who through death abandon their loved ones.”
Because Poe’s work was a reflection of his life. And because his life was a sad one, bereaved of all love and tenderness.
Strangely enough, he managed to write some of the most beautiful verses about them!
Thank you, Poe!
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