Message in a Tome, Waldeci Erebus

IMG_2250Untitled, London Bellman

 

Message in a Tome

I came upon an old chateau bathed in a moonlit gloom,
and entered through its Gothic door into a lofty room.
I came upon an oval portrait of a somber Age.
The name recorded on the painting was Earl Dolan Page.
The visage of the gentleman, dark and ethereal,
was like the face of one’s interred, premature burial.
Below the image on a table lay an ebon book,
the Poet’s corpus whose dark countenance adorned that nook.
I slowly opened it, and came upon what seemed to be
a purloined letter hidden there. It was addressed to me.

______________
Waldeci Erebus

Review by Lew Icarus Bede

That Edgar Allan Poe is a master of the short story there is little disagreement; his tales, despite their morbidity, or because of it, are remarkable literary works of art. On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe has received short shrift when it comes to his poetry. I understand that assessment, because his output is small, and most of it is of a mediocre or inferior quality. And the same could be said of his literary criticism. Yet amidst all of his hack work in those two areas, there stand two masterpieces, which I believe have not been equalled since, The Raven, and its concomitant essay, The Philosophy of Composition. In the 21st century, I can think of no American poem so easily appreciated, despite Emerson’s sour grapes or T. S. Eliot’s bitterness, and no essay by a poet, which so brilliantly analyzes the work of its author by the author himself.

In this New Millennium, the writer, who seems, at least poetically, to carry the mantle of Edgar Allan Poe, is Waldeci Erebus; and in a recent poem of his I see he thinks so too. That poem, which I happened by chance upon, is one entitled Message in a Tome. It is a small poem, a mere ten lines. It is obviously not in competition with The Raven, and I know the author thinks that too. It is one of those many poems scattered throughout World literature, in which one author pays homage to another, as Milton did, for example, in his On Shakespeare. But, whereas Milton’s poem is overt, Erebus’ poem is covert; and therefore, likely to be missed by this generation. Because the poem is so short, shorter even than Milton’s eight heroic couplets, I can unobtrusively place it here within this small essay upon it.

I came upon an old chateau bathed in a moonlit gloom,
 and entered through its Gothic door into a lofty room.
 I came upon an oval portrait of a somber Age.
 The name recorded on the painting was Earl Dolan Page.
 The visage of the gentleman, dark and ethereal,
 was like the face of one’s interred, premature burial.
 Below the image on a table lay an ebon book,
 the Poet’s corpus whose dark countenance adorned that nook.
 I slowly opened it, and came upon what seemed to be
 a purloined letter hidden there. It was addressed to me.

The poem structurally is ten lines of iambic heptameter, entitled a tennos, because, in addition to its ten lines, it is literally the exact opposite of a sonnet. It has ten lines of fourteen syllables, as opposed to fourteen lines of ten syllables, (i.e., iambic pentameter), and dispenses with the octave and sestet entirely. Iambic heptameter couplets, used most extensively by Chapman in his translation of Homer’s epic Iliad, are used here in a miniature ballad narrative, whose events are few.

At night, the narrator/poet comes to an old castle, and enters through its door into a large room. He sees in an oval frame a portrait with a name upon it. The face of the man in the painting looked like someone who had been buried alive. Under the depicted personage was a black book on a table. The narrator/poet opens it, and finds a letter addressed to himself. That is it, and nothing more. With the events of the poem so minimal, how can I suggest this poem is Waldeci Erebus’ homage to Edgar Allen Poe?

Well, first off, within its lines, are mentioned two tales of Edgar Allan Poe, The Oval Portrait, a tale about the relation of life and art, and The Purloined Letter, a tale of detection. To me, those are dead giveaways. Other words that also indicate the poem is homage to Edgar Allan Poe are phrases, like interred, premature burial and words, like Gothic. Even the capitalized Poet’s, seems indicative, if one takes in to account that Poe’s name is buried in it! Finally, if there were any doubt at all, the name Earl Dolan Page is an anagram of Edgar Allan Poe. Waldeci Erebus may indeed be carrying the mantle of Edgar Allan Poe poetically. But as for the meaning of the poem, I shall leave that to others. Perhaps it will require a dozen—who can tell?

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