An obscure portrait of Edgar Allan Poe has come to light and is scheduled to be auctioned off. Reports indicate that the watercolor painting reveals a young man without the world-weariness of the more familiar images of Poe. He may even be smiling.
Poe has long been one of my personal muses. His writing captivated my imagination as a young man, and his sense of tragedy encased a golden nobility. Although many consider his works to be juvenile, like the slightly later stories of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Poe grew to a mature sensibility concerning life that rivals that of Job. Intrigued, years ago I wrote a high school term paper about the writer and discovered a spiritual compatriot who couldn’t outstrip the “unmerciful Disaster [that] Followed fast and followed faster.” Now on the side of years beyond the lifespan of my muse, I begin to understand how a happy young man becomes a Qohelet in his time. In his personal difficulties, Poe was able to speak for many of us.
To me this young portrait is cast in the tint of Dorian Gray. The real image of Poe is that of a man given few breaks in life. A man of keen sight and keener insight. There have been thinkers like Poe from ancient times, but they are generally resigned to the depths rather than to be found basking in sublime sunlight. When Ludlul bel Nemeqi or Khun-Anup pour out their souls to an unhearing sky, they create a fellowship for latter day Poes and Melvilles and Lovecrafts. I hope the portrait of a young Poe finds a good home and the message of its subject rings as loudly as the bells.
3 thoughts on “Portrait of Poe as a Young Man”