Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809, the son of poverty-stricken actors. His father died from consumption; soon afterwards, his English mother, who in her time had played Juliet, Ophelia and a range of Shakespearian leading roles, died and left Edgar orphaned before he was three years old. He was taken into the family of John Allan, a tobacco importer, and spent part of his schooldays, which were mostly troubled, in England. At the University of Virginia he was notorious for gambling to pay his debts and left early; he enlisted in the US army, but was dishonorably discharged for failing to attend to his duties.

Love and death are obsessively linked in his stories and his poems. The death of his beautiful tragedian mother was followed by the early death of other beloved young women. His wife, Virginia, whom he married when she was 13, died at the age of 23. The Raven, recorded here, is a haunting meditation on lost love, influenced by the raven in Barnaby Rudge, and powerfully theatrical in effect. It works best read aloud; Poe himself frequently read it to appreciative audiences.

The Raven brought Poe fame, but no money. He struggled on in poverty, and suffered addiction and depression, earning what he could (in those days before copyright protection) from his writing. His poem, Annabel Lee, mourns his young wife, now idealized in death. Soon after writing it, in 1847, Poe was found at his Baltimore home, delirious from alcohol and illness, and died a few days later

Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven

Read by David Yezzi
The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe - Read by David Yezzi

Annabel Lee

Read by David Yezzi
Annabel Lee - Edgar Allan Poe - Read by David Yezzi

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