author-birthdays

Author, poet and King of the Macabre Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day (Jan. 19) 205 years ago. Poe’s life was full of loss: By 3, he had lost both his parents; by 25, he had lost both his foster parents; and by 40, he had lost his beloved wife, Virginia. (Not to be all dark and dreary on his birthday, but this is Poe we’re talking about.)

His poem “Annabel Lee,” one of my favorites, was discovered after his death in 1849: 

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 wingèd 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 kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
   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 her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 (Image via Wikipedia)

Plath

Sylvia Plath goes up to the counter, and she doesn’t know what she’s doing in Starbucks. She decides to order a strawberry frappuccino. On the other side of the window, fiery leaves have begun to fall. The leaves are too red; they remind her of beetles, of darkness, of the taut skin of the dead. The taste of strawberries turns thick and sour.

January 3 - John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Bio: Born on January 3, 1892, J. R. R. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and professor. More than almost anyone else, his cycle of works—including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—have left an indelible influence on high fantasy to this day. Tolkien fought in WWI, and taught at the University of Leeds and the University of Oxford. In addition to his fantasy work, he translated numerous works of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. In 1972, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He passed away on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82.

Anecdotes:

  • The tombstone of Tolkien and his wife bears the names Beren and Lúthien, two characters from his legendarium.
  • Tolkien constructed the grammar and vocabulary of at least fifteen Elvish languages and dialects.
  • At times, he began classes by appearing in chain mail, bellowing the opening lines of Beowulf. “According to one of his students, ‘He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall.’”
  • Tolkien was also very involved in reconstructing ‘extinct’ languages, such as Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. The poem “BagmÄ“ Blomā” (“Flower of the Trees”) might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.
  • He has been published almost as prolifically after his death as he was when he was alive.
  • Tolkien began work on The Hobbit early in the 1930s while marking School Certificate papers. He found a blank page and, with sudden inspiration, wrote the words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Final Sentences:

The sun went down, and Morwen sighed and clasped his hand and was still; and Húrin knew that she had died.

From The Children of Húrin

[…“You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”] “Thanks goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

From The Hobbit

Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and into the Land of Shadow.

From The Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.

From The Two Towers

"Well, I’m back," he said.

From The Return of the King

[Here ends the SILMARILLION.] If it has passed from the high and the beautiful to darkness and ruin, that was of old the fate of Arda Marred; and if any change shall come and the Marring be amended, Manwë and Varda may know; but they have not revealed it, and it is not declared in the dooms of Mandos.

From The Silmarillion

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4