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Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive (Lord Byron, Poe, and Poetry)

6 minutes

(Describer) A young man crouches by shallow water.

(male narrator) Bright, quick-witted, and rebellious, Edgar deliberately set himself apart. He became a fan of the popular bad boy poet of the day.

(male #1) George Gordon, Lord Byron, was an English poet who cultivated this image of the isolated artist at odds with the rest of the world.

(Describer) James Hutchisson:

Poe consciously adopted that Byronic pose. Even to the point of dressing in black, looking in the distance at nothing in particular.

(Describer) The young man sits against a tree.

(male #2) The similarity between Poe and Byron is quite remarkable.

(Describer) Jerome McGann:

They had a similarly very difficult childhood: abandoned, abused. It pervades the way they think about the world and the way they see the world: loss and fear. Two great subjects in both of their writings.

[raining spattering]

(Describer) Trees with mostly bare branches are reflected in the water. Title: Alone.

(Poe) "From childhood's hour "I have not been as others were-- "I have not seen as others saw-- "I could not bring my passions from a common spring-- "From the same source I have not taken my sorrow-- "I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone-- "And all I lov'd-- I lov'd alone."

(Describer) In a dramatization, Poe stares ahead.

(Describer) A woman with dark wavy hair approaches bookshelves, and pulls out a book.

(male #3) The woman who encouraged him to write poetry was the mother of his best friend.

(Describer) She opens the book and holds it out.

(male #4) When Mr. Allan was arguing with Poe and telling him not to waste his time reading this Lord Byron garbage, she gave him that encouragement that he needed.

(Describer) Hutchisson:

(male #1) I think Poe had a little school boy crush. She must have reminded him of his own biological mother, in certain ways. She had that same sort of ethereal look about her.

(Describer) She steps to the window.

(male #3) Unfortunately, mental illness took her;

(Describer) She turns.

We don't know the origins of it. And then she died...

(Describer) The scene fades to white and a hand reaches out.

and it affected him profoundly.

(Describer) An urn stands on her gravestone.

He went to her cemetery at night and kept a vigil at her grave.

(Describer) Jeffery Myers:

(male #5) I can't imagine that he had a profound love relationship with Jane Stanard, but he made it into something which had emotional, romantic, and literary potential that could be exploited.

(Describer) To Helen.

(Poe) "Helen, thy beauty is to me "like those Nicéan barks of yore. "That gently, o'er a perfume sea. "The weary, way-worn wanderer bore to his own native shore."

(male #6) Some years later, Poe said he wrote the poem to Helen.

(Edgar Poe) "Thy hyacinth hair, "Thy classic face, "Thy Naiad airs have brought me home to the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome."

(Describer) Flowers lie at the foot of the gravestone.

[birds chirping]

(narrator) Young Edgar was not alone in his experiences of loss. Early 19th century America had a mortality rate more than three times that of today.

(Describer) Photographs show dead and ailing women and girls.

(male #7) You could have someone who was in good health, carried away very quickly and very tragically.

(Describer) A man sits by a woman's open coffin.

You could also have someone because of TB slowly dying away.

(Describer) Paul Collins:

And childbirth was another great cause of mortality.

(Describer) In another photograph, a woman lies between two infants. Various memorials stand in rows.

(male #5) Very elaborate cemeteries were becoming popular in America at the time. This was a great age of funereal sculpture and mementos.

(male #1) While it sometimes seems odd

(Describer) Hutchisson:

to 21st century readers that Poe was always writing about death, it's not unusual if you think about what he was witnessing in the 1820s and 1830s when he was surrounded by this culture of death.

(Describer) Trees stand around the memorials. Title: Romance.

(Poe) "And so being young and dipped in folly, "I fell in love with melancholy, "and used to throw my earthly rest in quiet "all the way in jest. "I could not love except where death was mingling his with beauty's breath."

(Describer) Poe stands half in shadow with mist behind him. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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In this segment, students explore the topic of death in literature through the analysis of the writings of Poe and Lord Byron. Part of the "Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive" series. Please Note: This video includes photographs of dead people, a culturally accepted practice to honor loved ones during the 19th century. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 3
9 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 4
6 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 5
3 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12