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
Even if you know very little of Edgar Allan Poe, you likely have the impression that he was a bit of an odd duck. There’s just something about him that feels a bit off. Maybe it’s because his poetry and short stories oftentimes dabbled in the macabre. Perhaps it’s because the protagonists in “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” seemed paranoid, hearing sounds that were driving them mad.
And then, rightly or wrongly, we come to associate that madness with the man who penned those words. Maybe. After all, Edgar Allan Poe had a bit of a rough childhood. His father left the family when he was barely a year old and his mother died the following year. His foster dad, John Allan, reportedly disciplined Edgar aggressively, but he also spoiled him. This surely had an effect on his psyche.
Just last month, I wrote about how I feel like I don’t fit in. I sometimes find myself as the lone dad among a sea of moms, or the only person of color, or the guy who’s too old to roll with the millennials but too young to be consider a Gen-Xer. As a result, I can feel so alone. Perhaps not to the degree of Edgar Allan Poe, but alone nonetheless.
It is partly because of characters like Poe or Sylvia Plath or Vincent van Gogh that we’ve come to perpetuate the myth of the tortured artist. The poet, the author, the musician, the painter… he must suffer for his craft to yield extraordinary work. That’s when we can dive into the deepest, darkest corners of the human condition.
And delving deep into the darkest recesses of the human mind can be a terrifyingly lonely journey indeed. They say there’s a fine line between brilliance and insanity. But that’s just crazy talk, isn’t it?