Saturday, June 09, 2007

Classic Melancholy

Maybe doesnt fit with the beautiful weather of early summer, but too classic to pass up.

Basil Rathbone reading Poe over illustrations by Gustav Dore'. Can you get cooler than that? Well, you could add Chesterton on Poe from Robert Louis Stevenson.

"Dark wine, dying lamps, drugging odours, a sense of being stifled in curtains of black velvet, a substance which is at once utterly black and unfathomably soft, all carried with them a sense of indefinite and infinite decay…The point of Poe is that we feel that everything is decaying, including ourselves; faces are already growing featureless like those of lepers; roof-trees are rotting from root to roof; one great grey fungus as vast as a forest is sucking up life rather than giving it forth; mirrored in stagnant pools like lakes of poison which yet fade without line or frontier into the swamp. The stars are not clean in his sight; but are rather more worlds made for worms. And this corruption is increased, by an intense imaginative genius, with the addition of a satin surface of luxury and even a terrible sort of comfort… This dark luxury has something almost liquid about it. Its laxity seems to be betraying more vividly how all these things are being sucked away from us, down a slow whirlpool more like a moving swamp. That is the atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe; a sort of rich rottenness of decomposition, with something thick and narcotic in the very air."

Those of us who know GKCs bio are aware that he suffered from deep melancholia and depression as a young man. Chesterton was able to climb out of that pit, but the pendulum swung the other way for Poe.

Have a great weekend.

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