Edgar Allan Poe: The Jingle Man
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, and died on October 7, 1849, in Baltimore. His literary influence has been noted world wide. He excelled as a literary critic, and his short stories are credited with beginning the genre of detective fiction, as he is hailed as the father of mystery writing.
Abundance of Rime
(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")
Poe was labeled "The Jingle Man" because of the profusion of riming words employed in his poems. Likely, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who first assigned that appellation to Poe; however, Walt Whitman also opined that Poe overworked rime as a poetic technique.
Poe's poem, “The Bells” is, likely the piece of work that led to the jingle man appellation. For example, note the first stanza of "The Bells":
Hear the sledges with the bells -
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rime,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
In most cases, it takes a long time for a literary reputation to be established. Although Poe’s merit as a writer was debated in his own day, and still is in some quarters today, he has definitely taken his place as a writer of mystery.
Poe’s short stories “The Gold Bug,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” and “The Purloined Letter” all had a lasting effect on the mystery genre, and some credit Poe as the inventor of detective fiction.
Poe, like Thomas Hardy, considered himself primarily a poet and preferred writing poetry, but he found that he could make money writing prose, so, as Thomas Hardy turned to writing novels, Poe turned to writing short stories, and they both were able to bring in some income with their prose writing.
The Philosophy of Composition
Poe also wrote essays in literary criticism, and his “The Philosophy of Composition” reveals his favorite subject, or at least, the subject he considers most poetic: “the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” This reasoning certainly helps account for his predilection for melancholy of the sort we find in “The Raven.”
Despite Poe’s reputation as the father of detective or mystery fiction, to experience the real Poe, readers must also experience his poetry and when they do, they will have to admit that he was much more than his contemporaries saw; he was much more profound than a mere “jingle man.”
Take his “El Dorado” for example: This poem alludes to a legend that circulated popularly in the nineteenth century. Readers will notice again Poe’s delight with rime, but certainly there is more to the poem than rime.
It becomes philosophically universal by the last stanza which reveals a bit of sage advice that the paradise, for which El Dorado is a metaphor, is found in the search, and one must “ride boldly” in order to reach that paradise.
Poe and Drugs
So much has been made of Poe’s alcohol and drug use that most people associate his addictions too closely with his art. Of course, many artists in all the arts have fallen victim to intoxicants and drug euphoria.
And it appears that the artist’s life is always more interesting to the casual observer than is his/her art. As is the case with most sensitive artists who have had the misfortune to abuse artificial intoxication, Poe as a dark figure in literature is garnered more from his biography than from his actual writing.
Reading of Poe's "The Bells"
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes