Monday, March 23, 2020

Edgar Allan Poe: A Tale for This Moment

"On the impossibly wealthy blocks of Fifth Avenue, scarcely a light can be seen. Nobody’s home. Most of the truly wealthy have gone, by helicopter or private jet, to the Hamptons or to an island somewhere. There can be something vexing about the thought that those whose wealth relies on the intense, close-ordered entanglement of the city abandon it in its hour of need, or dread, but they do. Still, who would not decamp to a remote island if she had one?" -- The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst" by Adam Gopnik and Philip Montgomery, March 23, 2020.
Fifth Avenue, New York, where the wealthy live: from google maps.
"The Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated [by the Red Death], he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death." -- Edgar Allen Poe, "The Masque of the Red Death."
What happened to the courtiers who had isolated themselves? The Red Death
found them: "He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped
the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the 
despairing posture of his fall." --Illustration by Arthur Rackham, from Wikipedia.
Literary parallels to the current pandemic include some very popular fictions, particularly The Plague by Camus, Death in Venice by Mann, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I think Poe's lurid tale is also relevant -- in an obviously creepy way.

I hope you are keeping well and away from the contagion! Best wishes from mae at mae food dot blogspot dot com, and if you read this elsewhere, it shows that the pirates are still stealing my blog. 


Angie's Recipes said...

Keep up the positivity and stay safe and healthy! Hope you have stocked up enough food and everything you need for this difficult time, Mae.

Lavender and Lime ( said...

I haven't read Poe in decades. we are in isolation for three weeks starting on Friday so if I run out of books I might look to some you mention here. Stay safe!

Pam said...

Take care and stay safe!

Jeanie said...

Spot on. I have been thinking about a post titled Love In the Time of Cholera, for obvious. Elbow bumping and throwing kisses just isn't the same.

I should dig out some Poe.

Debra Eliotseats said...

I haven't thought of that story for years. Yes, you are so correct in the parallels.