Quaint and Curious - Parodies and Pastiches of Poe's The Raven

The Streets of Baltimore

Poems of the Inner Life 1864

Woman weak, and woman mortal,
Through thy spirit’s open portal,
I would read the Runic record
Of mine earthly being o’er—
I would feel that fire returning,
Which within my soul was burning,
When my star was quenched in darkness,
Set, to rise on earth no more,
When I sank beneath life’s burden
In the streets of Baltimore!
O, those memories, sore and saddening!
O, that night of anguish maddening!
When my lone heart suffered shipwreck
On a demon-haunted shore—
When the fiends grew wild with laughter,
And the silence following after,
Was more awful and appalling
Than the cannon’s deadly roar—
Than the tramp of mighty armies
Through the streets of Baltimore!
Like a fiery serpent coiling,
Like a Maelstrom madly boiling,
Did this Phlegethon of fury
Sweep my shuddering spirit o’er!
Rushing onward, blindly reeling,
Tortured by intensest feeling—
Like Prometheus, when the vultures
Through his quivering vitals tore—
Swift I fled from death and darkness,
Through the streets of Baltimore!
No one near to save or love me!
No kind face to watch above me!
Though I heard the sound of footsteps,
Like the waves upon the shore,
Beating, beating, beating, beating!
Now advancing, now retreating—
With a dull and dreamy rhythm—
With a long, continuous roar—
Heard the sound of human footsteps,
In the streets of Baltimore!
There at length they found me lying,
Weak and ’wildered, sick and dying,
And my shattered wreck of being
To a kindly refuge bore!
But my woe was past enduring,
And my soul cast off its mooring,
Crying, as I floated outward,
“I am of the earth no more!
I have forfeited life’s blessing
In the streets of Baltimore!”
Where wast thou, O Power Eternal!
When the fiery fiend, infernal,
Beat me with his burning fasces,
Till I sank to rise no more?
O, was all my life-long error
Crowded in that night of terror?
Did my sin find expiation,
Which to judgment went before,
Summoned to a dread tribunal,
In the streets of Baltimore?
Nay, with deep, delirious pleasure,
I had drained my life’s full measure,
Till the fatal, fiery serpent,
Fed upon my being’s core!
Then with force and fire volcanic,
Summoning a strength Titanic,
Did I burst the bonds that bound me—
Battered down my being’s door;
Fled, and left my shattered dwelling
To the dust of Baltimore!
Gazing back without lamenting,
With no sorrowful repenting,
I can read my life’s sad story
In a light unknown before!
For there is no woe so dismal,
Not an evil so abysmal,
But a rainbow arch of glory
Spans the yawning chasm o’er!
And across that Bridge of Beauty
Did I pass from Baltimore!
In that grand, Eternal City,
Where the angel-hearts take pity
On the sin which men forgive not,
Or inactively deplore,
Earth has lost the power to harm me!
Death can never more alarm me,
And I drink fresh inspiration
From the Source which I adore—
Through my Spirit’s apothéosis—
That new birth in Baltimore!
Now no longer sadly yearning—
Love for love finds sweet returning—
And there comes no ghostly raven,
Tapping at my chamber door!
Calmly, in the golden glory,
I can sit and read life’s story,
For my soul from out that shadow
Hath been lifted evermore—
From that deep and dismal shadow,
In the streets of Baltimore!

Lizzie Doten (1829–c.1913), an inspirational and “spiritual trance speaker”, would proclaim poetry dictated to her by spirits, including that of Edgar Allan Poe. “The Streets of Baltimore”, according to her poetry collection Poems of the Inner Life, describes the “tortures and terrors” of Poe’s final “night of suffering... composed in spirit-life, and given by him through the mediumship of Miss Lizzie Doten, at the conclusion of her lecture in Baltimore, on Sunday evening, January 11, 1863.”

Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.