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WESTMINSTER CEMETERY AND CATACOMBS in downtown Baltimore wraps around the old Gothic Westminster Church (circa 1852) and itself is enclosed by brick-and-wrought iron walls and gates. Even if the gates are locked, it is possible to peer in at the tomb and wall memorial of the graveyard's most illustrious guest, Edgar Allan Poe, located in the far righthand corner from the church. 519 West Fayette (corner of North Greene), Baltimore. Tel. (410) 706-2072. Grounds open 8 a.m. - dusk daily.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
There is irony in the fact that Poe, poor for so much of his life, should now, finally, for evermore, have such an impressive monument: squarish white sandstone embedded with a bronze medallion with his portrait, looking dashingly poetic; behind it in the brick wall is a sandstone plaque in French -- a tribute to Poe from a French literary society, recognition of his worldwide reputation. Fresh flowers and wreaths often collect at the base of the monument, which was erected, so says a churchyard note, "in part by pennies collected from Baltimore school children." Poe said, "With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion."
Yet it is his macabre short stories-"The Fall of the House of Usher," "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter, The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Cask of Amontillado"--that are so admired for their tension-building sense of terror. Many of his poems -- "The Raven," "Annabel Lee," "The Bells" and "To Helen" -- continue to be read as well. For readers who enjoy feasting on sad tales, Poe's life provides a banquet: abandoned by his parents, expelled from West Point, struggles to scratch out a living, the early death of his child-bride, his own frail health, alcohol addiction, and finally his mysterious disappearance, followed by death at age 40, just before his second marriage. Nevermore. The Edgar Allan Poe House (203 North Amity Street; 410/396-7932), where he lived from 1832 to1835, is open to view.