“To My Mother” by Edgar Allan Poe

EdgarAllanPoeThis was not the poem I intended to read this morning. I wanted to read something by Poe and was planning to read “The Conqueror Worm,” but as I was flipping through my volume of The Complete Tales and Poems, I came across this sonnet. The title caught my eye, particularly since it was Mother’s Day recently. I decided to read this one instead.

The rhyming scheme of the poem is that of a Shakespearean sonnet: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; with the last two lines forming a rhyming couplet. Since it is short, I figured I would include the poem in the blog post rather than link to it.

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

This sonnet is directed toward Poe’s mother-in-law, the mother of his wife Virginia. Poe’s birth mother died early and it seems that he viewed his mother-in-law as the one who filled that maternal void in his life. He also expresses gratitude for the fact that she brought Virginia into the world, the person who is dearest to his soul.

I can relate to this poem. My mother died young and her passing left an empty space in my being. Anyone who has experienced the death of a mother knows that this loss is not something that heals quickly, nor can it be immediately filled. But it seems that Poe found someone who was caring and nurturing enough to fill that void. I guess that it was no coincidence that I discovered this poem today.

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