Enrica here, Director at Poe House. On a recent vacation, I was lucky to visit sites in Italy specifically referenced in two pieces that Poe wrote while he lived at the house at 203 N. Amity Street. And while there are many fine “Poe Places” here in Baltimore, and up and down the East Coast, these were my first International stops.
Of weary pilgrimage, and burning thirst,
(Thirst for the springs of love [[lore]] that in thee lie,)
I kneel, an altered, and an humble man,
Amid thy shadows, and so drink within
My very soul thy grandeur, gloom, and glory.
Poe’s poem, “Coliseum,’ is an homage to the beautiful, iconic Colosseum in Rome. Even with the throngs of tourists and the crazy bustle of a modern city, it is as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the literature suggests. I’d write more about it, but I think Poe did well enough, as you read it here.
Despite the fact that Poe’s poem is an inspiring homage to the then crumbling ruin (they’re doing an excellent job of preserving it now) Poe never visited the Colosseum himself. The Flavian Amphitheater has inspired people and writers through the generations, and I imagine Poe reading others’ accounts of their travels the same way I read Poe’s fictional account of this one. I smile to think that he brought it to life for me before I got there. As Robert Ginsberg notes in his book, The Aesthetics of Ruins,“Poe had colossal nerve.”
The Bridge of Sighs
Venice! So incredibly beautiful, precisely out of my dreams. I stepped off the train determined to visit the Ponte dei Sospiri that Poe describes in his story, The Visionary (also known as The Assignation.) This is another story that Poe wrote while he lived in Baltimore. My husband and I met friends at the train station who were kind to treat us to a water taxi tour along the Grand Canal, and then guide us alongside the Doge’s Palace, where the ornate bridge spans the waterway.
This is another location that Poe describes in writing though he never visited in person. The poet Lord Byron (who Poe admired) is credited with translating Ponte dei Sospiri as “The Bridge of Sighs”, as the tradition goes that prisoners who were taken from the Palace were forced to cross the bridge to access the prison, and would sigh as they caught their last glimpse of freedom and the beauty that is the city (likely a pretty literary fiction, but it’s the spirit of the thing that counts.)
It’s daylight in my photos here, but the scene as it’s described in Poe’s story is night-time. You can bet that I didn’t miss an opportunity later that night to wander the streets and stop there again so I could pretend to be the Marchese di Mentoni.
“…that city of dim visions, thine own Venice –which is a star-beloved Elysium of the sea, and the wide windows of whose Palladian palaces look down with a deep and bitter meaning upon the secrets of her silent waters.”
A poet’s life for me…
Back to Rome. At the foot of The Spanish steps is The Keats-Shelley House and Museum. Much like our Poe House in Baltimore, celebrating the life of a great poet, this tiny English-style home is a memorial house to the poets John Keats and Percy Shelley, in addition to Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. It’s also the house where Keats died. I posted some photos from the house in this post on the Poe Baltimore Facebook page. A truly memorable experience, and I made sure to sign the guestbook and tell them hello from all of us here at Poe House!
Do you have pictures of any International Poe places? Like and share on our Facebook page!
Fun Fact: Poe Baltimore’s mission is to preserve and celebrate Poe’s legacy in Baltimore, but we welcome visitors from all over the world every day at Poe House. In addition to the collected editions of Poe’s works in English, we also have Spanish, French and Chinese editions of Poe’s writing in the gift shop. Italian coming soon!