Our poor man, dear Mr. Poe. The nightmare he feared became a sad truth when he disappeared for several days when he was 40 years old. He was found a week later, delirious and in a state of awful disrepair. A letter was sent to those who recovered him from a gutter:

“Dear Sir—There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, & he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance.” Yours, in haste, Jos. W. Walker

He did reek of alcohol but it is disputed as to cause. Was he horribly beaten, and did he suffer the outcome of someone(s) pouring alcohol into and over him? Or did he indeed imbibe of his own will and suffer as a result, as some of his enemies claimed? Poe’s appearance was described as “repulsive”, with unkempt hair, a haggard, unwashed face and “lusterless and vacant” eyes. His clothing, which included a dirty shirt but no vest and unpolished shoes, was worn and did not fit well.

In any case, Poe never recovered to tell the tale of his own suffering and death. He did indeed enter deep into that darkness that he so feared.

Myth and Mystery

I always thought that knowing something was a myth, just like other myths, with the archetypal features and formulated events, was just that, a shruggable thing even more so when its concept was Universal. To the Catholic Church, that was confirmation that The Event was real and true, and all in foretelling the Truth to come, the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, Lord and God.

So it came to pass that the Virgin Mary was beyond Sainthood. As she was to be The Mother of God, she was born without sin. This made it possible for her, in her purity, to accept God Himself. Thus impregnated by Spirit she could bring forth The Son.

But wait. When you think about it, really think about it, it is the very same. Not special, not different in that now it is True because it is our myth. The Virgin Mary, the Spirit that impregnates, and the Son—a demi God, Or God Himself—that’s the story. The very same play in three acts.

Think Leda and the Swan. Leda, raped by Zeus in the form of a swan, is impregnated. She gives birth to Helen and Polydeuses, who is immortal. Helen’s power was in her beauty, the most beautiful of all women. This story is told in Greek Mythology, and we all know the tale of Helen of Troy. The face that launched a thousand ships.

In Ovid’s story of Europa and the Beautiful White Bull, or The Rape of Europa, the event is consummated by Jupiter. Europa then gives birth to Minos, king of Crete and the Minoans, the first European civilization.

Great and momentous results come from all of the stories. But note this: the women are not asked. There is no choice. None. It is done to them. They are raped. There is no discussion, no ability to have an informed consent. Some God becomes enraptured by a beautiful woman. As a result of that infatuation the God takes the form of something else (usually an animal) and has his way. The result is something marvelous, another God, or least of all, a demi-God. But the impregnating beast doesn’t hang around. She will raise the child or children without the Father.

From the foundation of the bestial we get the marvel, the glory, the triumphant.

In Mary’s case, an angel—Gabriel—appears to her and…we all know the story from there.

But the question is this: the myth that lives within the psyche of all of us, is it there because it is true? Or is it there because that is what we need to create? To give us comfort, to let us feel less alone? In any case, we get the story that we cling to. And the beast is forgotten.

The New Yorker Page Liked · 4 hrs · Today's daily cartoon by Maddie Dai.

The New Yorker — cartoon by Maddie Dai

And, lest we forget, this is the story, in the poem by Yeats. And in the end, there is the still, indifferent beak.

Leda and the Swan

W. B. Yeats, 18651939

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?