Not many NFL teams have a link to Poe

This Just In...

March 27, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

Ravens will be good. It's a simple name, with two strong syllables -- Ray Vens. A raven is a bird, and we're a city of birds. It's a dark, mysterious, weird, creepy pick-your-eye-out bird, and I like a football team with the power to give America the creeps.

Plus -- and this is the best part -- there's a literary connection to the name, and how many professional sports teams can claim such a thing? Assuming that someone -- say your sister-in-law from Jersey -- will even bother to ask, "Why Ravens?," you get to mention Edgar Allan Poe and that he died, pathetically, in Baltimore.

For many late 20th-century reasons, Poe might be the coolest literary figure of the 19th century. He symbolizes the macabre, the depressing, the tortured, the obsessive, violent and paranoid. I've seen a lot of his type around Baltimore over the years. "I have been depressed since birth," Poe once wrote a friend. Maybe somebody should make a movie called "Leaving Baltimore" and put Nicholas Cage in the lead.

Of course, Poe never left. He's buried here. He's ours.

Various biographies describe Poe's last days in 1849 as sinister and totally strange. Here are descriptions of the author, which I've culled from the library: "Muttering incoherently and dressed in filthy, outlandish clothes . . . the look of vacant stupidity . . . suffering from gloom . . . wrestling with invisible demons."

You could start a good coffeehouse argument -- and I did one day, almost got hurt -- over how Poe died, whether he was an alcoholic, whether he was suicidal. Baltimore newspapers gave the cause of death as "congestion of the brain" and "cerebral inflammation," which usually implied a passing for some disgraceful reason. Some people think he was poisoned. Poe expired within sight of Fells Point, which strikes me as poetic.

There's little debate Poe was a genius and that "The Raven," written in the depressing month of February, in 1845, is a work of art. It was an instant hit, and deserves the fame it enjoys to this day. In reading it again yesterday, I realized something: Poe had the courage (or sense of irony) to actually begin a serious literary work with the words, "Once upon."

Recite it with me:

"Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered, weak and weary/ Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore . . . "

To Poe, the raven symbolized "mournful and never-ending remembrance" -- in this case, of the lost Lenore. I like Kenneth Silverman's take on the poem. In his superb biography of Poe in 1991, Silverman noted the raven's power as a vessel of torture, perhaps self-inflicted, for the lover of the lost Lenore. "To forget is to incur the guilt of disloyalty and risk reprisal from the betrayed departed," Silverman writes of the poem. "Indeed, the hated-welcome bird . . . is Poe himself, beak in the reader's heart, evermore repeating that those we have loved and who become lost to us can never return, that we can never clasp them in [heaven], that they can never be forgotten, and that however painful it may be to remember them, it is still more painful to give them up."

This kind of analysis you never get from John Madden.

Name that team

Just so I don't make anyone else mad at me, I will now run a list of names for the new football team, as submitted by readers of this column over the past two months. I don't want these well-meaning, civic-minded people to feel ignored -- even though their suggestions won't make any difference to Art Modell, who probably has already made up his mind.

Of course, some of you already have stopped reading this column because you find the subject tiresome. Others will find this exercise mildly amusing. Those who will see themselves quoted below will find it life-affirming. Me? I need to clean off my desk.

Here's the list:

Invaders, Boomerangs, Boomers, Bees, Star-Spangled Banners, Banners, Knights, Bolts, The Charm, Blazers, BaySharks, Stars, Boaters, Strikers, Spiders, Sloths, Tundra, Huns, Hunsmen, Buckaroos, Rockets, Pushers, Busters, Ramparts, Boatmen, Waterman, Bays, Blues, Crabs, Crabbers, The Style, Blue Jackets, Dolts, Scams, Glendunnings, Millionaires, Coats, Herbivores, Thunderbolts, Rockers, Bobcats, Americans, The Swarm, Skipjacks, Runners, Stunners, Gunners and Whopper.

There now. It's done. You'll see this subject raised here nevermore.

Lucky day

It was a St. Patrick's Day wedding, dashed with luck -- bad luck followed by good luck, which is the best order in which to get your luck. First the bad: The bride's limousine broke down on the way to church. "They were stuck out in the sticks somewhere," says Tom Fitzgerald, the groom. "The chauffeur didn't have a car phone. We were an hour late getting the wedding started. We had more than 140 guests. I was pacing. I heard 'Oh, Danny Boy' so many times, I thought the organist wrote it."

Fitzgerald's bride, Susan Warthen, maid of honor Terri Stafford and bridesmaid Dori Uhler were stranded, with no hope of getting to Our Lady of Victory Church on Wilkens Avenue on time. But -- here's the good luck -- along came a woman in a Lincoln; she drove the bridal party to church. No one got the rescuer's name, though. If that was you, give me a call at 332-6166.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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