What's in a name? Plenty Time to move on: Remembering a poem about putting lost love in the past could be fitting for a city still trying to heal Colts wounds.

March 28, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Fans get their final say beginning today on what Baltimore's NF team should be called by voting via a Sundial poll.

The team will announce its new name in a news conference at Harborplace at noon tomorrow, the 12th anniversary of the Colts' move from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

As the decision is being made, here's a look at the background behind the three finalists -- Americans, Marauders and Ravens.

Writer Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston and considered himself a Virginian. He published "The Raven" in New York while living in Philadelphia and spent only a few years in Baltimore. He happened to be passing through town when he died here under murky circumstances.

Honoring him by naming Baltimore's new NFL team the Ravens may strike some as odd. But not Jeff Jerome, curator of Baltimore's Poe House & Museum, 203 N. Amity Street. He says it's perfect.

"The Raven," one of the writer's greatest works, is a marvel of American literature that eloquently expresses a man's mournful realization that the past cannot be relived.

"It's frustrating for me when I hear people say it should be the Colts or nothing. I was heartbroken when the Colts left. But that is in the past. We should move on, and that is the basis of 'The Raven' -- a man who is mourning his lost love," Jerome said.

In the poem, the narrator is visited by a "ghastly grim and ancient Raven." Pining for his dead love, the narrator asks if his sorrowful soul ever again will "clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore."

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

It's a healthy lesson for fans still pining for a return of the Colts, he said. Besides, it's one of the English language's finest works, considered by some scholars to be one of the world's most perfectly structured poems, he said.

Poe cast the raven in his poem because the brooding, black bird symbolized fate in many cultures. Steven J. Sarro, curator of birds at the Baltimore Zoo, said ravens are related to crows and inhabit mostly cold-weather habitats in North America. If there are ravens in Maryland, they probably are in the Appalachian areas of Western Maryland, he said.

True to their reputation, ravens will eat dead animals, but they are classified as "omnivores," not scavengers, he said. "If the easy meal is catching a mouse, they will catch a mouse," he said.

Poe was born in 1809 in Boston to an actress working there. She moved him to Richmond, Va., and died when he was 3. He was informally adopted by John Allan, a tobacco merchant, and his wife.

Ensuing years took the aspiring writer to the University of Virginia, the Army, West Point and, in 1832, to Baltimore, where the Poe side of his family went back several generations. He spent only four years here, in the house of his aunt, Maria Clem, on Amity Street, but launched his writing career and penned his first horror story here: "Berenice."

From here, he moved back to Richmond, then to Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia and New York again. He worked mainly for newspapers, as a literary critic, fiction writer, editor, even publisher.

He published "The Raven" in a New York publication in 1845, when he was living in Philadelphia. But he tinkered with the manuscript for years, so it's not clear where he wrote it, Jerome said.

He passed through Baltimore again in 1849, on his way to New York. Already suffering from what may have been pneumonia and what some historians say was undiagnosed diabetes -- and possibly an allergy to alcohol -- his condition worsened here. He was found incoherent in a tavern and died soon afterward in an East Baltimore hospital. He is buried in Westminster Churchyard.

But Virginia's claim to the writer is fierce. The University of Virginia has a Poe Room, a Poe professorship chair and a Raven Society. Poe lived there the longest and often wrote of himself as a Virginian, said Jill Wood, director of development of the Poe Museum in Richmond.

"Of course, we claim him as our own," Wood said. But, she added, "Poe was a relatively transient figure, so it would be difficult to pinpoint any city."

How to vote

For details on how to vote in the Sundial poll to name Baltimore's NFL team, see Page 16A.

The choices

The American was a pre-Civil War railroad fixture with Baltimore roots. 8c

The Marauder was the most famous of the planes built at factories near Middle River. 8c

"The Raven" was one of the finest works of writer Edgar Allan Poe, who died in Baltimore and is buried here.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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