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Sarah Helen Whitman
January 19, 1803 - June 27, 1878
North Burial Ground - Providence, RI

 

Sarah Helen Whitman was a poetess of small notoriety and became a blip on the radar of fame mostly due to her failed engagement to Edgar Allan Poe.

She had written a Valentine poem to him, to which he responded with his own poem, the second of his to be entitled To Helen:

I saw thee once - once only - years ago:
I must not say how many - but not many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,
With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber,
Upon the upturned faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe
Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death
Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.

  Their engagement failed for a number of reasons, it seems.  For one, it would appear that Sarah's mother was not too happy about it - for another, Sarah wanted him to stop drinking which he couldn't seem to do.  He also attempted suicide during this unsure time, and ended up dead in Baltimore less than a year later.

 

Factoid:  Sarah often came to the literary defence of Poe, writing numerous books and essays defending his work to critics.  

 

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