Schulz, Irving, and Poe – A Literary Harvest

My literary harvest. Spring, summer, winter, and fall. I love them all! With the seasonal changes, I modify my stack of bedside books, so I can revisit stories, poems, and novels that I have grown to enjoy from my childhood and adult life.  When the air turns crisp and cool, the leaves crunch beneath my feet, and the pumpkins are bright orange and begging to be carved, I grab a selection from my favorite cartoonist, Charles Schulz, and books from a few of my favorite authors, Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe.

Charles M. Schulz and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Who doesn’t associate October and Halloween with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?  I look forward to watching the animated television show and reading the cartoon strips.  In fact, it is a tradition with my children to always watch the show while we carve pumpkins, each saying some of our favorite lines.  With every viewing or reading, I find different things I love about it.  Here are my favorites.

Family

Family is important in this story. Sure Lucy doesn’t want her younger brother, Linus, making her a “laughingstock of the neighborhood” because he writes to the Great Pumpkin, but she still looks out for him when she asks for extra candy for him while trick or treating. She even looks in his room to see if he has returned from the pumpkin patch, and when he is not in bed, she helps him inside and tucks him in.  Charles Schulz, in my humble opinion, captures what many families are like: moments of sparring but are always there to support one another when times are tough or life is filled with disappointment.

Faith

Lucy and Linus and The Great PumpkinI love Linus’s unshakable faith.  Each year he believes that the Great Pumpkin will appear. Despite Lucy’s condemnation, Sally’s threats of suing, and Charlie’s opinion that Linus is crazy, Linus never wavers from his belief in the Great Pumpkin.  Schulz clearly illustrates to us to stand firm in our beliefs, even if they go against the majority.

My Top Five Favorite Lines to Say Along with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

  • Aaaaguh! You didn’t tell me you were going to kill it!
  • There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people—religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin!
  • Looking all around, there is not a sign of hypocrisy.  Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.
  • I got a rock.
  • You’ve heard about the fury of a woman scorned, haven’t you? Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of trick or treating!

Washington Irving and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Charlie Brown and Edgar Allen PoeOne of my favorite early American authors is Washington Irving. Every October I reread all of his tales. His most famous are, of course, my favorites: “The Devil and Tom Walker,” “Rip Van Winkle,” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  Irving regales us with lessons in all his writings through his humorous descriptions and blatant satire.  By far, Ichabod Crane’s tale in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” has entertained me every year, and I have never grown weary of it. Here are two reasons why I love it.

History

From the descriptions of the early Dutch settlers and countryside, to the mention of the infamous Major Andre’s tree, to the Hessian trooper “whose head had been carried away by a cannonball in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War,” we are pulled into Irving’s story that captures 18th century life in the Hudson Valley.  One of these days, I hope to travel to Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY that are steeped in history and made famous from Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Humor and the Headless Horseman 

I love ghost stories, but this one in particular because of its humor.  Ichabod Crane is a foolish, gullible character beguiled by a coquette, Katrina Van Tassel. We know from the very beginning that his aspirations to marry the lass are doomed, especially when his rival is Brom Bones. If you have never read the story, take an evening this October and read it.

Washington Irving clearly connects the Headless Horseman and Brom Bones as being one and the same. But even though we know that, we still can’t help but feel Ichabod’s terror as he tries to escape from the headless Hessian.  And though we feel his terror, we are more than humored by the descriptions of Ichabod’s character. Irving provides us with possible answers to Ichabod’s disappearance.  I, for one, take comfort in the happier ending, that despite being rejected and tricked, he ends up being a successful man in the end.

Will Moses version of The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Disney version captures the humor of Irving, so be sure to watch that, too. And if you want a version to read to your children, pick the book illustrated by Will Moses, descendant of the famous Grandma Moses. She is a renowned folk painter.  Will’s illustrations are masterful and captures Irving’s magical story.

Favorite Fun Facts About Washington Irving

  • He was named after George Washington and attended his inauguration when he was 6 years old.
  • Irving helped create the modern image of Santa Claus.
  • More fun facts about Irving can be found at the Historic Hudson Valley website article “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Washington Irving.”

Edgar Allan Poe

“The Raven” and “The Bells” are two of my favorite works by Edgar Allan Poe.  They are great poems to read aloud.  In fact, I have a fond memory of reading them to my family one  October evening in a cozy cabin, complete with fireplace and crackling fire, in the mountains of North Carolina.

My nephew, who studied Poe last year in his English class, could never quite grasp why I enjoyed Poe’s works.  I am sure that I told him it was due, in large part, to the cleverness of his writing and his unusual narrators and characterization.

I have to admit, however, that I struggled with including Poe as part of this blog. His writing has been described as depressing, macabre, and dark. His life is steeped in mystery and tragedy.  Many readers agree that the ending of “The Raven” describes the narrator believing he will never  find relief from his depression over the loss of the woman he loved.  “The Bells” begins merrily with a description of the sounds of sleigh bells but ends with a depressing description of death bells! Many believe that Poe, himself, was as deranged as his characters. So, what positive message or information could I possibly share about Poe’s life or works for this blog?

Edgar Allan Poe and Religion

My answer is found in an article called “Edgar Allan Poe and Religion” posted by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.  The writer presents a myriad of clues as to Poe’s possible religious beliefs, ultimately leaving the reader to decide.

But what I found most interesting is the story “Morella” he first published in April 1835.  The first publication contained “Hymn,” a poem of 16 lines sung by the character Morella.  It was later published separately as “A Catholic Hymn” in 1845. The hymn has been described as “a plea by the heroine to the Blessed Virgin, and it is unusual in its hopeful expression of a radiant future.”

“Hymn”

Sancta Maria! Turn thine eyes
Upon the sinner’s sacrifice
Of fervent prayer, and humble love,The-Annunciation
From thy holy throne above.

At morn, at noon, at twilight dim,
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn,
In joy and wo, in good and ill,
Mother of God! Be with me still.

When my hours few gently by,
And no storms were in the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy love did guide to thine and thee.

Now when clouds of Fate o’ercast
All my Present, and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

Angelus

Although I won’t add “Morella” to my annual Poe readings as I have to say I wasn’t a fan of the overall story, I will reread “Hymn.”   The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, included this hymn in an article published on their website: “Poetry Articulates the Hungers of the Human Heart” by Renae Bauer.  Bauer mentions an interesting tidbit about Poe and how he was inspired to write of Mary :

“As the story goes, Poe was walking the streets of New York at midday when he heard a church bell ring.  A Jesuit explained to him that the bell rang at 6am, noon, and 6pm to remind Catholics to pray the Angelus, a devotional focused on Christ’s Incarnation beginning with Mary’s acceptance of the news from the archangel Gabriel. While not a Christian, Poe was so moved by this practice that he wrote the poem ‘Hymn.’”

Check out the article! It suggests other poems in which theology can be found. And, of course, say the Angelus that provided Poe with some Catholic inspiration.

I hope you enjoyed my literary harvest!