Edgar Allen Poe’s Forgotten Hymn to Our Lady

12-07-2022From the desk of Fr. Villa

You probably know Edgar Allen Poe’s dark poetry The Raven and short stories The Tell-Tale Heart, but did you know that he wrote a hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The 12-line hymn to Our Lady was first published in 1835 within his short story Morella, sung by the title character. Ten years later it was published as a stand-alone poem with the title A Catholic Hymn.

In a collection he later sent to a friend, he removed “Catholic” from the title, leaving it to be titled simply Hymn. There’s no indication Poe was Catholic, so what inspired him to write the poem? One source says he was walking on a street when he heard a nearby church ring its bells at 12noon. Perplexed as to why the church was doing this, he entered the church, and a Jesuit inside explained that they rang the bells at 6am, 12noon, and 6pm to call people to pray the Angelus. The Angelus of course is a prayer reflection on Mary’s faith in assenting to God’s plan to have her conceive and bear Jesus. This apparently inspired him to write his hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is the full text of Hymn:

At morn – at noon – at twilight dim – Maria! thou hast heard my hymn! In joy and woe – in good and ill – Mother of God, be with me still! When the Hours flew brightly by, And not a cloud obscured the sky, My soul, lest it should truant be, Thy grace did guide to thine and thee Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast Darkly my Present and my Past, Let my future radiant shine With sweet hopes of thee and thine.