On First Looking into Poe's "A Descent into the Maelstrom"

by John McDaid

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Update: Winner of the NEWhere Too 2021 Song Contest!

Just wrote this for the NEWhere Too 2021 Song Contest (the online version of the NE Filk Con). Inspired by both Edgar Allen Poe's story, "A Descent into the Maelstrom" and, tangentially, by Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." The opening spoken verse is from Poe.


I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the numerous things that floated in our company. I must have been delirious -- for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below.

You wake up in the turning
Everything is churning
Now you're the one who saw the abyss
In a wall of whirling water
You tell yourself there's gotta
Be some way out of this
Beyond fear or sorrow
Into the crushing horror
You're inexorably drawn
As you keep circling
Keep circling

You don't remember how you entered
No longer at the center
Of this world you've come to know
All your half-remembered faces
And haunted childhood places
You just had to let them go
Now you're living in a myth
Searching for a gift
From this grim denouement
As you keep circling
Keep circling

You try to look for patterns
Emerging from the matter
The frozen forces left behind
But you've been slowly blinded
Like the rest of humankind
Now you're buried in the past
Of a world beyond your grasp
A masked automaton
And you keep circling
Keep circling

You hope to find an ending
An arc of history bending
Toward a better world somehow
In your imagination
It's a simple transformation
And nothing can stop you now
But there's nothing left to say
No words to pray
And the last of daylight's gone
Yet you keep circling
Keep circling


Now there's two faces in the mirror
Your story's getting clearer
You're coming to the end
You gaze upon the rows
Of walking wounded down below
From this peak at Darien
You lost the monkey's paw
Have no recourse to the law
As you wait for the dawn
And you keep circling
Keep circling
You keep circling
Keep circling


released June 13, 2021


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John McDaid Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Award-winning science fiction writer, freelance journalist, folk/filk singer-songwriter.

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