A Strange Crepuscular Tradition

I love it when the New York Times uses big words like crepuscular, as in the “strange crepuscular tradition” of some black-clad dude visiting Edgar Allan Poe‘s graveside every year on his birthday—which was yesterday—bearing three red roses and a bottle of Cognac. The tradition goes back to 1949, apparently.

But the visitor—whose identity, or identities, has never been revealed, despite some claims to the contrary over the years—failed to show up this year for the first time, ending a strange crepuscular tradition and disappointing a crowd of more than 30 people who forfeited a good night’s sleep to witness the visitation.

That’s too bad . . . now back to crepuscular. It means “relating to the twilight,” but its consonants are too jagged and sharp for anything that’s, you know, just pretty. For instance, Thelonious Monk has a great & lovely tune called “Crepuscule with Nellie,” written for his wife. But no one has ever accused Monk of being just pretty. The man’s playing was all sharp edges—making it that much more odd that his middle name was Sphere.
Anyway, Baudelaire dug this sort of ambiguity, too, and he began his poem “Le Crépuscule du soir” with a reference to the “charming, friendly evening of the criminal” (or “Voici le soir charmant, ami du criminel”). You can find the rest here, but basically it reads like a stern warning to impatient lovers. For instance, the type of lovers to lose a night’s sleep over some dude with roses & Cognac.
IMAGE: Thelonious Monk, photographed by Robert Bolton at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, May 1966. From the Robert Bolton Collection.


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