Since I began my blog in July 2009 I have read and posted on a few of Edgar Allan Poe's (1809 to 1849) sixty-nine short stories. In almost every article or book I have read on the history of the modern short story Poe is treated as one of the originators of the form, especially the Gothic, horror and detective story. This is as true not just for America but Ireland, Japan, and France. Poe defined a short story as a work that could be read in one sitting. He lead a tumultuous way too brief life and there is much use of macabre, violent and disturbing images in his work.
I decided to read one of his stories just on an impulse and I picked "A Tale of Jerusalem", because it was quite short and because the title kind of intrigued me, the same way it probably did readers The Philadelphia Saturday Courier where it was first published. I was, though perhaps I should not have been, shocked by the apparent depth of Poe's knowledge of Jewish traditional literature and history exhibited in this story. First I will briefly recapitulate the plot and then I will talk a bit about what my post read research revealed as I found it very interesting.
The leaders of the temple have lowered down to the Romans a bucket with silver coins to pay for a sacrificial animal. The Romans say they treat all the religions of their conquered nations the same. As the leaders begin to pull up the basket they marvel at the weight, thinking the Romans have sent a great ram or fattened calf. To their horrowing the animal is a hog, an animal repudiated by their religion. There is a very big display of arcane lore in the story. It seems Poe got his details from a very popular at the time four part novel, Tales of the Holy City by Horace Smith.
I hope to read through all the stories eventually.