With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion; and the passions should be held in reverence; they must not – they cannot at will be excited, with an eye to the paltry compensations, or the more paltry commendations, of mankind. ~ Edgar Allan Poe, preface to the Poems
Since this is my first entry in the poetry section, let me first confess, I am not student of poetry, and to be honest, not a great fan – even though I write a little poetry myself.
But I am a believer in reading outside your comfort zone. I expect to gain a better appreciation of poetry. Just don't expect my commentary to be very scholarly.
As I expected, I found Poe’s poetry to be rather dour, if not outright despairing…sometimes quite powerful, even beautiful, but seldom very cheerful.
He also uses unconventional rhythm and meter, which for me was not very appealing. He often changes rhythm or meter mid-stream, which is even more distracting. But there is no denying, the cleverness of his wordplay and his vast knowledge of literature and the abundant subtle allusions in his poetry.
Here are just a few excerpts that I either enjoyed or admired:
To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven –
From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven –
From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven
Read nothing, written less – in short’s a fool
Being ignorant of one important rule,
Employed in even the theses of the school –
Called – I forget the heathenish Greek name
(Called anything, its meaning is the same)
‘Always write first things uppermost in the heart.’
From To Helen
How dark a woe, yet how sublime a hope!
How silently serene a sea of pride!
How daring an ambition; yet how deep –
How fathomless a capacity for love!
Final lines from The Conqueror Worm
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy ‘Man’,
And its hero the conqueror worm.
Final lines from Eldorado
Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,
The shade replied –
If you seek for Eldorado
Final stanza from The Village Street
Sad and pale the Autumn moonlight
Through the sighing foliage streams,
And each morning, midnight shadow,
Shadow of my sorrow seems,
Strive, O heart, forget thine idol!
And, O soul forget thy dreams!
Opening lines from Alone
(I found this poem extremely poignant, and revealing about the poet)
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As other saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
You can’t discuss Poe’s poetry without mentioning his most famous poem, and perhaps even his most famous work – The Raven
I’ve always admired it. I think it is brilliantly clever – and terribly sad. So, in a bit of shameless self-promotion, here is a link to my own composition that mimics Poe in rhythm, meter, and structure but is in theme the exact antithesis. The Lovebird