Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (April is Poetry Month)


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:

From Lenore
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

From Elizabeth
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



3 comments:

  1. His "Eldorado" is one of the first poems I ever memorized. It gets quoted in the John Wayne movie El Dorado, so I hunted down the poem somehow (this was in the early '90s when the internet was not so instantly useful as it is now -- I think I searched in actual books) and memorized it :-)

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    1. Hiya Hamlette, Yeah, I did know about the character Mississippi (young James Can) reciting this poem in the movie. I don't think he attributed it to Poe though?? I always liked it in the movie, so I was excited and happy when I read it among Poe's poems. It's one of my favorites of his. (pretty good flick btw...a remake of the earlier Rio Bravo with John with John Wayne and Dean Martin. Also a pretty good flick, but not recitation of Eldorado)

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    2. Yeah, Mississippi doesn't say who it's by, so I think I just kind of searched through volumes of famous poems looking for things with titles that involved El Dorado, maybe? It's been 20-some years, so I don't remember anymore. I just remember being excited to find it and memorizing it. Hee!

      I prefer Rio Bravo to El Dorado, but I prefer them both to Rio Lobo, which is also the same basic premise, same director and so on.

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