Among many geniuses of his time, Edgar Allan Poe is highly regarded for his poems and short stories which offer a unique and in-depth exploration of the dark corners of the human psyche in an elevated language and style. In an attempt to understand Poe, this paper presents a short biography of the author, an analysis of his works, with particular focus on poems, The Raven—one of his most famous poems and Alone—which critics say closely mirrors the author’s emotions.
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Additionally, the author’s Poetic Principle is described in brief, to give its readers an idea of how Poe viewed poetry. The power and magnificence of Poe’s tales are likewise credited in this paper with a little review of his tales, “ The Cask of Amontillado” and “ The Tell-Tale Heart. ” Although his other works likewise speak of the marvelous imagination and great artistic talent of the author, the abovementioned works are given focus in order to give a concrete yet incomplete grasp of the author’s merits as a poet and story writer.
A Short Biography Edgar Poe was born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts of actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins (1787-1811) and David Poe (1784-1810). At nearly three years old, his father left them and his mother died, leaving Edgar Poe together with his brother William Henry (1807-1831) and sister Rosalie (1811-1874) orphan. Edgar Poe was soon adopted by Frances (d. 1829) and John Allan (d. 1834), a wealthy merchant who took him to Richmond Virginia, then traveled to England and taken back to Richmond.
There he grew up and attended the University of Virginia where he learned poetry and Latin, and loved acting. Later, due to gambling and unpaid debts, he became estranged with his foster father and unable to support his studies, he decided to leave school and joined the United States Army where he served for two years. He published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems during this time at his own expense. In 1829, the wish of his foster mother who was dying reconciled him with his foster father but as the two have gotten strange with each other, the reconciliation did not last.
Later, Edgar joined the West Point Military Academy but was soon dismissed a year after. Also, in 1829, he published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. The year 1831 marked the publication of his third book, Poems and also the death of his brother. In 1836, Poe married Virginia Eliza Clemm (1822-1847) who was then aged thirteen, and the couple moved to New York Poe’s only completed novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was published in 1838.
His remaining years witnessed his greater contributions to literature, which include his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), his first detective story, “ The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), The Raven and Other Poems (1845) which gained him worldwide fame, “ Ulalume”, “ Eureka”, and “ The Cask of Amontillado” (1846). When Virginia died in 1847, Poe became alcoholic and purportedly [displayed] increasingly erratic behavior” (Merriman 2006). In 1849, he made a tour of poetry readings and gave some lectures to raise funds for his magazine The Stylus.
Accounts of the last days of Poe and the cause of his death remained unsupported but some claim that he died from alcoholism, others say he was murdered, still others blame it to various diseases. However, the common belief is that “ he was found unconscious in the street and admitted to the Washington College Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland” (Merriman, 2006). He died on 7 October 1849, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Westminster Burying Ground of Baltimore. Later, a stone with a carving of a raven and inscriptions were made in honor of the great American literary genius.
The Raven The poem which is in ballad form narrates a lonely man’s encounter with a raven, “ the bird of ill-omen” (Poe 1850) while he is taking a nap by his window, and thinking of his lost love named Lenore. The peacefulness of the night and the sorrow of the man’s heart were disturbed by the raven’s tapping and murmuring, “ Nevermore. ” This poem, according to critics, contain a lot of symbols. For instance, the raven was chosen by Poe to set the melancholic mood of the poem and represent the feeling of the man.
The use of a bird, “ a non-reasoning creature” (Hallqvist 1998) instead of a human being helps add mystery, drawing the audience to investigate further. In addition, the conversation between the man and the bird seem senseless and hopeless as the bird can mutter only one word that is, “ nevermore,” thus adding to the despair of the man. If we are to interpret the poem, we may say that the man in the poem, on thinking of his lost love, is too much in despair that he welcomes the darkness and stillness of the night, he does not want to be disturbed from thinking about his Lenore.
The raven could symbolize his thoughts—its darkness and senseless murmuring also depict the man’s insensible and repetitive cries over his lost. Moreover, as the man dwells into sorrow, the mysterious sight of the raven becomes his momentary refuge, as if he finds a companion, but later he realizes that the raven cannot help him for it can only say, “ nevermore. ” The raven is said to have “ Perched upon a bust of Pallas” or the Greek goddess of wisdom. This could mean that the raven brings the man some wisdom in his situation.
It makes him realize the reality that “ nevermore” could he bring back the lost love, therefore there is no sense in tearing himself apart. The last line, “ And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted–nevermore! ” signifies the withdrawal of the man. This statement could mean two things: one, he could never bring back Lenore, or two, he could never find happiness again. Poe’s Other Poems The poem, “ Alone” which Poe wrote in 1875 mirrors his own sorrows emanating from childhood.
In this poem, we see that the persona expresses his passion and sorrows from childhood which he could not forget: My passions from a common spring — From the same source I have not taken My sorrow — I could not awaken My heart to joy at the same tone — He expresses that “ all he lov’d…[he] lov’d alone” which makes him feel unloved and isolated. Then the line that says, “ Then—in my childhood—in the dawn of a most stormy life—was drawn” states his biggest disappointment that happens in childhood. In Poe’s life, this could mean the death of his parents, specially his mother.
Moreover, the persona expresses that he cannot fathom the “ mystery which binds [him] still” or the mysteries of life, from the sun, the lightning, or the time that passes by. He seems caught in a spiral that leads him to where he does not choose to be. The last two lines further express his confusion in choosing between good and evil: When the rest of Heaven was blue Of a demon in my view — Other poems of Poe express themes of melancholy, lost love, lamentation, death, despair, darkness, anger, fear, isolation, and other themes related to loneliness. The subjects of his poems mostly include women, e. g. Annabel Lee, To Helen, Irene, Lenore, etc. In the earlier stage of his career, critics say the poet took much from earlier authors such as Shakespeare, Pope, Milton, Byron, Shelley, etc. but later poems speak more of his cadence and distinct style as a poet. Poe’s The Poetic Principle In this essay, the author offers his view of how poetry should be.
He identifies the poems which left in him “ the most definite impression” and states his distaste for long poems such as an epic which, according to him, has become obsolete. Poe argues that the “ ultimate object of all Poetry is Truth” and a poem should be written “ solely for the poem’s sake. A poet’s motif in writing poetry should be based on “ Beauty” which he can achieve with melodious rhythmic elements and a worthy subject matter. By attaining beauty, the author suggests that one can attain the “ elevated excitement of the soul…[or what he calls] the Poetic Sentiment” which is different from the intoxication of the heart—or of.. [the] Truth which is the satisfaction of…Reason. Poe’s Tales of Macabre Regarded as the father of detective story, Poe established a highly influential style in his tales which manifest a unified elegance evident in the careful combination of setting, characterization, and plot.
In his works he typified a brilliantly grotesque set of characters, scenes and motives, which often elicited feelings of horror from his readers—arousing from “ weird impulses, and foreboding fear,” and absurd motives. One example that epitomizes his great mastery of the darkness of the human psyche is the tale, The Cask of Amontillado in which he unravels a murderous plot of the character Montressor who enchains his companion Fortunato to a wall, and entombs him while the latter is still alive, and slowly kills him in suffocation.
Another great tale, The Tell-Tale Heart narrates a murderer’s confession of a motiveless crime. The protagonist in the story recounts how he murders an old man who is dear to him just because he wants to rid of the man’s pale blue eye. From the very beginning, the narrator establishes the man’s insanity as depicted in his nightly visits to the old man’s room just to shine light to the old man’s eye. This disturbed behavior of the character somehow reveals to the audience the author’s own psychological disturbance by the way he recounts the murder and the behavior of the protagonist.
According to critics, Poe’s handling of symbolism in this tale is “ highly structured and intertwined, so that the various themes—of death, time, nature, inner versus outer reality, the dream, the heart, and the eye—work together for accumulated effect” (Nesbitt ed. 2006). Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy to American Literature—though it may be perverse—is incontestably priceless. While writers during his time prevailed by writing the good found in the world, or beauty out of the ugly, the author chose to take a different direction by dwelling on the themes that comprise dark possibilities of the human personality.
By taking this lead, modern literary writers found a new inspiration to self-expression, a way to let out the wildness and beauty of the unknown realm without much consideration of censorship of the church or the moralists. To this day, the legacy Poe left in this writings has proliferated not only in America but also in other countries, making him an even more significant literary figure of all time.