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Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe’s early works have had a great influence on American literature and art providing a concrete building block for Poe’s works to later influence other countries as well. Despite being an orphan and growing up with having to adapt to different people and different settings Poe began to write legendary works at an early age. He stated that if his poems weren’t that good his age could be at fault and that if his poems were good he could be said to be a genius. This leaves the reader with plenty of room for imagination. Many themes in his poems convey the idea that imagination is better than reality because when imagining, reality could be made as superior as Poe desired. Poe was not emotionally mature enough to except the reality of his parent’s death, so therefore he used transforming childhood experiences in his dreams as other major themes in his writing. Poe used many different themes and motifs but the ideas that were clearly focused on reflected his thoughts that beauty and romance, through imagination and dreams, are the approach Poe took to associate with nature and to illustrate that as he aged his passions began to burn out.

Most of what happens in Poe’s writing is considered to be ambiguous because, for the most part, his experiences happen in his imagination. The transforming childhood experiences he has in his dreams suggest that something has happened to him by coming over him in some great way that he has been changed forever. In Tamerlane, the main character, who is very similar to Poe himself, goes through a occurrence where a storm puts him to sleep and as it passes by a strange light comes over him and when he awakes he is a different person. (Tamerlane) In this situation the storm changes his nature by taking over his passions with tyranny. Also suggesting that his passions were even stronger when he was younger by saying, “ Then, in my boyhood, when their fire/burn’d with a still intenser glow; (Tamerlane 29) Another instance that directly compares to Tamerlane is in Dreams where again there is a storm and he is taken over by “some power/came o’er me in the night and left behind/ it’s image on my spirit” (Dreams 32) Then in the last stanza one of Poe’s major themes is expressed when he says “I have been happy-tho’ but in a dream. / I have been happy-and I love the theme-/ Dreams!” (Dreams 32) Suggesting that dreams do reflect his reality but in our dreams we can make our reality better. The last instance where Poe had gone through a transformation was in Alone, where some event struck him and like “lightening in the sky/ as it pass’d me flying by-/ from the thunder, and the storm-/ and the cloud that took form/ (when the rest of Heaven was blue)/ of a demon in my view” (Alone 60) This literally suggests that there is a cloud he sees that looks like a demon, which also connects to Tamerlane because in Tamerlane the transformation there gave him demonic pride. (Tamerlane) Through Poe’s imagination in these three transformations he expresses his ideas that dreams are better than reality and also that the passions he had were stronger in his youth.

One of the strongest passions Poe had were his passions for beauty and love. In the first stanza of Al Aaraaf, Poe describes how beauty and romance are what allowed him to write poetry in his youth. (Al Aaraaf 38) Without these two motifs encouraging Poe to write who knows if we would ever have the poetry we have today. Three other ideas that connect Poe to his passion for beauty and love are in The Preface, Song and Introduction. In The Preface Poe explains that one of the major themes in Tamerlane is risking the love of his life in pursuit of his ambition. Poe then later looks back on this and thinks it is folly to take that risk. (Preface 9) Maybe he thinks this is folly because his love is what gives him inspiration to write other poems of his, such as Song.

In this poem Poe is addressing Elmira as the bride, but he went away and lost her to Alexander Shelton. (Song) Poe uses his ambiguous language here by saying “And in thine eye a kindling light/” (Song 31) To suggest that he might actually be in love with her. Then to further express this idea he says, “When that deep blush would come o’er thee,/” (Song 31) This is where the true ambiguity is shown because the word “would” is used to suggest that it is because of him, but because it is ambiguous it is not really proven. The love that Poe describes in Introduction is different than the previous loves. In this poem Poe uses a metaphor to describe romance as a bird. This is familiar to the poet because the bird taught him the alphabet, which explained more clearly is in how romance is what taught Poe language. (Introduction 54)

The passions described in Introduction are different than the previous ones because here they are explained by saying that if the passion for something is too extreme it could actually be a poison. (Introduction 54) Romanticism explores the idea that passions can be destructive and Poe believed that true beauty always had some sadness. The beauty described by Poe here didn’t seem truly beautiful unless it also had some death in it. (Introduction 54) Poe says, “I could not love except where death/ was mingling his with beauty’s breath-/” (Introduction 54) Meaning that the most beautiful women to him is dead. This clearly shows the concrete difference of the passions for love that Poe had.

The idea of beauty and love clearly connects with Poe’s youthful days when his passions for everything were stronger. Through many of Poe’s early poems is the persistent theme that as Poe aged his passions began to burn out. In Tamerlane Poe is addressing many aspects and steps taken before Tamerlane dies and towards the end of the poem, on page 37-38, Poe says “Of our boyhood, his course hath run:/ for all we live to know- is known;/ and all we seek to keep- hath flown;/ with the noon-day beauty, which is all./ Let life, then, as the day-flow’r, fall-/ the transient, passionate day-flow’r,/ withering at the ev’ning hour./” (Tamerlane 37-38) This quote explains Poe’s idea of all there really being to experience is in boyhood and after that life is pretty much over. (Tamerlane) Similar to this, in Imitation Poe says, “For that bright hope at last/ and that light time have past,/ and my worldly rest hath gone/ with a sight as it pass’d



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