Al Aaraaf is a poem written by the american gothic author Edgar A. Poe (1809-1849). In this post I write a little about what the poem is about and some of its origins. It’s considered to be one of the earliest poems written by Poe and it was first published in 1829. Two years earlier Poe published his first collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems under an assumed name. His writing career had just begun and behind him was a series of personal failures. First, he dropped out of the University of Virginia and second his career within the US Military would not fall out in good terms. As Poe was unable to support himself, he enlisted in the United States Army as a private on May 27, 1827 using the name “Edgar A. Perry”. He claimed that he was 22 years old even though he was 18. 1829 marked the death of his foster-mother Frances Allan and after much pressure the foster-father finally let Poe enroll as cadet at West Point. On February 8, 1831, he was tried for gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church. Poe tactically pleaded not guilty to induce dismissal, knowing that he would be found guilty.
Al-Aaraaf : Its origins and context
The name al-Aaraaf [سورة الأعراف] is the name of chapter 7 in the Quran and refers to a place in heaven. Its title is “Al Aaraaf” from the Al Aaraaf of the Arabians, a medium between Heaven and Hell where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil & even happiness which they suppose to be the characteristics of heavenly enjoyment.
The poem contains many references to the classical mytholgy of the Greeks and the Romans. It’s also filled with numerous allusions. It’s the longest poem Poe would ever write and later stated that he wasn’t in favour of long poems. Because of its heavy mix of historical context and different mythologies it was not considered to be either accurate or intelligible. It shows Poe’s possibilites to become a great poet, especially since Poe claimed he wrote some of it at the age of 15. It does have some rythm even if the text’s message and context seem to fail.