“Eldorado” – A poem by Edgar A. Poe

Context: El Dorado means the Golden One in Spanish. Originally El Hombre Dorado (the golden man), or El Rey Dorado (the golden king), was the term used by the Spanish Empire to describe a mythical tribal chief (zipa) of the Muisca native people of Colombia, who, as an initiation rite, covered himself with gold dust and submerged in Lake Guatavita. The legends surrounding El Dorado changed over time, as it went from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom, and then finally an empire. In Edgar A. Poe’s poem from 1849 Eldorado is a land.

The poem is technically advanced. Take notice on how the words are bulit up. Not only do they create a delicate story about the knight’s life journey, it has a special rythm too. Structurally, the poem consists of four stanzas, each having six lines, known as sestets. It is composed in iambic diameter. What is the message of the poem? Do we all journey like the knight in our personal search for happiness and wealth in this life? Is the knight in Poe’s poem successful in his mission? Who is the pilgrim shadow? What do we learn from him?

Themes: The knight, romantic ideals, Life, vasted opportunities, seeking Paradise, ageing

Eldorado

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied—
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Sources:

wikipedia.org

Edgar A. Poe, 1809-1849

From “the Sonnets to Orpheus”- A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Context: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He wrote both poetry and lyrical prose. Rilke was born into the Austria-Hungarian Empire and lived his earliest years in Prague. His childhood is described as an unhappy one with estranged relations to both parents. Their marriage was not happy and the father had a failed military career while his mother never recovered from the loss of an infant child. His parents pressured the poetically and artistically talented youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left because of an illness.

From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. Until 1896 he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and München. In 1897 in Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely travelled, intellectual woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé who once had a “romance” with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Rilke changed his first name from “René” to “Rainer” at Lou’s urging because she thought that name to be more masculine, forceful, and Germanic. His relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips to Russia, lasted until 1900. But even after their separation, Lou continued to be Rilke’s most important confidante until the end of his life. Having trained from 1912 to 1913 as a psychoanalyst with Sigmund Freud, she shared her knowledge of psychoanalysis with Rilke.

Rilke died in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926 in Schweiz. The leukemia which killed him had been almost reluctantly diagnosed.

Themes: With news of the death of his daughter’s friend, Wera Knoop (1900–1919), Rilke was inspired to create and set to work on Sonnets to Orpheus. In this section of the sonnets (XVI) which I’ve translated myself from German 🙂 ; we encounter friendship and death as major themes.

XVI.

You, my friend, me alone, because…

We make through words and finger signs

an attempt to claim the world,

maybe its weakest and most horrible parts.

Who will point with the fingers to a smell? –

But from the Powers, which threaten us,

you can feel many…You know the Dead Ones,

and you are afraid of magic spells.

Look, now we must endure it together

Bits and pieces as it was a whole.

You, it will be difficult to help. For all: plant

me not in your heart.

I will grow too fast.

Though, my Lord’s hand will I take and say:

Here. That is Esau in his fur.

Sources

wikipedia.org

Rilke in Switzerland two years before his death in 1926.

‘The City in the Sea’ – A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context: The poem appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger, The American Review, the Broadway Journal, as well as in the 1850 collection The Poets and Poetry of America. Poe drew his inspiration from several works, including Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The final version of text appeared in 1845 and contains many subjects associated with Gothic fiction. Poe was inspired at least in part by Flavius Josephus’s History of the Jewish Wars, a first-century account of the Biblical city of Gomorrah. Poe was accused of plagiarizing part of the poem from a poem called “Musing Thoughts”, first published in 1829 in The Token. Both poems include a line about a “thousand thrones”.

Themes: Death; a city in the sea ruled by death. Death is a real person here and resides in a tower from where he can see everything. Other themes are typical for the Gothic tradition such as loneliness and melancholy; catastrophe and collapse. The city can be a metaphor of man’s own soul. In another poem “Annabel Lee” there is also a reference to a kingdom by the sea as the narrator’s love suddenly dies.

****************

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently —
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free —
Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —
Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers —
Up many and many a marvelous shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in the air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye —
Not the gaily-jeweled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass —
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea —
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave — there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide —
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow —
The hours are breathing faint and low —
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes’- A poem by Emily Dickinson

Context: A poem written by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) from Amherst, Mass. This poem is about the experience related to bodily pain and it’s presented to the reader in various conflicting images and words. The poem was found after Emily’s death. The poem is very typical of what Emily usually writes about: sensitivity to her external surroundings and personal incidents in life; and personal experiences about love, pain, death. Emily had many health problems. In 1884 she had seen “a great darkness coming” and fainted while baking in the kitchen. She remained unconscious late into the night and weeks of ill health followed. On November 30, 1885, her feebleness and other symptoms were so worrying that her brother Austin canceled a trip to Boston. It’s hard to say what kind of illnesses she had and they may have contributed to her secluded lifestyle. On the death of her father in 1874 she entered into complete seclusion.

Themes: bleak reality, mind/body, shock, pain. Pay attention to how the rhytm changes to describe the shock and how the following imagery presents the entire process of sensation until immobility occur.

 

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

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“Requiescat” – A poem by Oscar Wilde

Context : This poem was written by Oscar Wilde and is dedicated to his younger sister, Isola Wilde who died suddenly and unexpected. Wilde was 12 years old when she died in 1867 and her death caused a deep grief in the Wilde family as she was beloved. She was only ten and Oscar made numerous visits to her gravesite in the village. He wrote this poem seven years later. First published in 1881, rev. 1882.

Themes : Death, loss and mourning; as the narrator visits the grave of a loved one. She’s a young woman who died suddenly and the narrator asks us to be careful as we approach her grave where she rests.

REQUIESCAT

TREAD lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast;
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace; she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet;
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

“Annabel Lee” : A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context.

THIS is the final poem known to have been written by Poe (1841-1849) and published posthumously first time October, 1849. The publishers were Sartain’s Union Magazine, John Sartain. We can only speculate who the woman is in this poem, but it’s possible Annabel Lee may be Poe’s own wife who died 2 years before Poe himself.

Themes.

LOVE AND DEATH are major themes in this poetic story in which the narrator in first person tells of his love for the beautiful woman who is dead. Death and women are central motifs in Poe’s writing and much research has been done on how and why. Departure and grief are also present.

poes-tales-of-mystery-and-imagination-arthur-rackham-first-edition-signed

 

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.