“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

‘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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“Vita nuova”- a poem by Oscar Wilde

Context : “Vita nuova” means ‘new life’ in Latin.1 Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was very well-versed in Classical mythology and he learned Classical Greek at Oxford. Motifs from Greek and Roman literature are visible in his poetry. The poem was first published in 1881.

Themes : Despair, crisis and new hope returned. The sea is often described as a symbol of man’s inner feelings. Sometimes we are calm and harmonious; sometimes we are upset and unbalanced. In the poem we meet the narrator who’s standing in front of a sea. The sea is described as unvintageable. This adjective is a bit special. It’s a classical allusion to Homer, who described the sea as “wine-dark”, but then called it what has been translated as “unvintageable” – that it, it’s like a wine that you can’t drink. The scene is not peaceful in the poem. There are winds from sea, wet waves and the narrator feels life’s despair! He cries: “my life is full of pain,” he’s thinking of going into the sea; but then changes his mind. He sees something in the water which makes him forget all his troubles and “tortured past”. Hope is restored! And he feels joy instead of sorrow!

 

I stood by the unvintageable sea
Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray;
The long red fires of the dying day
Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily;
And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee:
Alas! I cried, my life is full of pain,
And who can garner fruit or golden grain
From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!

My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw
Nathless I threw them as my final cast
Into the sea, and waited for the end.
When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw
The argent splendour of white limbs ascend,
And in that joy forgot my tortured past.

wilde
Oscar Wilde in Greece wearing a traditional folk-dress.

  1. ‘Vita Nuova’ is also a famous poem written in 1293 by Dante Alighieri. In the poem Dante expresses his love for Beatrice.