“Alone” – A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context and Themes

Today I’m writing a little about Poe again and the poem “Alone”. This is one of Poe’s most wellknown and beloved poems and was never published during his liftime. It was probably written in 1829 and surfaced some years after his death in 1849. In September 1875, the poem, which had been in the possession of a family in Baltimore, was published with its title in Scribner’s Monthly. The editor, E. L. Didier, also reproduced a facsimile of the manuscript, though he admitted he added the date himself.

The lines contains a brief description of the narrator’s childhood and the secret world of a rather lonely child. Pay attention to the role of the narrator! His story is presented from an adult point of view and his reflexion upon childhood is done from a perspective which reveals he had already been through some crisis in his life. He reconnect the bad moments with the feelings of being different as a child. There is hint in this line: “Then—in my childhood—in the dawn Of a most stormy life—was drawn From ev’ry depth of good and ill The mystery which binds me still—”

But will he solve the Mystery that binds him still? I doubt it. One wonders what kind of storms he had to go through but there are no revealing facts as the poem ends suddenly with a demon in his view.

Alone

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were—I have not seen

As others saw—I could not bring

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—

And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

Then—in my childhood—in the dawn

Of a most stormy life—was drawn

From ev’ry depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still—

From the torrent, or the fountain—

From the red cliff of the mountain—

From the sun that ’round me roll’d

In its autumn tint of gold—

From the lightning in the sky

As it pass’d me flying by—

From the thunder, and the storm—

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view—

Sources

wikipedia.org

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“When you are old” – A poem by William Butler Yeats

In this short post I wish to present a short poem by Irish poet and playwriter William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). He was born in Dublin and received an education in both Ireland and England. W.B Yeats rose to become one of the most prominent writers in the 20th Century. As the title goes old age and getting older is the main theme of this poem. Note the gently rhyme. It’s softspoken and calm. No storms. Getting older is associated with physical decay in this poem. It’s also a bit moralizing over Love. Take some time to figure out what goes on in the lines. There’s a narrator and a woman. What does he tell her?

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Sources

wikipedia.org

James Elroy Flecker – “On the Golden Journey to Samarkand”

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go

Always a little further; it may be

Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow

Across that angry or that glimmering sea,

White on a throne or guarded in a cave

There lies a prophet who can understand

Why men were born: but surely we are brave,

Who take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

Flecker and his Journey

James Elroy Flecker (5 November 1884 – 3 January 1915) was an English poet, novelist and playwright. As a poet he was most influenced by the Parnassian poets. According to wikipedia Flecker was educated at Dean Close school in Cheltenham, where his father was the headmaster. He studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. While at Oxford he was greatly influenced by the last flowering of the Aesthetic movement there under John Addington Symonds, and became a close friend of the classicist and art historian John Beazley. In his poetic writings he would always return to Greece and the Middle East. It’s believed the few lines from his most well known poem The Journey to Samarkand (1913) has ancient has inspired thousands of people to take to the Silk Road city in southern Uzbekistan. And most people who journey there today will be arriving from Tashkent. From 1910 Flecker worked in the consular service in the Eastern Mediterranean. On a ship to Athens he met Helle Skiadaressi, and in 1911 he married her. Flecker died on 3 January 1915, of tuberculosis, in Davos, Switzerland. His death at the age of thirty was described at the time as “unquestionably the greatest premature loss that English literature has suffered since the death of Keats”.

Sources

Flecker’s Works on Archive.org

Hassan : the story of Hassan of Bagdad and how he came to make the golden journey to Samarkand: a play in five acts

The golden journey to Samarkand – A reading on YouTube

wikipedia.org

The Shakespeare Sonnet – A few comments

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) didn’t only write plays and historical dramas. He was also deeply engaged in the poetry of his time. The art of writing a good poem had rules and regulations as many tried to imitate the Italian verse after Petrarch. Shakespeare managed to develop his own poetic style and the Shakespeare Sonnet differs in style and rhythm from the Petrarchan.  William Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published for the very first time in 1609.  The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man; the last 28 to a woman. A lot of time and energy has been put in to analyze and interpret themes and characters. Are they autobiographical in nature? Who was the mysterious dark Lady? And who was the anonymous young man? It’s now thought he wrote 154 Sonnets between 1592-1598.

The Themes of the Shakespeare Sonnets

One interpretation is that Shakespeare’s sonnets are a pastiche or parody of the 300-year-old tradition of Petrarchan love sonnets; Shakespeare consciously inverts conventional gender roles as delineated in Petrarchan sonnets to create a more complex depiction of human love.

The Structure of the Shakespeare Sonnet

Let’s take a look on how structure, rhythm and metrics work in the Shakespeare sonnet. But first, what is a Sonnet? A sonnet is in verse form and has fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. The Petarch’s sonnet has this particular scheme: abba abba cdecde. The Shakespeare Sonnet follows a different pattern: a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f  g-g. In Shakespeare’s sonnet the iambic pentameters are finished by a couplet [g-g].

SONNET 116

[a] Let me not to the marriage of true minds
[b] Admit impediments. Love is not love
[a] Which alters when it alteration finds,
[b] Or bends with the remover to remove:
[c] O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
[d] That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
[c] It is the star to every wandering bark,
[d] Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
[e] Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
[f] Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
[e] Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
[f] But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
[g] If this be error and upon me proved,
[g] I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

 


Sources

Introduction to Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Wikipedia.org

Wikipedia.commons

“A Night Scene”- A poem by Mary Shelley

Everyone knows Mary Shelley (1797-1851) as the writer of well-known Gothic novel Frankenstein – The Modern Prometheus (1818), but she wrote poetry as well. Shelley was the daughter of political philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836) and her mother the was well-known writer and “early feminist” Mary Wollonstonecraft (1759-1797). She never knew her mother who died shortly after giving birth to Mary. Her parents were liberals and her father gave her a good education even if it was informal. As a young girl Mary Shelley started to write short stories and maintained a lifelong interest in writing. She wrote novels, drama, poetry and about her travels. She married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816 and they travelled a lot and lived a somewhat unconventional life together until he drowned in Switzerland. They met in 1814 and Mary’s father never accepted their marriage. Mary got pregnant before they married which gave the pair social difficulties. After her husband’s death Mary focused on their young son and her writing. Mary Shelley died of a brain tumour at the age of 53 in London. She had been ill for over a decade.

Context and literary themes

This poem “A Night Scene” is about a woman called Isabel. The poem is quite lenghty and has a number of themes common to any writer of the Romantic period. Pay attention to the vivid descriptions of light, the Stars and the Night. How does they frame the story told in the poem? What can be said about the woman named Isabel? Notice how the protagonist takes on a male perspective: “That on that couch my Isabel reclines. I see yon brilliant star and waving tree,”

The Poem: “A Night Scene”

I see thee not, my gentlest Isabel;

Ambrosial night, with her mysterious spell,

Has woven shadows thick before thy face,

Drawing impervious veils athwart the space

That does divide us; thy bright eyes alone

A lucid beam into the dark have thrown,

Till the long lashes and the downcast lid

Quench it again, and the bright orbs are hid.

I see thee not: the touch of they soft hand,

And thy deep sighs, fraught with emotion bland,

Are to my sense the only outward signs

That on that couch my Isabel reclines.

I see yon brilliant star and waving tree,

Through which its beams rain down inconstantly;

I see ten thousand of those radiant flowers

Which shed light on us in dim silver showers,

High in the glorious heavens; I see full well

All other forms – not thine, my Isabel.

Sweet Mystery! I know that thou art there–

I scent the fragrance of thy silken hair;

The lines that do encircle thee I trace;

That spot is hallow’d by thy lovely face;

Thy woman’s form, in soft voluptuousness,

Enriches vacant air in yon recess;

Yet to my eyes no sign of thee appears,

And the drear blank suggests a thousand fears.

Speak, Isabel! – And yet not thus were broken

The cruel spell – for have not spirits spoken?

Are then thine eyes no nearer than that star,

Which unattainably doth shine afar?

Thy voice as immaterial as the wind

That murmurs past, yet leaves no form behind?

And is the visiting of this soft gale,

Rich with the odours of the flow’rets pale,

Which sweeps my bosom with delicious fanning,

My thrilling limbs with arms aerial spanning,

Is it as truly real, as warmly glowing

As thy dear form, rich with the life-tide flowing?

Ah, darling, quick thine arms around me throw,

Press thy warm lips upon my night-cool brow,

In thy dark eyes thy fair soul I must read –

One kiss, sweet heaven, ’tis Isabel indeed!


Sources

List of works by Mary Shelley – Information about the poem cited. 

wikipedia.org (various entries about Mary Shelley and her literary works)

“To – ” : A poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

IN THIS post I continue to try keep you interested in the life and poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). He’s a good representant of the Romantic era and his poetry is a proof of many common literary themes typical of this period. Some of these values are connected to the truth and beauty of nature, individualism, vivid imagination and strong feelings. The presence of nostalgia is also a sign of Romanticism as well as Gothic and the rise of “horror” as a theme in texts from this time.

Context and themes

Most likely the lines in “To -” are the result of an unfinished poem since it is a bit short. Surely, the message gets through anyway. It’s also been set into beautiful music. The Themes are love, anxiety, emotions, idolization of the beloved. Fear of rejection.

The Poem
(abt. 1818-1819)

I FEAR thy kisses, gentle maiden;
Thou needest not fear mine;
My spirit is too deeply laden
Ever to burthen thine.

I fear thy mien, thy tones, thy motion; 
Thou needest not fear mine;
Innocent is the heart’s devotion
With which I worship thine.

Sources

Wikipedia.org

“Bright Star” – A poem by John Keats

Context: This poem by John Keats (1795-1821) is fourteen lines long and is usually classified as a love poem. Surprisingly one most read through the very first eight lines before noticing that love is the major theme. It was written around 1819. It was officially published in 1838 in The Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal, 17 years after Keats’s death.

Themes: The poem addresses a “bright star” who is described as “steadfast”. In the rich field of metaphors and symbols the bright star could be either a personification or a star in the skies like Venus. In each case here the star in the poem is a representation of Love. Notice how Religion is present in the water with allusions to a sleepless Eremite with a priestly function. Pay attention on how everything takes on a more sensual tune in the lines: “Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest”. It’s a bit sad Keats is about to stop because one is really curious what more could have happened if not “Death” had entered.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

john-keats

Sources:

Wikipedia [various entries]