Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

Edgar Allan Poe

Selected Poetry



1. Poe is the most Romantic of all American authors. He affected a Byronic persona as an author, and his poetry and prose incorporate nearly every possible element of Romanticism. What are some Romantic features or themes in the poem below?

2. What characteristics of Poe's personal style? How can you tell this is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe?

3. Compare this poem's form as "free verse" or "formal verse" with poems by Dickinson and Whitman (and other poems by Poe). (Poe, Dickinson, Whitman styles compared)


by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49)

[1.1]    Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
[1.2]    With drowsy head and folded wing,
[1.3]    Among the green leaves as they shake
[1.4]    Far down within some shadowy lake,
[1.5]    To me a painted paroquet                         [parakeet]
[1.6]    Hath been—a most familiar bird—
[1.7]    Taught me my alphabet to say—
[1.8]    To lisp my very earliest word
[1.9]    While in the wild-wood I did lie
[1.10]   A child—with a most knowing eye.       [Romantic theme of child in nature]

[2.1]    Succeeding years, too wild for song,
[2.2]    Then rolled like tropic storms along,
[2.3]    Where, though the garish lights that fly
[2.4]    Dying along the troubled sky
[2.5]    Lay bare, through vistas thunder-riven,          [vista = view or prospect]
[2.6]    The blackness of the general Heaven,        [Heaven = sky]
[2.7]    That very blackness yet doth fling
[2.8]    Light on the lightning's silver wing.        [gothic light-dark + sublime]

[3.1]    For, being an idle boy lang syne,           [lang syne=long since, as in a drinking song]
[3.2]    Who read Anacreon, and drank wine,         [6cBC Gk poet known for drinking songs]
[3.3]    I early found Anacreon's rhymes
[3.4]    Were almost passionate sometimes—
[3.5]    And by strange alchemy of brain            [alchemy = mystic chemistry]
[3.6]    His pleasures always turned to pain—
[3.7]    His naivete to wild desire—
[3.8]    His wit to love—his wine to fire—
[3.9]    And so, being young and dipt in folly
[3.10]   I fell in love with melancholy,
[3.11]   And used to throw my earthly rest
[3.12]   And quiet all away in jest—
[3.13]   I could not love except where Death
[3.14]   Was mingling his with Beauty's breath—
[3.15]   Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny               [Hymen = Greek god of marriage]
[3.16]   Were stalking between her and me.           [her = Beauty?]

[4.1]    O, then the eternal Condor years                   [Condor = vulture]
[4.2]    So shook the very Heavens on high,
[4.3]    With tumult as they thunder'd by;
[4.4]    I had no time for idle cares,
[4.5]    Through gazing on the unquiet sky!
[4.6]    Or if an hour with calmer wing
[4.7]    Its down did on my spirit fling,
[4.8]    That little hour with lyre and rhyme          [lyre = Greek stringed musical instrument to accompany lyric]
[4.9]    To while away—forbidden thing!
[4.10]   My heart half-feared to be a crime
[4.11]   Unless it trembled with the string.          [i.e., his heart vibrated with the string of the lyre, l. 4.8]

[5.1]    But now my soul hath too much room—
[5.2]    Gone are the glory and the gloom—
[5.3]    The black hath mellowed into grey,
[5.4]    And all the fires are fading away.

[6.1]    My draught of passion hath been deep—
[6.2]    I revelled, and I now would sleep—           [to revel = to party]
[6.3]    And after-drunkenness of soul
[6.4]    Succeeds the glories of the bowl—        ["the bowl" = metonym for consumption of alcohol]
[6.5]    An idle longing night and day
[6.6]    To dream my very life away.

[7.1]    But dreams—of those who dream as I,
[7.2]    Aspiringly, are damned, and die:
[7.3]    Yet should I swear I mean alone,
[7.4]    By notes so very shrilly blown,
[7.5]    To break upon Time's monotone,
[7.6]    While yet my vapid joy and grief
[7.7]    Are tintless of the yellow leaf—             ["the yellow leaf" = autumn leaves faded from green]
[7.8]    Why not an imp the greybeard hath,     [imp = fresh youth; greybeard = old man]
[7.9]    Will shake his shadow in my path—
[7.10]   And even the greybeard will o'erlook
[7.11]   Connivingly my dreaming-book.