Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

Edgar Allan Poe

Selected Poetry


Poe is the most Romantic of American authors. He affected a Romantic, Byronic persona, and his poetry and prose incorporate nearly every element of Romanticism.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some Romantic styles or themes in the poem below? Consider Romantic rhetoric. (For this poem, also contrast Romantic spirit with that of the Enlightenment.)

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).

4. Additional formal-verse questions: How may this poem be identified as a sonnet? What are "sight rhymes" + identify and compare to Dickinson's half-rhymes.

Sonnet To Science

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!    [Old Time: allusion to Kronos or Cronus, Gk & Roman ancestor of Hephaestus and Athena]

Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.   ["alterest" = "alters" = Romantic rhetoric]

Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,

Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?    [allusion to Prometheus, who was tortured by a vulture for giving science to mortals]      [4]

How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,   [he = "the poet," l. 3]

Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering

To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,

Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?   [allusion to Icarus, who flew too close to the sun; "undaunted" = unconquered, intrepid]           [8]

Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?    ["thou" = science; Diana = Roman moon goddess; car = chariot]

And driven the Hamadryad from the wood     [Hamadryad = tree nymph or spirit; "the wood" = the forest]

To seek a shelter in some happier star?

Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,    [Naiad = water nymph; flood = stream]    [12]

The Elfin from the green grass, and from me    [Elfin = elf = supernatural being usu. found in nature]

The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?     [see below]    

tamarind tree in India

Tamarinds are fruit-bearing trees originating in tropical regions