Quotes and Analysis
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Sonnet - To Science
The poet and narrator of "Sonnet - To Science" alludes to Greek and Roman mythology in his attempt to explain why the scientific developments of the early nineteenth century have stifled creativity and the human imagination. Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt, while a Hamadryad was a type of wood nymph that lived in a symbiotic relationship with trees. When the poet says that science has driven these mythological figures away, he indicates that by imposing its dull and rigid truths on the formerly mysterious workings of nature, science has taken away a sense of wonder and left behind a valuable part of the human soul. The use of the words "dragged" and "driven" especially emphasizes the ruthless cruelty of science, and the poet later associates himself with these hapless figures because he also feels connected to the past in a manner that science cannot imitate with its innovations and progress.
And, Guy de Vere, hast thou no tear? - weep now or never more!
The narrator of "Lenore" asks the mourning Guy de Vere this question and thus establishes the fundamental divide in understanding between the two. Whereas the narrator feels that Lenore's premature death was a great tragedy and that Guy de Vere must be grieving over her loss because he loved her so deeply, de Vere himself does not weep because he does not interpret death in the same manner as the narrator does. The narrator mistakes de Vere's lack of tears as a sign of a shocked frigidity, and he directs de Vere to look upon Lenore so that he can reach catharsis. De Vere, however, remains calm and defiant because he believes that Lenore has ascended to Heaven and implies that he will again see her after his death. Consequently, de Vere is one of Poe's most hopeful protagonists on the subject of life after death, an attitude that contrasts directly with the despair of the narrator of "The Raven," who also mourns a woman named Lenore but who comes to the opposite conclusion about Heaven and the afterlife.
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
The Conqueror Worm
The penultimate line of "The Conqueror Worm" confirms the purpose of the play within the poem and initially places the focus on the plight of man, but the final line reverses all of our assumptions by announcing that, although it may give its name to the play, humanity is insignificant when compared to the Conqueror Worm. In the end, men are a collection of "mimics" who are pulled by invisible forces and who face an inevitably gruesome death, while the terrifying Conqueror Worm triumphs because it is the dealer of death. This depiction of human life is especially sinister and despairing because the angels can do nothing but observe the tragedy and regret the play's conclusion. Poe's characters often grapple with the potential powerlessness of heaven and the tenuous nature of the afterlife, and "The Conqueror Worm" offers one of Poe's least hopeful treatments of the subject.
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
A Dream Within a Dream
The narrator of "A Dream Within a Dream" first calmly asserts this conclusion in the form of a statement, in which he agrees with his lover that reality is merely a dream; here in his second iteration of the refrain, he rephrases his sentence into a question as he searches for an alternative explanation to his belief. The quote suggests that the narrator's reality is not permanent and is instead doomed to fade away into the merciless, obliterating sea next to the "surf-tormented shore." The phrase "a dream within a dream" also implies a second layer of illusion separating "all that we see," the external reality, and "all that we . . . seem," the internal reality, from the objective truth. The repetition of the phrase in both stanzas also serves to join the apparently disparate scenes into a thematically unified whole while contributing to the musicality of the poem through alliteration as well as internal rhyme.
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
The City in the Sea
"The City in the Sea" focuses primarily on the establishment of a Gothic setting by combining a dreamscape with elements of horror. The city in the sea, like many of Poe's settings, does not exist in a clearly defined location but rather somewhere "far down within the dim West." Poe most likely includes the western direction because the sun's setting in the west has often caused this cardinal direction to be associated with death, while the easterly direction represents the idea of rebirth. As a result of this symbolic connection between death and the west, Poe's personification of Death becomes unsurprising and cements the undertone of dread that Poe maintains throughout the poem. At the same time, the strangeness of the city and the dimness of the setting lend a dream-like tone in tension with the city's imminent doom.
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
By entering the narrator's home in the middle of the night, settling on top of a bust of Pallas, and speaking a single initially innocuous but eventually sinister word, the raven creates confusion in the minds of both the narrator and the audience about the extent of the supernatural in the events of "The Raven." On the one hand, the truth may be that the raven is simply an animal that wandered accidentally into the narrator's chamber and that happens to be able to utter the sound of one human word. However, the narrator's grief and possible madness eventually causes him to cease questioning the raven's source. By the end of the poem, he succumbs to his fears by believing that the raven has told him with preternatural authority that he will "nevermore" see Lenore, even in the afterlife. The line "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore'" also serves as a refrain, thus helping to unify the poem.
Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere -
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
Through "Ulalume," a variation of these lines forms a refrain that thematically unifies and adds an element of musicality to the poem. The iteration quoted above occurs at the beginning of the last stanza, after the narrator accidentally returns to Ulalume's tomb on the first anniversary of her burial. Through simile, he associates his despairing heart with the dry withering October leaves that mark the forthcoming of winter and consequently of death, and, at this moment, his mood transforms from absentmindedly thoughtful and optimistic to dark and mournful. His psyche begs the narrator not to follow Astarte, but because he is figuratively separated from his soul he does not understand his psyche's warnings, and their reactions are not "combined" until this moment in the poem.
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
"The Bells" is an unusual poem for Poe in that it features no humans and seeks primarily to establish the visual and especially auditory imagery of bells. As in most of the work, this excerpt includes the heavy use of onomatopoeia, or words that sound similar to their meaning, to enliven our impression of the bells, as in the words "tolls" and particularly "rolls," a word that is given its own line for emphasis. Because "The Bells" is also musical in character, it is most fulfilling when read aloud. The king who tolls the bells in this passage is unusual because he is the only real character in the poem and because he is not a man but rather a ghoul. He appears only in the fourth scene to ring the bells of mourning that signify death, and although every other aspect of the fourth stanza indicates desolation and misery, the king of the ghouls dances merrily, taking pleasure in the destruction of lives.
"Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"
As the knight and protagonist of "Eldorado" reaches the end of his life and begins to despair of ever reaching his life's goal, he encounters a "pilgrim shadow" and asks it if Eldorado truly exists and if the shadow knows where he can find it. By responding that the knight must go into the Valley of the Shadow, a reference to the Biblical "valley of the shadow of death," the shadow implies that the knight can only complete his quest by dying. Because of the ambiguity of the shadow's tone and because the shadow seems to regard dying as a move for the bold and worthy, the poem can be read in either a hopeful or a negative way. Under the former interpretation, the shadow is assuring the knight that he will be fulfilled, that life exists after death, and that the full range of knowledge and experience can only be achieved through death. Alternatively, however, the shadow may be indicating that the knight's lifelong quest has been futile and that life is an unending search for something that can only be found in oblivion.
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
As a writer within the American Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century, Poe often idealized the instincts of children and represented the young as purer and more virtuous prior to the corrupting influences of age and of society. Here, Poe represents the love between the narrator and Annabel Lee as inherently more lasting and complete than the love of other men or even the love of the angels, and the phrasing of these lines suggests that the source of their faithfulness lies in their child-like experiences of emotion. The romantic and ethereal setting evoked by the phrase "the kingdom by the sea" is also conducive to this interpretation, and it suggests that Annabel Lee and the narrator had in a sense created their own kingdom. However, the presence of the sea often indicates a lack of permanence in Poe's poetry, and unsurprisingly, their love is cut short by death while the influence of the sea upon the grieving narrator becomes increasingly ominous as he begins to sleep by her grave.
Poe's Poetry Essays and Related Content
- Poe's Poetry: Major Themes
- Poe's Poetry: Essays
- Poe's Poetry: E-Text
- Poe's Poetry: Questions
- Poe's Poetry: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Edgar Allan Poe: Biography
- Poe's Poetry Summary
- About Poe's Poetry
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of "Tamerlane"
- Summary and Analysis of "Sonnet - To Science"
- Summary and Analysis of "To Helen" (1831)
- Summary and Analysis of "Lenore"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Conqueror Worm"
- Summary and Analysis of "A Dream Within a Dream"
- Summary and Analysis of "The City in the Sea"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Raven"
- Summary and Analysis of "Ulalume"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Bells"
- Summary and Analysis of "Eldorado"
- Summary and Analysis of "Annabel Lee"
- The Unreliable Narrator in Poe's Fiction
- Related Links on Poe's Poetry
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources