Poe's Poetry

Poe's Poetry Summary

Although Poe wrote a relatively small number of poems over the course of his lifetime, his writings are still widely read, studied, and performed. "Tamerlane" was one of his earliest works, written originally in 1827 and published in his first poetry volume, Tamerlane and Other Poems, but he heavily revised and shortened this fanciful tale of the central Asian conqueror's deathbed confession when preparing it for publication in 1829's Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. The introductory poem to this latter collection was "Sonnet - To Science," in which a poet laments the dulling effects of modern science on the imagination.

Poe published his third volume of poetry at the age of twenty-two in 1831, and he included his first of two poems entitled "To Helen," although, unlike the later poem, this work celebrates Jane Stanard, the mother of a childhood friend for whom the adolescent Poe had developed a romantic interest. He later republished the poem after revising it to its current version. The volume also contained "A Paean," an early revision of what would in the 1840s become the poem "Lenore," which describes the optimistic reaction of Lenore's lover Guy de Vere at her funeral.

The decade before Poe's death in 1849 saw some of his most successful and well-known works. He revised "The Conqueror Worm," a poem about the tragedy of man and his relationship with death, and placed it in his short story "Ligeia," thus connecting the two stories and initiating a dialogue about death. He also dealt with the nature of reality in "A Dream Within a Dream, and in 1845 he revised his earlier poem "The Doomed City" and published it as "The City in the Sea," describing a city that has succumbed to the rule of death and consequently sinks into hell.

In 1845, Poe published his most famous poem, "The Raven," which describes the torment faced by a man when faced with the supernatural and the memory of the dead Lenore, and he saw a brief rise to fame in the last years of his life. However, his wife Virginia Clemm soon died, and some have speculated that "Ulalume," the story of a man who wanders by accident to the site of his beloved Ulalume's grave, might have had some connection to Poe's grief at Virginia's death. "Eldorado," a poem describing a knight's life-long search for Eldorado and published in 1849, was one of his last works before his death, and two major poems were published posthumously. First shown to the public in Sartain's Union Magazine in December 1849, "The Bells" recreates the sounds of different varieties of bells, while "Annabel Lee" appeared in The Southern Literary Messenger in November and tells the story of the love between the narrator and Annabel Lee. These two poems are among the foremost of Poe's poems, and they helped to cement his reputation as a poet and a writer.