Explanation of "Sonnet to Science"

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I need to know what "Sonnet to science" by E.A. poe means an explanation about it.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000


Simple, really: what Poe is saying is that as scientific knowledge increases we non longer need to believe in gods, nymphs, demons, etc. Poe was clearly a firm believer in Occam's razor.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000


Frankly, I believe that Poe was saying somewhat more in this poem. That increased scientific acumen would or could, ultimately, relieve the need for spiritual enlightenment or replace religious convictions is certainly one interpretation but a rather stern and one- dimensional explanation for the poem as a whole. This poem was written in Poes youth and at a time when his own poetic principles were beginning to coalesce into his personal convictions.

Poe repeated often that he felt poetry should have, as its singular objective, the excitement, the pleasurable elevation of the soul and that this is best achieved in poetry in contemplation of the beautiful. He does not mean to say that truth or passion cannot be served in poetry for it is often achieved rather well. However, in his essay, The Philosophy of Composition, Poe says that truth and passion are best served in prose rather than poetry and goes on to define Truth as the satisfaction of the intellect and Passion as the excitement of the heart. Both of which are best achieved in prose where the effects can be created without limitations. Poetry, on the other hand, is inherently limiting and that poetry should not exceed a length that cannot be read in a single sitting. As a result, he felt that poetry should serve beauty above all else and that truth, that is to say literal truth, placed intolerable restrictions upon and severely limited the free expression of beauty.

This poem, Sonnet  To Science, is merely an expression of disappointment that under the fierce, probing eyes of science, all things cannot help but surrender beauty and wonder to the stark truth of certainty. Now, I have used the term disappointment but any other expression would be applicable in this context including disenchantment or dissatisfaction. He also expresses the sorrow of eventually losing the splendor of this beauty, the enchantment of wonder and the grandeur of things known only to the heart. He asks what the poet is to do when science has rendered all things to their cold realities. He asks how the poet, whose life is the expression of beauty, can love science and how can the poet be expected to see her as wise when the harsh light of factual truth dazzles its brilliance upon all things.

The precept that truth; accurate truth; literal truth or reality is found in simplicity has been around since well before the philosophical teachings of William of Ockham. Occams razor was given the name because of Occams indiscriminate and brutal application of this philosophical principle. I respectfully disagree with Joe that Edgar Allan Poe was a firm believer in Occams principle for I see it as neither clear or consistent with the poems theme. I do believe, however, that Poe felt there was powerful beauty in simplicity just as he saw compelling beauty in the most profound complexity as well.


-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

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