What does the poem Eldorado mean?

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What does the poem "Eldorado" mean? The summary of the poem as a whole? What are some figures of speech? symbols? and what does the Valley of the Shadow mean?

-- Anonymous, November 12, 2000


Hi I'm a college student who was just having a discussion with my professor on Eldorado. She thinks it has something to do with creation. Which I think can be a very good prospective on this poem. Poe was one of the first American writers and one of the most popurlar because of his mystery. I think that the poem is about the creation of a new country. America, I feel is some how reflected through his work. I how this helps! :o) Baylee D.

-- Anonymous, November 16, 2000


Another perspective to consider is that the poem may have been inspired by current events in America at the time, specifically, California. Poe was known to be disdainful of the probability of finding untold wealth in the rush to California.

Historically, El Dorado (meaning 'gilded man') was a legendary city of fabulous wealth in Colombia where the Chieftain was ceremoniously covered in gold and washed in a sacred lake while he cast precious gems in an offering to the Gods. When the conquistadors arrived in South America in the 16th century, this legend was still told among the Native Indians. Hoping to find this boundless wealth, Spanish and English explorers searched South America and all along the Amazon River for the lost City of Gold. Upon his return to England, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote of these adventures and for a time, El Dorado even appeared on English maps.

There is little doubt Edgar Allan Poe had heard or read of these stories and was familiar with the legend. Then, in 1848, the discovery of gold by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California triggered the Gold Rush of 1849. After President James K. Polk announced the discovery in 1849, some 80,000 people were said to have hastily sold out everything they owned to seek their fortune in California. A few found their treasure but even fewer found their new wealth in gold. Most "49ers" lost everything and ended staying in California as was reported widely in newspapers of the time.

The poem "Eldorado" is a figurative representation of the fate of the majority of 49ers during the gold rush and is told from the perspective of a knight in search of his own quest. Clad resplendently in shining armor, his future bright, a brave and eager young knight sets out to pursue his treasure. As he travels far and wide in pursuit of his glory he becomes disappointed and saddened that he finds no glory in the hunt but continues on for he knows that fame and glory and riches shall surely be found in the deed itself.

On he travels and as he grows older his disappointment turns to disenchantment and then to despondency. Then, as his strength finally fails him, he is now only the spirit of the man that began the quest for glory. He meets a new knight.. a young, brave and eager knight. The youthful knight asks him where he may find Eldorado. He tells him that it can only be found in the Valley of the Shadow, that only in death will man reach his Eldorado.

I suppose if there are any literary devices used it would be the way he uses the term shadow. Poe uses the shadow as a representation of the knights changing disposition as the knight is at first eager and time turns this eagerness to disappointment, his age and failing health changes it to sadness and despondency and finally changes him to a ghost of his former self.

-- Anonymous, November 16, 2000

I have to do a report on this poem, so I was talking to my english teacher about it. She said that "Over the Mountains/Of the Moon/Down the Valley of the Shadow" was a place that can never be reached. No one has ever heard of or seen these places. It should relate to Eldorado because it is the Lost City of Gold, and was also never found.

-- Anonymous, March 19, 2003

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