Thematic ideas of Poe's poems : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I'm doing a research project on an abstract idea - fear of the unknown/fear of death. Are there any of Poe's poems that fit into this category that i could use for my paper??

Tiffany Crunelle

-- Anonymous, November 15, 2000



By your term "fear of death", I presume your intent is in regard to the anxiety one feels for the ultimate expiration of his own singular existence. That is to say, his own death. If this assumption is correct, then, as a general rule, I would have difficulty pointing to any specific poem of Edgar's that would tend to impart a sense of apprehension or even sorrow relative to his own demise. In fact, I am of the principle opinion that many times during his life, he longed for death to escape this, "... fever called living." This is not to suggest, for one minute, that the 'theme' of death did not exist in (even permeate) much of his poetry. To deny or even attempt to disqualify its significance would be to diminish its literary value and its worth relative to the general contrast it provided to traditional transcendentalist literature of the time.

In his book, "Edgar Allan Poe - Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance", Kenneth Silverman discusses at length the use of this death theme. Frankly, there is much of a negative bias in this biography that troubles me personally, however, Silverman's discussion is interesting and thought provoking. It properly speaks to Poe's poetry in the context of the time in which he lived. His discourse introduces points of possible, or even probable, influence from Christian ideals of the period related to the religious view of death and the duty of the living to remember the dead. Silverman refers to this as the "cult of memory" that was so fundamental to Christian faith and, to some degree, transcendentalist literature that was spoon fed to the public by the Emerson clique.

For myself, well.. my perception of Poe's poetry where this theme is used appears to deal primarily with his fear of loss, not of himself, but of loved ones. In much of the verses, he seems to refuse, or at least, to deny the finality of death and, perhaps, sees a perpetuation of life in the remembrance of those departed. In effect, death simply becomes a barrier that only temporarily separates the grieving survivor from the more fortunate departed. In his poem "Spirits of the Dead" for example, Poe appears to bemoan the idea that in life, only the most delicate bond holds the soul to earthly existence and that the nature of that existence is one of isolation. Therefore, the greatest intimacy possible, while living, is the physical intimacy from love of the heart. In death, the barrier is overcome and the soul is freed from this earthly isolation. Then, and only then can the supreme intimacy be fulfilled with the loved one, soul to soul, for eternity. As Poe clearly spelled out in his poem "Annabel Lee"...

"And neither the angels in Heaven above

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee"


-- Anonymous, November 16, 2000

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