Spirits of the Dead

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What is he saying in this poem?

-- Anonymous, October 30, 2001


I think the main difficulty for finding any precise meaning in Poe's "Spirits of the Dead" arises from the ambiguity of the apostrophing-persona's identity (not necessarilly Poe). Does he (or she) speak either to him(or her)self, or to another one (either male or female -- either dead or alive...)?If we can resolve this obscure point, we may find sufficient consistency in this hopeful, yet gloomy, evocation. Another rub comes with "VISIT of the Dead", the first title given by Poe to the first version of this text in 1827. Is it a visit made in a churchyard, rather than visiting dead, while in a churchyard? Poe choose his new title for his revised version of 1829. He used these again (in the same form) for a filling-page of the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1839. Afterwhat he left it definitely aside. This fact may perhaps induce us in believing this poem not really "perfect" in Poe's tasteful view. The text first reappeared in the"POETICAL WORKS of EDGAR A. POE" collected by R. H. Stoddard in late 1874 (London & N Y -- Routledge - 1875). To be noted, too, Poe very rarely used the specific word "symbol" - and here well, and very early... And, strange enough, Mallarmé did never translate it, though evident aesthetical and syntaxical brotherhood between this confusing poem and some of the French Master of Symbolism. Sorry for my bad English, but I learnt my speaking and writing in reading books (mostly by, about and around Poe)... Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium)

-- Anonymous, November 08, 2001

P. S. For a cleaner English text, please, take the following corrections: ...apostrophizing...necessarily...chose...Afterwhat/Where after...definitively...syntactical. Many blunders, indeed, but I have no PC at home and write in various (and sometimes noisy) public phone&cyber-rooms, without any document. For the grammatical faults and whims, however, no redeeming! Yours, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, November 09, 2001

P.P.S. Though we may grasp the whole theme of these "Visiting (or visited? or both?) Spirits" as a classic reflection upon Guardian Angels, the Communion of Saints, and neverending, discreet aids from those who have preceded us on earth, we may, however, be puzzled by the meaning of the last verse. Perhaps, we ought to receive the mist as an ether, a supranatural matter, of Souls surrounding still-living beings (the trees) with God's complicity or permission until He decides to break it. The great mystery, to us, poor mortal creatures, should be: when - or why - shall the Almighty decide to do it... For sure, it is the core of Poe's cyphering lines. In any case, we may see that, from his very beginnings, the author of "Eureka" liked to play with what we call now the "mise en abîme" (I don't know how to render it in English), and with floating (never gratuitously) concepts he always learnt us to complete by ourselves, leaving them working and growing in our mind. To suggest! the big and bright idea of dear Eddy! How to be not fascinated by such a genius... Many thanks for your stimulating question. Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2001

hey dont listen to this guy... Nowhere in his continuous attempt to sound intellectual did he say anything close to the answere to your question. He is a stupid queer. I personally cannot say what it means because I am not Poe, the one thing I can say is that is a great work. Though short it tells a story to everyone, a unique story that only the one person can see. What I have taken from it so far(taken from an essay I am writing):

In “Spirits of The Dead” (1827), Poe depicts death as depressing and gray. That the spirits will be in solitude, but not lonely. For they will be here on earth and spend eternity watching those among the living. Be silent in that solitude, Which is not loneliness–for then The spirits of the dead, who stood In life before thee, are again In death around thee, and their will Shall overshadow thee; be still. The earth standing as a purgatory where “the breath of God” cannot be felt, and you are weary and feverish for eternity. The breeze, the breath of God, is still, And the mist upon the hill Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken, Is a symbol and a token. How it hangs upon the trees, A mystery of mysteries!

Lazarus Karst

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2004

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