what is the poem "to helen" about?????????greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread
for my englis class i need to make a presintation about one of poes poems..i would like to know what the poem "to Helen is about...if u cannot tell me whatthe poem is about the i would like to kno wwhat the poem "The city in the sea" is about....I need a lot of information aboutthe poems....every lines has to be defined...plezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz help...........
-- Anonymous, December 12, 2001
To Helen, a reworked poem(see the changes over the years in the versions printed at www.eapoe.org)from his youth. In general this is the theme haven of the weary poet who must find his base in the memory and guidance of an ideal, symbolized in this case by a godess like beauty in a calm port.
Helen(who? Helen of Troy? an evocative name similar to Eleonora, Lenore, etc) thy beauty is to me(the attribute of Beauty is one of the two central elements of art) Like those Nicaean barks of yore(journey of the Latin love poet catullus to his beloved?) That gently o'er a perfumed sea/the weary wayward wanderer bore(great calming sea onomatopaeia there in the alliteration)to his own native shore(return to his real spiritual roots) On desperate seas long wont to roam(lonely stormy life separation from his past, his ideals, his core experience and Muse guidance) Hyacinth hair, naiad airs, classic face (elements of this symbol of Beauty are classical) To the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome(the fullness of classical ideal of art, the sublime, the structured, etc.) Lo in yon window niche(the vision of this beacon of stable salvation is still and glowing with a brilliance of the spiritual Beauty) how statuelike I see thee stand/ the agate lamp within thy hand(change from "the little scroll" of words and Truth to a source of her light) Ah Psyche(In "Ulalume" Poe mentions Psyche also. Psyche is the soul and personified as a woman lover of Cupid in a Greek tale. She is then his very soul refound in the regions of past memory and ideal art. A love more than earthly love and an inner dialogue.) From those regions which are holy land.(Place of his truest life, art, life, memory and his salvation on the woeful sea of life.)
So this is more than a love sonnet to some classical woman but a pyschological, philosophical and deeply internal quest for the inner spark, the spiritual meaning of his life.
-- Anonymous, December 13, 2001
This is NOT for anyone to plagarize, but I had a very hard time with this assignment and ended up getting and A on it, so hopefully it will be of some help to someone. This is an essay I wrote on "To Helen" for my sophomore English Honors class. It's been copied and pasted a few times, so the punctuation is a little messed up, but you get the idea:
Rose, LA 2 Honors, period 1 3/15/02
To Helen E.A. Poe
Edgar Allen Poe‚s „To Helen‰ is an apostrophe to the famed Helen of Troy. In this poem, Poe uses names from Greek mythology to allude to his theme dealing with the deepest emotions of the heart.
Helen of Troy was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was said to have had „the face that launched a thousand ships‰ because the Trojan War was fought over her. Helen was the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris, a prince of Troy, carried her off with the help of Aphrodite who had promised Paris Helen‚s hand in marriage. Aphrodite‚s mischievous son, Eros, shot Helen with one of his arrows of love and she instantly fell in love with Paris. The two ran off to Troy and married. Before Menelaus and Helen wed, Helen had many other suitors. Her father had made them all swear that no matter whom Helen chose for a husband, the others would defend her if ever there were and intrusion in the marriage. So when Helen was taken to Troy the armies of many, many Greek city-states went after her and took part in the Trojan War. The Greeks were victorious after ten years of fighting, and Helen returned to Greece. „To Helen‰ begins „Helen, thy beauty is to me/Like those Nicean barks of yore.‰ By Nicean Poe meant Nikean, having to do with Nike the Greek goddess of victory. He is describing the victorious fleet of Greek ships returning home after the Trojan War. For ten years thousands of men fought and died because of two men‚s love for the same woman. Helen was first taken from her husband Menelaus by Paris whom she fell in love with. Then, after ten years of war she was taken from Paris back to Sparta. Helen‚s story is that of love, loss, and longing, all very deep emotions.
The alliteration „weary, way-worn wanderer‰ in line four is describing Odysseus, King of Ithaca. Odysseus was originally one of Helen‚s suitors, but when he saw the multitude of other suitors, he decided instead to ask for Helen‚s cousin, Penelope‚s hand in marriage. Still, when the time came to fight Troy, he was called upon since he was originally one of her suitors. After the ten years at war, Odysseus took another ten years to return home to his son and loving wife when his ship was blown off course in a sea storm, and he went through a whole host of deadly adventures. The thought of his family was often the only thing that kept him alive.
The story of Odysseus is considered a great account of loyalty. Odysseus lived up to his word when he went off to fight in the Trojan War, and again when he remained faithful to his wife and returned home after the war to Ithaca. There was temptation on Odysseus‚s voyage. The cunning, beautiful nymph Calypso offered him such rewards as immortality and perpetual youth if he would stay on her lonely island home and keep her company. But love prevailed and Odysseus returned home to his wife. Loyalty is another profound attribute of the heart.
In the second stanza, Poe refers to Helen‚s „hyacinth hair.‰ In Greek mythology, Hyacinthus was a youth who was beloved by Apollo. Zephyrus (the west wind) loved Hyacinthus as well, and was jealous of the boy‚s preference of the god of light, music, and poetry. During a game of quoits, Apollo threw one of his quoits and, as the young mortal excitedly ran along side it, Zephyrus blew the ring so that it struck Hyacinthus in the forehead, and the boy fell down dead. Apollo was grief-stricken, and tried all he could to save the youth‚s life from fading away. Try as he might, it was beyond his power, and all the golden god could do was mourn. Yet, from the blood of the young Hyacinthus sprung a beautiful flower whose violet petals bore the symbol „Ai Ai,‰ meaning woe in Greek. Today we call that flower the hyacinth.
Hyacinthus‚s story was extremely sad. Apollo lost Hyacinthus forever, and thoroughly grieved for him. Woe is another deep emotion. Yet, from Apollo‚s loss the beautiful Hyacinth flower. That is a symbol of how life must go on, and that other beautiful things will come.
The final allusion to Greek mythology in the poem is Psyche. Psyche was the only woman Eros, the god of love, ever loved. He took her to an empty castle where invisible hands cooked and cleaned and tended the grounds. She was lonely during the day, but he came to see her every night. As was the custom of the gods, he came to Psyche invisible and she was not allowed to see him. One night curiosity overcame the woman, and as the god of love lie sleeping beside her she lit a lamp and looked upon his beautiful face. Unfortunately, a drop of oil from the lamp fell onto Eros‚s skin, and he awoke with a start. The next thing the maiden knew, the castle was gone, along with the beautiful god whom she loved. Psyche spent years wandering the earth looking for her beloved Eros. Finally he forgave her, and convinced his father Zeus to make Psyche immortal so that the two could spend eternity forever.
Psyche and Eros, like Penelope and Odysseus, were reunited. However, unlike the mortals, the two were allowed to be together for eternity. Thus, Psyche is commonly represented in literature as a symbol of eternity and immortality. The use of Psyche in „To Helen‰ shows that to humans, emotions are forever. They outlast life, and are connected with the belief of a soul. „Ah! Psyche, from the regions which/Are Holy Land!‰ The holy land refers to the heart and soul; a piece of every human being that is deeply cherished because that is from whence emotions are born. Poe is saying that emotions are eternal, like Psyche and Eros‚s love for one another.
When Poe writes „Thy Naiad airs have brought me home/To the glory that was Greece/And the grandeur that was Rome,‰ He is saying that the graceful elegance of Helen and the love that surrounded her is brought forth from Hellenistic culture. Naiads in Greek mythology were beautiful nymphs of fresh-water. They were known for their grace and playfulness, and were much admired.
In the final stanza Poe refers to Helen as „
in yon brilliant window-niche/Statue-like /The agate lamp within thy hand.‰ He is describing Helen as a sort of glorious beacon, shining through the night. The agate lamp represents clarity and purity. All of the emotions represented by Helen, Odysseus, Hyacinthus, and Psyche help to bring the human spirit closer to clarity. In the window-niche, though, that guide shines from within. It can be seen through the window, yet not attained until one goes inside oneself and can grasp the emotions.
In ancient Greece, as well as in ancient Rome, love was almost the basis of their culture. Love was an essential part of life, and in some early accounts of Greek mythology (before Eros was thought to be the son of Aphrodite), it was thought to be one of the creating forces of the world. According to the ancient Greek myths, love came from night, which was in the form of an egg and floated in Chaos. He had an arrow and torch which he used to brighten all things, and from his work came life and joy.
-- Anonymous, April 06, 2002