Background information on "Eldorado"?? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I need some background information on EAP's poem, "Eldorado". Please help me!


-- Anonymous, December 01, 2002


The gold rush of 1849 brought to the fore a poem that had been percolatiung for some time. Mnay men had gone to California and died, such as Israel Post, one of his publishers. Poe, in weighing the temptation concluded his pursuit of a literary life was more important than all the goldmines. The poem itself is an older type of the mad wandering fool, a Don Quixote style legend but serious and an adventure begun in youth not dotage. El Dorado is a Spanish legend of the new World where a fanciful kingdom with much gold was ruled by "El Dorado" the gilded one. Poe used the word before in rhyme with shadow in "Dreamland". The "Mountains of the Moon"(source of the Nile) had also been legendary in Poe's time until they were actually discovered in 1888. Poe preferred an alternate translation of the 23rd Psalm for the "valley of shadow" which is indeterminate darkness, not necessarily death. That is more in keeping with Poe's borderland or shadowland preferences. The lyric follows the tune "The Man for Galway" that Poe reviewed years earlier.

The poem. It is often interesting to note the structure, somehow overlooked when rushing through the meaning of the story. A knight(horse implied) sets out in darkness and light singing, searching for Eldorado. Second stanza is doubt with age and no goal or ideal in sight(see "The Raven" etc). Shadow, silence dominates this lack of vision. Third stanza is defeat, despair or physical weakness, probbaly all three. At this midpoint comes a dialogue as he meets a pilgrim shadow(his own? another searcher? a ghost?) dleiberately opminous and vague. His voice, his words now dominate where all else had failed. He asks directions of the shadow(see again the dialogue in "The Raven"). The fourth stanza in parallel to the second offers a message in place of doubt. From the heights of the mountains(a legendary place in the pre-afterlife) to a darker descent he urges "Ride, boldly ride." Return to the spirit of the first verse, regardless whether Eldorado is there, can be reached- or not. This defiance is echoed also in "Annabel Lee". The poet knows loss, doubt and the vagueness of his goal, but the striving(Goethe's "Faustus") is his calling and nature. So in the poem rings an existential type affirmation in the midst of uncertainty and darkness. Poe's gothic style poem tales all carry the same elements of spirit and melancholy horror in a strange mix that leaves the reader with a thing half seen, unfinished and ambiguously powerful.

-- Anonymous, December 02, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ