Explanation of Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe

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Can you please send me an explantion of the Poem Eldorado with the meanings of the different words used in the poem?

-- Anonymous, April 11, 2003


More complex in its allusions than appears on the surface. "Eldorado" first of all related to the Gold Rush of 1849 where California was openly called by that name. That in turn refers back to the western legends of Spanish treasure hunters for the native king El Dorado who coated himself in gold. Voltaire mentions it in Candide, etc.

The Valley of the shadow seems to come from Psalm 23 "The Lord is my shepherd" and the particular translations Poe favored would have included the meaning of a dark valley and death. The Mountains of the Moon(Africa) were legendary at this point in history and not yet been rediscovered. The reference is mythological as the place being a waystation to the afterlife.

Now the jaunty ballad, the Quixote quest, of ideal and broken dreams combines with Poe's reflexions on the late temptation to "Go west, young man" with his present state in his own literary quest. In effect, once more doubt and the shadow(see the Raven)blight this reflection on committment and hope. A complex contemplation ending by being another typical theme of Poe's.

The poem: onomatopaeia of gallopping rhythm. All in past tense with a feel of long ago knights but little description except of the mounted knight in obscure landscapes. Note the different meanings of shadow. Meaning of nighttimme, then inner gloom, then the pilgrim shadow dialogue and at last the Valley of the Shadow. Four stanzas alternate optimism, doubt, question in split dialogue, answer from the Shadow.

The pigrim(another medieval suggestion) shadow is a different type of journey, a religious, unadvernturous, salvific and slow individual whose path conjoins with the worldly quest at an obvious ultimate point where all men come.

The last exhortation "Ride, boldly ride" seems grim, mocking, glorious, deadly? In any event, it captures the profound sentiment of the poet in the shadows of his own lost past, dim hopes and fading life. Like the Raven the inner shadow and external manifestations get the last word.

see Mabbott's "Complete Poems" of Poe.

-- Anonymous, April 13, 2003

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