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I am doing a paper on "The Valley of Unrest" and I'm having some difficulties determining the poem's theme, arguement, or central idea. I know that the poem is a reflection of his time spent in Scotland however, what is the situation the poem is trying to portray?? Also if you have any ideas on the meter and rhyme scheme of the poem that would be very helpful. Thanks!
-- Anonymous, March 21, 2004
It is based on local legend obscured by childhood impressions(and fantasied misunderstanding, the vague always opens up interesting vistas of the imagination). As with other legends("The Lake") the vaguest hint is more important than the actual story so your difficulty itself IS the point. The emotions that shadowy, silence brushed suddenly with revelation and the touch of the Muse is more important than the story. Compare that to other Romantics who center on the fantasy plot and legends themselves and maybe draw some personal moral or extrapolation.
See www.eapoe.org or Mabbott's book on Poe's poetry(in print)for the variants. "The Valley Nis" is much clearer. W B Yeats likewise stripped down his lyrics. The dreamscape is condensed even from the vague vision into its primal imaginative power, not as Poe say, simply attempting to delve into actaulk scenery in pure contemplation. This imagery arises itself from his psyche ornganically one with poet, theme and the poem.
The Valley Mis may be a child's mishearing of the Scottish word "Innis"(island). The melody is the old tune "over the hills and far away." The melancholy emotion is typically Poe's own awe/terror/delight/captivation.
In polishing the poem it reminds one of the twofold structure of "Alone" with its then and now statements. As with "The haunted Palace" they past had looked to be hopeful and trusted in the stars. "Now" the traveller witnesses(like the removed narrators of the tales like :The Fall of the House of Usher") the tragic sad ruin flcikering in a bare perpetual haunting tension within the forms of arrested, deserted and cemetery like nature.
The amazingly subtle structure needs to be broken up from the published version. The first 8 lines are simple couplets describing the past story, the people departed, the land vacated.
Then comes a section of triple rhyme, couplet and triple rhyme, the triples being the sound music of the restlss motion wind itself. The landscape broods and palpitates as if humanly alive. Human characteristics mutliply. The wind is a hauinting not natural wind. The dew are tears/ The last section starts with another triple rhyme about the wind, suggesting- uneasily- a chilling awareness of both landscape and the narrator It finsishes with couplets sweeping down to small detail going full circle from the smiling dell to the perpetually weeping flower eyes, the "stars" above the graves of the disinherited.
Again briliiant structural, parallel, dramtic building, word music and onomatopaeia, very very neat stanza structure and idea interplay that is only obvious upon deeper study if one takes time away from sinking under the surface spell of the mood itself. Again compare that to any great poet of that era and you will not find so intricate an inner structure, such paralle complexity and restrained conceits. poe is actually underrated, the more so since in his poetics he reveals so little of his natural artistry.
-- Anonymous, March 23, 2004