To F… by Edgar Allen Poe – An Analysis of Place

It seems that a lot of poetry I have been reading recently goes to enormous lengths to describe a moment or series of moments between two people or a place and a person or people and that this might be an area worthy of some further thought. Place is…
people are…

I think that a person (thoughts emotions experiences actions) and place (location, setting, scene, metaphorical or actual) are quite distinct from each other. I hope I got that right. It seems obvious maybe too obvious really to matter. However swiftly moving on to an example.

        Beloved! amid the earnest woes
         That crowd around my earthly path-
       (Drear path, alas! where grows
       Not even one lonely rose)-
         My soul at least a solace hath
       In dreams of thee, and therein knows
       An Eden of bland repose.

       And thus thy memory is to me
         Like some enchanted far-off isle
       In some tumultuous sea-
       Some ocean throbbing far and free
         With storms- but where meanwhile
       Serenest skies continually
       Just o'er that one bright island smile.
This text is full of references to place ‘my earthly path”An Eden’ ‘far off isle’ ‘tumultuous sea’ ‘some ocean’ etc.
It seems that place is important even in metaphor form. Why?
Well take the first example ‘my earthly path’ Here earth is used in its allegorical sense as opposed to heavenly being the realm of mortals or simply alive people and its trials and tribulations’Drear path, alas
where grows not even one lonely rose) Poor protagonist/subject Woe is he who walks amongst us with only a non-fertile path for the company. Then he uses the place again. This time a place within a place within a place within a feeling.
It sounds too much for a soul to bear but that is exactly where Poe is placing his soul, in a place of solace, in a dream, in a thought, in a far-off biblical therefore historic/mythological place. Gasp Is there any room
for description, address!
Why? Because it works.
‘Beloved! amid the earnest woes that crowd around my earthly path’ He is speaking to equals, fellow humans not dictating, not arse licking just humans. And he is sharing that he finds comfort in his dreams
of his compatriots and at least finds someplace ‘Eden’ The garden of paradise and earthly pleasures somewhere he can relax in ‘bland repose’ presumably at home with his fellow man in his ‘earnest woes’

So we have a first two lines where the place is extended to the reader through language ‘Beloved’ he is speaking to someone or some people and a person has a place. ‘That crowd around’ speaking metaphorically having woes that crowd
around his metaphorical path through life is a deep thought immediatley recognisable, genuine malady. You can almost touch the empathy he himself knows. He continues in the second verse with place
‘like some enchanted far off isle, in some tumultuous sea’ grasping the memory from the far hard to reach rooms in his mental house his desert island of magical means where dragon eggs of silver and gold lie all over the beach, possibly.
Or just a special series of memories and PLACE. Somewhere for two or more people to be. Then Poe counterpoints this notion with poetic description of an ocean ‘throbbing far and free with storms- but where meanwhile
serenset skies continually just o’er that one bright island smile’ referring to his and their mutual experience in glowing terms.
I am missing something of the rhythm and effect breaking it down so it is best to read and reread the poem verse by verse to get a proper feeling for his intentions in using place so imaginatively? This was in the age before cheap travel
why does it seem so effective still?

Now onto people. The places in Poes mind are open for all to see in this poem but the cause of its myriad metaphors is only hinted at. We don’t even know if the poet is adressing a person or a group ‘beloved’ can be used either way.
He obviously has had some sort of close relationship with the person or persons or wants them to feel as such. His honest delivery of his current station ‘my earthly woes’ tells of work, bills, food on table, family, faith etc. You have to have faith
to belive in other than earthly woes! And his telling of his soul denotes some familiarity between him and the person unknown enough to share this intimate knowlege. He goes on to solicit empathy by stating that he ‘dreams of thee’
another revelation then he slips into the third person for a line and a half describing his situation in relation to his dreams and the mythological Garden of Eden.

In the second verse he shares more intimate moments using metaphor to plant his version of events in the human experience. The way he speaks is lyrical in that it is easy to imagine where the pauses go and when
the spoken parts carry on uninterupted. It’s pretty pithy the last line although part of me understands what he is saying that can only be expressed in poetical terms.
Overall it’s a nice poem and although ninety percent of the place is known I still felt attracted to the poem.
I could have gone on more about the rhythm and history but that is for now some other time.
Thank you for your eyeball.


Published by Andrew Mark Watkins

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