To Helen - Poe

Topics: Greek mythology, Ancient Rome, Trojan War Pages: 2 (361 words) Published: April 16, 2012
The 15-line poem was written in honor of Jane Stanard, the mother of a childhood friend. ANALYSIS
Poe is celebrating the nurturing power of woman. Poe, in referring to Helen, may be alluding to the Greek goddess of light or Helen of Troy who is considered to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived. rhyme scheme  ABABB ABABA ABBAB [half-rhyme in lines 7-9] ‘Helen1, thy beauty is to me’ (line 1) allusion to Helen of Troy in Greek mythology; the wife of King Menlaus of Greece, the most beautiful woman in the world ‘Like those Nicean1 barks2 of yore’ (line 2)
1.of or from Nicea, a city in ancient Bithynia near the site of the Trojan War 2.small sailing vessels
‘On desperate seas long wont1 to roam’ (line 6)
1.accustomed to
‘Thy Naiad airs1 have brought me home’ (line 8)
1.minor nature goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology; inhabited over rivers, lakes, streams, and fountains [Naiad airs = peaceful] ‘To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.’
(lines 9-10)
These lines evoke the splendor of classical antiquity. The alliteration of ‘glory’, ‘Greece’ and ‘grandeur’ helps to make the lines memorable. ‘The agate1 lamp within thy hand,’ (line 13)
1.a variety of chalcedony
‘Ah! Psyche1, from the regions which’ (line 14) Greek and Roman mythology, it was a beautiful princess dear to the god of love, Eros (Cupid), who would visit her in a darkened room in a palace. One night she used an agate lamp to discover his identity. Later, at the urging of Eros, Zeus gave her the gift of immortality. Eros then married her. THEMES

the beauty of a woman with whom Poe became acquainted when he was 14 beauty = woman’s soul and body
Helen of Troy  the quintessence of physical beauty (beginning)
Psyche  the quintessence of soulful beauty (end)
simile (lines 1-2)  compares the beauty of Helen with small sailing boats that carried home travelers in ancient times boat imagery (2nd stanza; lines 3-4-5)...
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