Edgar Allan Poe is a world renounced poet for his dark writings. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Due to many experiences and circumstances in his lifetime he was eager to reflect his feelings in poems and short stories. Although many of his writings are depressing, he did write some about happiness.He is one of the most prominent writers of the American Romantics. Edgar Allan Poe experienced many feelings throughout his youth, teenage years, and adulthood which reflected in his work.
Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19th, 1809 and died on October 7th, 1849. He did not live the life many individuals dream to live. His father, David Poe, abandoned the family soon before the death of his wife Poe's mother. Elizabeth, being a single mother trying to raise her three kids, constant moving and grinding poverty aggravated and contributed to her tuberculosis. His mother died two years after his birth, from her battle with tuberculosis. When Poe was two years, old Frances Allan took little Edgar into her home to raise him as her own son. Frances Allan's husband, John Allan, did not fully approve of this decision. Therefore John Allan did not adopt Edgar Allan Poe; it was only Frances who adopted him, (Hoffman 23).
In Poe's teenage life he enlisted in the United States Army; he was eighteen years of age, in 1827. At just nineteen years old Poe was enlisted under the highest rank. Although Poe had it made in the Army, he was unhappy because his lack of social standing prevented him from rising to the rank of officer. So Edgar Poe decided the only way he could become officer is to apply at West Point and take an officer's place. (At the time it was a necessity if one wanted to leave the military earlier than the promised five year contract). Soon after this was decided that West Point was not for him so he began to disobey orders, and did not show up for roll calls or guard duties. By March 6th, 1831, he was dismissed from the military.
Poe lost his brother, Henry, to tuberculosis in 1831 at the age of twenty-four. Soon after that, on May 16th, 1836, Edgar Poe started to have relations with Virginia Clemm and soon married her publically when she was four-teen. (He had actually married her a year earlier when she was thirteen in a private ceremony.) This marriage did little to improve his happiness; however, he continued to suffer from depression brought on by his excessive drinking.
Although it seemed as though Edgar Allan Poe had a miserable life and seemed to never be happy, in his adulthood he started to find slight joy. The year 1842 was very memorable for Poe because he met two literary giants of his time, Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Leon 24). After meeting them, Dickens offered to help Poe find an English publisher for his works. Thanks to Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Poe started publishing many of his works including "The Gold Bug", "The Black Cat", and "The Tell-Tale Heart". (Leon 25). Since Poe was rising in the world of publishing, he found a good job for the New York Evening Mirror, and was appointed editor in the same year for a salary of $750 a year. All of this should have led Poe to financial and professional stability, but instead he started drinking heavily again and fell into deeper poverty than before. When the winter hit and Poe and his wife were lacking blankets, heat, and food, Virginia's health worsened quickly. On January 30th, 1847 she died at the same age, twenty-four, and from the same thing as his mother, tuberculosis. It seemed as if this disease was killing all of those who were most close to him, thus Poe built a resentment towards the disease and it even inspired him to write the tale,”The Masque of the Red Death”, which is an allegory for dying of tuburculosis. Yet Poe wanted to replace Virginia as soon as possible and tried to with three different women, but failed. They all denied him. Poe started drinking even more heavily and was soon found semiconscious. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7th, 1849 after suffering from hallucinations and depression.
His poem, “To My Mother”, may have been written during his time of mourning for his mother. Although a few lines of the poem make it seem as if the poem was not actually written for his biological mother, but for Frances Allan. “…-my own mother, who died/ early,/ Was but the mother of myself; but/ you/ Are mother to one I loved so dearly,/ And thus are dearer than the mother I knew/…”(Poe 13). It seems more like it could have been written to a nanny or care taker of him. Either way this poem is a tribute to a mother. “…And thus are dearer than the mother I knew/…(Poe 13). This is evidence of Poe valuing his mother more in death than in life. This could lead back to him appreciating his biological mother giving birth to him and caring as much as she did for him the first two years of his life. Or this could be about his foster mother who took him into her home and raised him. Either way, both, were seen as a mother figure in his life. “…-my mother who died early,/…”(Poe 13). The inference of this is that his mother died early from a disease. “…spirit free.”(Poe 13) this line could also possibly mean, “Dying” which is a Euphemism that presents her death in a positive manner. The poem, “To My Mother” reflects on Poe's life tremendously. Edgar Allan Poe most likely wrote this poem with more than one person in mind. Even though it says “mother” it could also be to his wife who died. After his mother and foster mother died all he had was Virginia. She could have taken place of his mother figures he had lost. Poe was probably in the stage of curing his heart after his loss of his wife. The poem is written was in an adoring, loving, venerating mood, with the tone of adoration and profound worship.
The poem, “Dream Within a Dream” is one of Poe's most famous works of poetry. The poem's speaker seems to be Poe himself or a character very similar to Poe, who is missing his loved ones who have been taken away from him. The rhyme scheme is AAA,BB,CC,DD,BB,EE,FF,GGG,HH,II,BB, and as one can tell he goes back and forth using the main rhyme BB. “O God! Can I not grasp them with a tighter clasp?” This is yet another line in his poem written about his battle to regain the people whom death has stolen from him. The tone of the poem is very ethereal and dreamy, as if he wrote it while in a mind-state that was partially out of touch with reality, which is probably accurate since he was an alcoholic. He repeats two phrases in the poem, “while I weep - while I weep!” which exhibits his extreme depression and heartache. Also he repeats “O God” which shoes his desperation, forcing him to call out to his almighty deity for help. He directly appeals to God because he feels such a deep level of hopelessness, shown in this line, “O God! Can I not save one from the pitiless wave?” His diction in using “surf-tormented shore” and “pitiless wave” makes the waves serve to represent death. The imagery he uses gives the reader a mental image of a balmy, beach around sunset, since he speaks of feeling “that my days have been a dream.” One can infer that he would not be at the beach in the middle of the day, yet the tone and mood of the poem are not dark enough to make it seem at night either. Therefore one is left to believe that this poems situation would take place at the most beautiful, heavenly part of the day, sunset or sunrise, since the poem is all supposedly a “dream”.
In the poem “The Valley of Unrest” the speaker is an omniscient observer who seems to be lonely. The reader can understand this because the situation in the poem is describing an abandoned valley. If one pictures a valley, one would probably vision fog so deep that it is impossible to see. This symbolizes Edgar Allan Poe not knowing what he wants to do with his life, not being happy with himself, and the progressing “blindness” in life. The rhyme scheme of this poem is AA, BB, CC, DD, which could represent his life always changing. “…azure towers,” is one example of imagery. “Azure” is another word for blue which creates a dark and nightly visual. When Poe wrote this he could have been in a peaceful and tranquil state of mind since the tone of the poem is respectful toward nature. “They had gone unto the wars.”(Poe 13) implies how humans are so violent and unfit to inhabit the peaceful valley. Poe was probably thinking about all of the loved ones he lost and how they tried and failed in fighting the “war” they were in. In this case the “war” would be their disease they had tried to overcome. Poe seemed to feel as though he needed to be strong and conquer this evil since he lost so many loved ones.
“To My Mother,” “Dream within a Dream,” and “The Valley of Unrest,” are all reflective of Edgar Allan Poe's life. They are all about him mourning the ones he lost. Poe's life is very influential to all of his writings in many ways. Even though it may seem as though all of his writings are sad, lonely, or depressing, let one not forget that he did have happy times in his life. Edgar Allan Poe seems to be the type of author who feels the need to write to comfort himself. There is at least one part of his life that is captured in the moment of each work piece he writes. Either his youth, teenage, or adulthood life is part of each poem and short story.