Edgar Allan Poe

The brilliance of Poe (1809-1849) can be seen in his poems. The poems are as melodious as Bryant's but more dramatic in their effects. "Israfel" is Poe's poetic apology for himself, while "Annabel Lee" mourns the death of a beautiful girl, a recurring subject in Poe's writing.

One of the most remarkable things about the pair of poems reprinted below is their melody. The are singable, not as a popular or concert song is, but with a wild kind of word music. As you read these lines, aloud or to yourself, you will probably be able to understand why Poe was considered so skillful a poet. The rhythms of "Israfel" are rapid; the lines move fast. The beat is strong and skillfully varied. The vowel sounds are higher than in ordinary writing, helping to make the voice that reads them sound like a musical instrument such as the harp.

It is worth nothing that some of Poe's work has nothing to do with America. Unlike those of some of his contemporaries, Poe's subjects and themes were either universal or exotic. He had little interest in the topical or everyday occurrences, seeking instead to avoid factuality or logical clarity that would make a poem understandable to the common intellect. For the most part, Poe's poems do not truly illuminate; they are not expected to have plot. He continually emphasized estrangement, disappearance, silence, oblivion, and all ideas that suggest non-being. It was the idea of approximating nothingness that most excited him in his own poetry and that of other poets.