A summary of a classic Poe poem
‘To Helen’ is one of the most popular poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49). It still regularly appears in some of the best poetry anthologies – though, confusingly, Poe went on to write another poem with the same title. The ‘To Helen’ we reproduce below is, however, the famous and celebrated one. It was first published in 1831 in Poems of Edgar A. Poe, which appeared when Poe was still in his early twenties, although Poe made a few tweaks to the poem in 1845 – it is the final version that appears below. In this post, we offer some notes towards an analysis of ‘To Helen’ in terms of its form, metre, language, and meaning.
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicéan barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
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