Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spirits of the Dead by Edgar Allan Poe

It's October which means that Halloween is only a few weeks away.  I've always loved Halloween.  And of course for a lover of poetry, can Halloween be Halloween without some Edgar Allen Poe? Today's poem is not one that I was very familiar with, but I did a little research about it.  I love Poe's poetry, and this poem is no exception. I hope you enjoy.

Spirits of the Dead
by Edgar Allan Poe

Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne'er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

"Spirits of the Dead" was first titled "Visits of the Dead" when it was published in the 1827 collection Tamerlane and Other Poems. The title was changed for the 1829 collection Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. The poem follows a dialogue between a dead speaker and a person visiting his grave. The spirit tells the person that those who one knows in life surround a person in death as well.

He personifies the night time and stars saying that they will not look down, but they will seem to give a 'burning fever,' a desire to live in the mortal world. It is observed through the poem that he is lamenting about the loss of his wife, Virginia Clemm Poe, and how her leaving him has deeply grieved him. The mood of the poem is that of sadness, depression, brooding oppression and dismay. However, the mood has a slight shift from sadness to anger, then to resignation. It is observed through the imagery of change from dark, night, tombstone, to red, fever, glowing, burning, and finally mist, breath, and breeze. This shows that he finally had come to terms from being frustrated and aggravated to a resignation that death occurs as and when it wants to, and it is only a matter of time before one has to give in to death. In conclusion, the enigma of life and death that goes full circle is reflected in his choice of words, specifically in the first and last stanza. The word "secrecy" in the first stanza is echoed in the words "mystery of mysteries" in the last stanza. Hence, Poe's "Spirits of the Dead" has a denouement that echoes its beginning, brining it full circle, just like life and death itself.

The picture above the poem is I guess a sexy Headless Horseman.  So what will be your costume this Halloween?


Anonymous said...

I learned a lot about Poe at the Poe Museum here in Richmond. There's even a legend that he and his little sister still roam the grounds where he grew up.

Nice piece, as you mentioned, it's not one you usually see.

Peace <3

silvereagle said...

Great and appropriately timed....as for my costume this year, picture a mature (certainly not "old" guy on a walker learning to use his new right knee that will be replaced on Oct 10 -- Well, by Halloween, he may be on a cane...At any rate, no way to carry his pumpkin head around as the young man in the photo does --- Damn!! Wish I could!!!