I purchase this tome over six years ago for English literature class my junior year of high school. According to the highlighting within, my classmates and I assigned four poems – “Fairy-Land”, “To Helen”, “Dream-Land”, and “The Raven” – and five tales – Ligeia, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Purloined Letter – during the section of the course on Poe. However, I’m not sure I ever actually read all of these poems and tales due to some health issues that caused me to miss chunks of class. Either way, this hefty collection has been sitting on my shelf for far too long.
The first sixty-two pages include an introduction to Poe and the works within by Benjamin F. Fisher as well as seventeen poems. Poe is one interesting character! His middle name comes from his foster parents who eventually disinherited him and left him to live in poverty. Poe desperately wanted to be known as a poet; he only wrote tales because they were more financially lucrative.
I had no idea Poe as “repeatedly been associated with the antebellum South” (pg. xv). Reading his poems conjured up images of a rainy New England for me! The introduction delves into how Poe shaped Gothic literature and American literature. Gothic literature typically “call up anxieties and power plays leading to tragedy” through “an alienated protagonist in an alien world” (pg. xviii). I didn’t see much of this in the seventeen poems included in this tome, which the introduction says are “visionary because the setting or the protagonist’s emotions are consequent outlook are expressed using primarily visual symbolism or vivid imagery” (pg. xix). This in evident in many of Poe’s poems, including “The Lake – To –”:
“…so lovely was the loneliness
of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
and the tall pines that towered around” (pg. 7)
I was surprised at how many colloquialisms used in English are derived from Poe’s poems. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary” is the opening line of “The Raven” (pg. 24) while “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” comes from “A Dream within a Dream” (pg. 36). I still haven’t figured out how to analyze poetry so I’m afraid I won’t be able to dwell on this collection for too long. His “Sonnet – Silence”, “Dream-Land”, and “The Lake – To –” were probably my three favorite poems, but I in no way reached the same conclusion as Fisher does in his introduction.
- Poe, Edgar Allan. Ed. Benjamin F. Fisher. The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Print. 642 pgs. ISBN: 9781593080648. Source: Purchased.