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"To Zante"

Fair isle, that from the fairest of all flowers,
Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take!
How many memories of what radiant hours
At sight of thee and thine at once awake!
How many scenes of what departed bliss! (5)
How many thoughts of what entombed hopes!
How many visions of a maiden that is
No more––no more upon thy verdant slopes!
No more! alas, that magical sad sound
Transforming all! Thy charms shall please no more–– (10)
Thy memory no more! Accursed ground
Henceforth I hold thy flower-enameled shore,
O hyacinthine isle! O purple Zante!
"Isola d'oro! Fior di Levante!"

So this poem made me laugh because it is just silly! It is a Shakespearean sonnet, which to me just has a wonderfully entertaining rhythm to the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG! (While typing that, I would like to inform everyone that, yes, I did in fact do a little dance.) Poe has described this island that seems to be the very reason for the narrator's existence––it is just beyond perfect. Suddenly, I am sure a few people are wishing they had gone to Zante instead of the DR for spring break. Upon first read, I thought for sure that Zante was an imaginary place, as it is too perfect. But it is an actual island in Greece in the Ionian Sea. Apparently it is a popular travel destination for the rich and spoiled... Spring break for Class of 2013 sounds appropriate in my mind. (Mind you, I am only being slightly judgmental.)

Structure wise, this is a textbook sonnet: fourteen lines, consistent rhyme scheme, ends in a couplet. This is a Shakespearean or English sonnet, which as I have already stated has that catchy scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG (behold, more dancing). The only tricky spot I see in this poem is the rhyme with "bliss" (5) and "is" (7) but it would be considered a bit more of a slant rhyme. Line 14 has a crazy foreign language. I thought it to be Spanish, then maybe Portuguese. Turns out that it is Italian and loosely translates to "Golden Island! Eastern Flowers!" Not quite as exciting for a travel brochure as "Isola d'oro! Fior di Levante!"

As far as the message and deeper meaning of this poem, my best guess is somewhere along the lines of someone talking about how his deepest desire was to travel to Zante. Perhaps he was studying these eastern flowers. Zante is described as magical and almost mythological that could stir emotions in any man. He has pegged his life's work on this land and wants desperately to see it. [Or maybe Poe could have really wanted to go to Greece. I might be paraphrasing.] But upon reinvestigating this poem once more––it is short enough to look at this four or five times to plan an AP essay––I find in lines 5 and 6 some words that change my entire view of the poem: "departed" and "entombed." These words bring to mind an image of death or memories of the dead. Does the narrator envision the After Life to be something similar of Zante? It is described so beautifully that it is certainly a heaven I might enjoy. Line 8 describes "verdant slopes," meaning green from the French vert. In the horse world, we often compare death (for the sake of the children mostly) to greener pastures, which only enforces this thought of Zante being Heaven.

If you, dear classmate, would like to visit this Heaven on Earth Paradise Island of Magic and Fantasy, good news! You can! For your viewing pleasure, I have attached the tourism site here so that you might see this place and possibly plan a destination. When you do go, please let me stow away in your carry on! I want to go!

"The Conqueror Worm"

Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears, (5)
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly– (10)
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Woe! (15)

That motley drama––oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowed that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in (20)
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude! (25)
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!––it writhes!––with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at bermin fangs (30)
In human gore imbued.

Out––out are the lights––out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm, (35)
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

Comparing "The Conqueror Worm" to "To Zante" is shows just how varied Poe can be. This poem is much longer, 39 lines, and has a much deeper meaning even at first glance. It is quite a strange metaphor, this poem. Essentially, people are starring in a play. Angels are the audience, but they cannot do anything to help people from being eaten by the Conqueror Worm. It is a complex poem because the story is about two sets of people: the angels and the people. It is not necessarily plot and sub-plot, as each is equally important to the story.

In the play, the people are being controlled by the unseen forces of Madness, Sin, and Horror. They are bent to the wills of these forces. The tragedy then lies in the hearts of the angels, who want to help but simply cannot. Then the Conqueror Worm attacks and devours the people. I wonder now if this is a comment that Poe has against God, claiming that maybe the Deists have it right and God, or the angels to a lesser extent, simply cannot or will not help people. Could this even be Poe claiming that God is useless? I am still quite confused about this poem and I am going to need to look at it a few more times...

Structurally speaking, it really is not as complicated as the story. It is very predictable and very structured with the scheme ABABCBCB in ever eight line stanza. It varies from iambic tetrameter to iambic pentameter. Poe makes his poetry more powerful in the scheme. There are certain aspects of the poem that stand out more: the phrases accented with dashes and exclamation points. He makes these words stand out in that it breaks up the steady predictability of the rhythm.

So it has next to nothing to do with this poem, but when I read this poem for the first time, I immediately thought of one of my favorite camp songs, Herman the Worm. The precious children are just an added cute-bonus.


Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song, (5)
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old––
This knight so bold––
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found (10)
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow–– (15)
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be––
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon, (20)
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied––
"If you seek for Eldorado!" (24)

So one thing that made me choose this poem was the part in Candide where Candide and Cacambo found Eldorado... It was relevant in my mind, so I just wanted to share it. I also love the Dreamworks movie The Road to El Dorado because it was absolutely hysterical and is one of my top choices for a sick day. On a scale of 1 to Cheesy, I would say it ranks about Velveeta.

This poem is very different from the rest of Poe's work. Poe is usually so dark and depressing and basically convinces his readers that there is no point to trying in life. But "Eldorado" is an homage to the journey of life and the pursuit of happiness! People struggle, and Poe recognizes this. People have goals that they work towards, and Poe honors this in his poem. It makes me wonder if he is almost congratulating himself on stepping out on a limb and struggling for his passion. In Poe's day and age, people did not attempt to make a living solely as a writer, which is another reason to admire Poe: he is a pioneer of his craft. Unfortunately, Poe's journey did not end well, but this particular poem does not represent that.

The rhyme scheme is AABCCB with an iambic meter... It switches from two stresses to three stress, and that is also in a consistent pattern. The first two lines and the fourth and fifth lines of each stanza have two stressed syllables, and the third and sixth lines have three stresses. It shows the consistency of effort that people must put forth to achieve goals.

Because I love The Road to El Dorado so much, and Poe's poem is about El Dorado (and hard work), I thought I would share the funniest cheesy movie of the year 2000. Please enjoy. The quality is not great, but it is free and so far has not been deleted by Youtube or the government so for the moment is slightly legal... Enjoy!

"A Dream Within A Dream"

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow––
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream; (5)
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem (10)
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–– (15)
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep! –– while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp? (20)
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? (24)

Upon first reading the title of this poem, all I thought was Chris Nolan's Inception. I realize that, not having seen the movie, I am probably way off, but what information I have gleaned from various discussions and memes based on the movie, it has something to do with dreams... (And suddenly I am thinking of the South Park episode "Insheeption" based on Inception and Hoarders. Highly recommend watching that for a good laugh.) This poem and the movie are quite unrelated, other than the phrase "a dream within a dream," but I found this poem (and this explication) much more enthralling to read/write when I listened to the movie's score (and I am quite sure I have every Hans Zimmer soundtrack from the last year and various others from years pas because Hans Zimmer is the king of scores, second only to my first love John Williams). So right now, I recommend reading (or rereading) the poem listening to either "Time" or "Dream is Collapsing" because they add another dimmension to this poem.

The first stanza shows the speaker and a lover parting ways after what seemed like such an easy and perfect relationship. We are not sure why they are parting, but the speaker is almost relaxed. There is no description of shouting or anger or tears or begging. There is almost no emotion other than a final kiss on the forehead. It seems like the speaker is almost bored by how comfortable his relationship was, and perhaps that is why he left. Then comes the second stanza. It stands in sharp contrast to the first stanza. Where the first stanza showed little emotion, the second stanza shows the speaker almost hysterical with emotion. Line 18 especially, to me at least, shows very strong feelings. The speaker is almost gasping for air, exasperated by his sorrow. He is not upset about dropping the sand; it is what the sand represents. Picture an hourglass. An hourglass shows the passage of time. What is an hourglass filled with? Sand. The speaker fears the passage of time, which most likely is what split himself and his lover. They simply grew apart as time passed. Perhaps here on this beach he is truly aware of how precious time is.

As far as structure goes, there is no consistency. The stanzas are not equivalent in length, with stanza one having eleven lines and stanza two having twelve lines. The rhyme scheme is also inconsistent. Poe uses couplets and triplets, with couplets taking the majority. It almost makes me wonder if the speaker's lover fell for someone else, with the triplets representing the love triangle that messed with the perfect chemistry of the two. The triplets seem to break the rhythm. To me, even numbers have resolve. Odd numbers do not. So when I see triplets, I look for that magic fourth rhyme that brings a complete feeling. Poe does not resolve his triplets, which reads in my head as pure frustration. It effectively puts my mind in the place of the speaker. His frustration and anger is only to cover his sorrow in his heartbreak.