By Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Thou wast all that to me, love,
For which my soul did pine-
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
"Onward!"- but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!
For, alas! alas! with me
The light of Life is o'er!
"No more- no more- no more,"
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree
Or the stricken eagle soar!
And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams-
In what ethereal dances,
By what Italian streams.
[Note: The last stanza, in some books, is omitted.]
Alas! for that accursed time
They bore thee o'er the billow,
From Love to titled age and crime,
And an unholy pillow!--
From me, and from our misty clime
Where weeps the silver willow!
Poe, Edgar Allan. "To One in Paradise." The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. New York: Random House, 1965. pp 962.
Poe's doleful poem, "To One in Paradise," deals with the loss of a significant other. The narrator says that love between he and the lady was all he ever wanted. He compares the object of his affection to various tangible elements in life. He feels that the love he and the assumed woman shared was too good to last; now his one, true love affair is over, fallen victim to the grave. He is so distraught that he assures the reader that even nature will echo his pain. He is like a dead man walking, miserable and alone. It is in this way that a universal "love and death" theme is utilized, as love is acted upon by death in this piece.
In "To One in Paradise," both mechanical and figurative literary devices are used. Poe uses apostrophe throughout the piece, as he addresses a dead woman he loved; I would imagine that the deceased is, in reality, Poe's dead young wife Virginia. Other literary devices the author uses include are metaphors. He says that the woman's love was, "A green isle in the sea, love/A fountain and a shrine,/All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers," (lines 3-6). The last two lines from the aforementioned passage also include a glaring example of alliteration, with "fountain," "fairy," "fruits," and "flowers." Also, in line 16, Poe repeats, "No more" three times, when one would suffice. As it were, it almost seems as if he is saying "no more" over and over again to reassure himself that 'she' really is gone. He says, "And all my hours are trances,/And all my nightly dreams/Are where thy dark eye glances,/And where thy footstep gleams--," (lines 21-24). Poe alludes to his love's everlasting presence, even in death, as memories of her and their ardor permeate his thoughts both in waking hours and in his dreams. It almost seems to be that Poe uses a pseudo-synecdoche in lines 29 and 30. "From Love to titled age and crime, And an unholy pillow!--" is a brief reference to life in its entirety as merely love and death, mere parts of the human experience as a whole. Even "death" itself is never directly mentioned, merely alluding to it. Lastly, Poe's brooding voice uses negative connotations when at all possible. Instead of saying, "weeping willow," a well-known and harmless tree, he writes, "where weeps the silver willow," line 32 again using personification of inanimates and the aforementioned negativity.