An Annotation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The City in the Sea

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An Annotation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The City in the Sea Edgar Allan Poe had his own unique view on what poetry should be. A lecture he wrote, “The Poetic Principle,” covers his viewpoints and sheds light on many of his poems. We will use it to examine “The City in the Sea.” First, Poe felt that the goal of all poetry should be Beauty. What is poetry? It is not the mere “oral or written repetition of forms, and sounds and colors and odors, and sentiments.” No, whoever just repeats his experiences to the world in the form of song or written verse, no matter how enthusiastically he is doing it, is not attaining beauty. Even if he describes the most beautiful thing, or sings about it, this is not poetry. Poe believes that there is still something the would-be poet has not yet attained, and that is beauty. The would-be poet is only describing the beauty before us, and nothing else. He is only describing the beauty on Earth. In “The Poetic Principle” Poe states “an immortal instinct deep within the spirit of man is thus plainly a sense of the Beautiful.” The would-be poet is not satisfying that sense of poetry that Poe says we contain in our immortal spirit. Poe believes that this thirst for Beauty comes from the “immortality of Man.” This part of man, the immortal part is what brings this craving for Beauty that is not evident in this world, but only found in the eternal world of immortality, heaven. Poe states in “The Poetic Principle” that this thirst we have is “no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us, but a wild effort to reach the beauty above.” This is the reason why the would-be poet who sings of beauty on Earth is not successful, he is not appealing to the immortal part of man, he needs to reach towards... ... middle of paper ... origin. Poe states that hell is rising up, almost to meet the city, shall do the city reverence. What does it mean that Hell will do the city reverence? It means that Hell is just as beautifully adorned as this city is, with its thousand thrones, and thousand kings, and thousand kingdoms. It is clear that according to Poe, this poem is all about death and Beauty, and most of all, exciting the soul. There seems to be an action about this poem that does indeed set the heart to racing. With his repetition in the word melancholy, and with describing the city as a ghastly city in lurid waters, he is trying to emphasize Beauty through the use of melancholy descriptions. He uses Death as the eternal being that is watching over the city, the being that we can perhaps glimpse through our reading of “The City in the Sea”, thus giving us a glimpse of the eternal.

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