Romance by Edgar Allan Poe

“Romance” by Edgar Allan Poe was written as a preface in his second collection of poetry “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems.” Though published in 1829, it didn’t take the title of “Romance” until it was refined and shortened on February 25, 1843. Since written during the initial period of his life, “Romance” is free from his known genres of gore and horror.  It is quite a challenge to see through the poem, for the language is hard in it. Though the poem is about two hundred years old, it is still relevant to the day. ‘Romance’ is compared with ‘birds’ in the poem.

 

Summary of Romance

Poe’s poem ‘Romance’ talks about the various level of inspiration the poet received from ‘romance’. The poet compares ‘Romance’ with two birds of totally different kind and nature. In the first part, ‘Romance’ is compared to a Paroquet (parakeet). He says that it taught him the alphabet in the wildwood, when he was still a child. At the same time, in the second stanza, the writer is older and the tone immediately changes when the condor is mentioned. This giant scary bird shakes the heavens and thunders by. The writer has no time for unimportant businesses, because, he knows that the condor is there, following him. The presence of the condor keeps him in control from whiling away his time on unimportant things.  And even when he finds some free time, he can’t spend it on the forbidden things, because his heart would feel it to be a crime.

 

Analysis of Romance

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Romance” is a poem of twenty-one lines, divided into two stanzas. Within the limitation of words, the poet reminisces what romance has done to him. The romance he talks about here is not the love shared by the beloved but a strange sense of commitment between a writer and his words. Initially, in the first stanza, he presents the innocent nature of romance in the early period. But with the volta (a pause used by poets, that indicates the change in the mood or perspective) romance turns out to be ‘condor’ which is kind of aggressive by nature.

 

Stanza one

Romance, who loves to nod and sing

With drowsy head and folded wing

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been—most familiar bird—

Taught me my alphabet to say,

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild wood I did lie,

A child—with a most knowing eye.

“Romance” by Edgar Allan Poe uses the extended ‘bird’ metaphor to describe the characteristics of Romance. Like a sleepy bird romance also likes to nod and sing sitting on a tree’s leaves filled branch. It has its wings folded and drowsy head which denotes that the bird is at ease. The poet does not see it directly but through its reflection in the lake. He sees it as a painted paroquet (parakeet). It is not something new or strange, for it is a ‘most familiar bird’ to him. It sounds like, he has known that bird (romance) for long: for it is the one that taught him the alphabet. Alphabet here means his initial writings.  It is also the one that made him ‘lisp’ for the first time. It is another reason for him to lie with the most knowing eyes when he was a child.

 

Stanza Two

Of late, eternal condor years

So shake the very Heaven on high

With tumult as they thunder by,

I have no time for idle cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky;

And when an hour with calmer wings

Its down upon my spirit flings,

That little time with lyre and rhyme

To while away—forbidden things—

My heart would feel to be a crime

Unless it trembled with the strings.

The second stanza of the poem “Romance” gives a different and contrasting perspective of romance. While presented as a bird that loves to sit on a branch like a painted bird, here turns out to be something vibrant. Like a condor, it shakes even the heaven with its ‘tumult’ and thunderous movement. Romance doesn’t allow him to think about ‘idle things’ as he observes the unquiet sky. ‘unquiet sky’ is a representation of the poet’s mind flow with romance. During an hour of its silence of the wings, it thrust itself forcefully upon the poet. Romance makes the poet feel like, the hardly spent time of his life dedicated to lyre and rhyme are forbidden things. His heart makes him feel that the time spent for that idle acts are crimes, unless, his heart beat along the strings.

 

Literary Devices Used in Romance

Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Romance’ is the best example of a lyric poem. The added quality of lyric poetry is its extensive use of rhymes and imagery, a common quality of “Romance”. The poem has plenty of end rhyming words, especially the ‘masculine rhymes’. Rhymes scheme of the poem is  ‘AABB CDCD EE FEEFE GG HIHI’. Though mainly written in Iambic tetrameter, there are a few exceptions, such as ‘Romance’ in line one, ‘shadowy’ in line four, ‘earliest’ inline eight, and ‘Heaven on’ in line twelve. The use of Alliterations reiterates the idea of the poet. In line 13, “With Tumult as they Thunder by”, the words of similar meaning are used to press on how the poet feels about the romance of the later period.

Imagery is a commonly used device that kindles the aesthetic pleasure of the readers. In ‘Romance’, the poet has used imagery leisurely throughout the poem to convey the intended idea. Descriptions like “loves to nod and sing”, “shadowy leaves”, “an hour with calmer wings” give a vivid portrayal of the poet’s opinion about romance.

The poem ‘Romance’ itself is an extended metaphor. The poet compares romance to the different attributes of ‘birds’. In the beginning, it is portrayed as a bird that is quite calm by nature. Very passive indeed for it ‘loves to nod and sing’, looks like ‘a painted paroquet’ amongst the shadowy leaves. As time progress becomes something of very responsible which doesn’t have time for the idle things that are mentioned in the first stanza.

Line break after the tenth line indicates the switch in the poet’s mood. Volta/Pause is a commonly known quality of sonnets, but here in this poem, the line break is used to indicate the pause or change of action.

 

About Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was raised by his foster parents John and Frances Allan after the death of his parents. Though Poe excelled academically at the University of Virginia, he had to leave because of his gambling debts. He joined the United States Army in 1827, the same year published his first collection, Tamerlane, and Other Poems. He published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Poe’s literary career seen tremendous growth from 1836, till his death in 1847. During this time, he published poems such as “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven”.  His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Poe is one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

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