Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.


During a time of rebirth in literature , there was a young baby boy, Edgar Poe, born on the nineteenth of January, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. At the mere age of two, Edgar's mother died, and he was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan, from whom he received his middle name. Edgar grew up in good surroundings and attended good schools. At school in England, Edgar learned multiple languages, as well as math and history. At the age of seventeen, Edgar was attending the University of Virginia in America. Unfortunately, his father, John Allan, did not send him enough money for schooling, so Edgar was forced to drop out after less than a year. With nothing to do, Edgar picked up a heavy drinking habit, pushing himself into debt. Without any other options, Poe joined the army and began writing, including one of his least well-known poems, "To the River" ("A Short Biography").

Clearly, Edgar Allan Poe's "To the River," written during the Romanticism period of American literature in 1829, follows the once present trend of Romanticism. It is certain that nature was a contributor to the creation of this poem because Poe describes this man, Alberto's, daughter as a river (Poe, "To the River"). He describes the river as a "bright, clear flow / Of crystal, wandering water," (Poe, "To the River") which can be attributed to Alberto's daughter. She must be a well-hearted young girl of pure spirit and fierce tenacity to receive such high esteem from Mr. Poe. As with most things, this resemblance is left mostly to the reader's imagination, such that one must be able to read past the simple words on paper and visualize the freedom of a river and how it is instilled in the young girl. According to John Langley, American Romanticism "finds beauty and truth in ... the inner world of the imagination." In this scene of crystal water, there is a sense of divinity in that the river must have some sort of meaning and purpose to its beauty. Most rivers are murky and full of silt, while this particular river holds the beauty of priceless gems, so it should be asserted that the river symbolizes more than just the girl, possibly leaving traces of raw nature, not being disturbed by human interference.

This sort of purity describes another aspect of American Romanticism, as told by John Langley, that American Romanticism "seeks unspoiled nature." Since the river is so clear and seemingly flawless, it yields the thought of love for the young girl, a strong possibility as Poe was only eighteen in 1829 when "To the River" was written ("A Short Biography"). At eighteen, the male body has the tendency to allow hormones to run rampant, and these hormones could easily have affected Poe's writing. Still, nature sets up most of the stories and poems written during the American Romanticism period of evolution.

As previously described, Poe's life was entering adulthood at the time of the writing of "To the River." He was looking into women in a whole new way, and his emotions certainly helped shape some of his works. Also, his recent enrollment in the army aided in Poe's new feelings, mainly because of the stereotypical way in which soldiers talk about women. For instance, it seems to be portrayed in numerous movies and works of theatre. Also, while in the armed forces, the lust for physical attraction with the opposite sex rises, since, back in the 1800s, there were no women involved in the troops. So, to compensate, Poe most likely made his own fantasies, involving things he was familiar with, such as nature and, furthermore, rivers. In this case, he chose the river as a way to think of something he greatly wanted.

To analyze the poem itself, there is a standard rhyme scheme used that goes A-B-A-C-C-B D-E-D-E-F-G-F-G. With the exception of one rhyme, the pattern includes an alternate of rhyming cuplets. These cuplets are very common in much of Poe's works, such as "The Raven," an enchanting tale of a slightly insane man conversing with a raven who replies with only the word "nevermore." (Poe, "The Raven"). In "The Raven," Poe uses a rhyme scheme of A-B-C-B-B-B in every stanza. Both of these are rather conventional, involving repetition in multiple ways. However, despite having commonly repetitive rhyme schemes, the feelings in "To the River" are much different than those in "The Raven." For example, "To the River" is sort of a love story in which Poe corrolates the flowing river to the beauty of his friend's daughter (Poe, "To the River"), but in "The Raven," Poe describes an alternate reality where the entire story is presented in a sort of unrealistic fashion. The raven just so happens to be waiting at the window to fly inside right after a scary noise from the hallway sounds. It must be natural that the bird can also speak English, and it is interestingly coincidental that the one word the bird speaks is just right for the man to think himself to insanity (Poe, "The Raven"). The basis of "To the River" is in the beauty of nature, while "The Raven" centers itself around the psychological and surreal.

Furthermore, "To the River," attaching beautiful characteristics to a girl, is striking in resemblence to the short story "Ligeia," also by Edgar Allan Poe, describing in full detail the physical attributes of Ligeia, even though "Ligeia" was written in 1838, nine years after "To the River." Ligeia is a story of Poe's long-lost love. His descriptions of her were of such beauty and silky admirance that she seemed godly to young Mr. Poe. However, at a point, it is time for all men to move on, leave their strong admirers behind, and go forth into the said "light," and it became that time for this graceful Ligeia. So, Poe found a new maiden, Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine. He loved her, indeed, but the passion was not as strong as the love he shared with Ligeia; so, eventually, Rowena also left Mr. Poe to an untimely illness. And so, visiting Rowena on her death bed, Poe watched his second love slip out of life. Then, after staying at her side for some tim to follow, he noticed a faint groan from the bed. When he went to investigate, he noticed the corpse had a slight glow of life that soon vanished. Later, again did this noise come, followed by the same result until finally, Poe heard the corpse of his dead bride rise out of the bed, only unveil herself as his lost, precious love, Ligeia. (Poe, "Ligeia"). However, the basis of "To the River" is of the beauty and amazement in, literally, a river, corresponding with an equally beautiful girl, but "Ligeia" is of the eternal long for the love of a beautiful woman.

Also, Poe creates a sense of confusion in both this poem and short story. In "To the River," he describes the river as having a "heart which trembles at the beam / of her soul-searching eyes." (Poe, "To the River"). By saying the river is searching for something, it means this girl he likes is not interested in him, or that she is too hard for him to get, more likely the latter because of the word choice at the beginning, using his own heart as the comparison. But, in "Ligeia," Poe creates a feeling of confusion by the real story. He makes the reader think if he is truly seeing the figure of Ligeia or if he is simply insane after having lost two of his dearest loves. It seems highly unlikely that any events taking place in the story could ever come true, especially because Ligeia resurrects from the dead body of Rowena, after herself being dead longer (Poe, "Ligeia").

Finally, Poe has created some of the world's most thrilling and enthralling works of literature, including those previously discussed. For the most part, Poe was avid in Dark Romanticism, seeing that he lived during the period, and he enjoyed reading tales of death and mystery all throughout his life. "To the River" successfully displayed the deep, passionate love he had for his friend's daughter, despite being written at the mere age of eighteen, where his life was full of chaos. Still, Poe was able to create this poem in which he showed that he was capable of writing more than mystery and despair into his work, and it surely made the difference for him to be known as more than a good author.


Works Cited

"A Short Biography of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/biography.php.

Langley, John. “Romanticism 1800-1860.” Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom. 24 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://sites.google.com/site/mrlangleysroom/treasure-chest/presentations. Microsoft Powerpoint File.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "Ligeia." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/read/ligeia.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Raven." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/read/theraven.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "To the River." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/read/totheriver.