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.

The poem titled “Ulalume,” written by Edgar Allan Poe, is not only a very deep and meaningful poem according to the life of Poe, but it is a great example of the philosophy Dark Romanticism. The characteristics of Dark Romanticism really shine through in this gloomy piece dealing with the death of the narrator’s, Poe, loved one, his previous wife, Virginia Clemm. Poe’s life is truly the inspiration for this poem and many of his other works such as Annabel Lee. Furthermore, even other works of the Dark Romanticism period may be linked to this poem. For instance, the short story by Herman Melville titled “Bartleby, the Scrivener” shares some traits with Poe’s poem. “Ulalume” is a prime example of Poe’s tragic life expressed through his Dark Romantic writing style.

As the poem opens in a dim forest in late October (Poe, “Ulalume”), the reader is able to infer right away that the poem has a sort of ominous and dreary tone to it. Moreover, as the poem goes on, the tomb of his deceased loved one is visited (Poe, “Ulalume”). The setting alone is fundamental of Dark Romanticism in the fact that not only is it just physically dark and eerie in the forest, but the mind of the character and the reader is on edge for the length of the poem because of the mysterious mood that the writing gives off. In addition, the narrator conveys many emotions whether they are depressing due to the loss of his lover who seems to whisper to his wild mind (Poe, “Ulalume”) or they are anxious due to the strangeness of the night and situation he is dealing with. These simple qualities are basic in the philosophy of Dark Romanticism (Langley). They ultimately give the poem a seriously sinister mood.

The life of Poe was truly the inspiration and possibly the plot of this narrative poem. When Poe was twenty-one years old, he married his thirteen-year-old cousin named Virginia Clemm. They had been married for seven years when tuberculosis and hemorrhaging began which began the slow demise of Clemm. After twelve years of marriage, Clemm died, and this sent Poe into a deep depression (Sova, “Poe”). It was during this time following the death of his beloved wife in which he wrote many of his most famous works including “Ulalume.” Clearly, her death influenced Poe in such a way that he could not control himself physically, and mentally, he could only express his feelings through his writing. It is still unclear today exactly why Poe changed the name of his over to “Ulalume,” but it is assumed that it was simply a creative name that rhymed well with words ending in the sound “oo” and “oom” to add to the overall gloomy feeling (Snodgrass) and furthermore, the aspects of Dark Romanticism in the poem. While reading the poem, it is obvious to the reader that some sort of traumatic event has affected the writing of the narrative poem, and when looking into the life of Poe, the connection is simple to make.

During the period of Poe’s depression directly following the death of Virginia, Poe wrote many works expressing his feelings. One of which, titled “Annabel Lee,” follows a similar plotline, but more importantly, it deals with almost the exact same subject; the narrator and main character is grieving the loss of a loved one (Sova, “Annabel”). Again, it is easy to infer that the loss of Virginia played a huge role in the writing of Poe. Although the moods of the two poems are slightly contrasting, they send a very similar message. For instance, the passage of “Annabel Lee” that reads, “In this kingdom by the sea,/A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling/My beautiful Annabel Lee;/So that her high-born kinsmen came/And bore her away from me,/To shut her up in a sepulcher/In this kingdom by the sea” (Poe, “Annabel”) may be linked to the passage from “Ulalume that reads, “And now, as the night was senescent/And star-dials pointed to morn -/As the star-dials hinted of morn-/At the end of our path a liquescent/And nebulous lustre was born,/Out of which a miraculous crescent/Arose with a duplicate horn-/Astarte's bediamonded crescent/Distinct with its duplicate horn….And I said:‘What is written, sweet sister,/On the door of this legended tomb?’/She replied: ‘Ulalume -Ulalume -/‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!’” (Poe, “Ulalume”).
In each passage, Poe uses the same poetic device of repetition to articulate the effect of the landscape and the characters’ yearning for their loved ones.

In addition, literature written by a completely different author but a fellow writer of the Dark Romanticism period, Herman Melville, is related to Poe’s poem “Ulalume.” During Melville’s short story titled “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” the main character, Bartleby, eventually ends up being imprisoned and suffering a tragic death (Rollyson). The death of Bartleby and Ulalume are actually quite similar when taken out of the context of their respective stories. Each death is obviously tragic and each person endured a period of imprisonment. In the case of Ulalume, it was the real Virginia Clemm who went through a sort of prison stint with her bout against tuberculosis (Sova, “Poe”). Each person went through a phase of dark imprisonment leading up to their death, which ultimately left the people around them, more specifically Poe and in a strange way, The Lawyer from "Bartleby, the Scrivener," grieving the loss.

When analyzing the poem “Ulalume” more closely, it is easy to see not only the traits of Dark Romanticism, but also the inspiration from the life of the writer, Poe. This poem is an almost perfect example of a “complete” Dark Romanticism work. It offers the psychological distress and passion as well as the physical mystery and gloominess. In addition, the life of Poe, more specifically the death of his beloved wife, blatantly affected his writing by giving it that dark and depressing feel. Considering the characteristics of Dark Romanticism, Poe truthfully did provide an outstanding representation of this philosophy with his poem “Ulalume.”


Works Cited

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 A. "Annabel Lee." The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.online-literature.com/poe/576/>.

Poe, Edgar A. "Ulalume." The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.online-literature.com/poe/579/>.

Rollyson, Carl, Lisa Paddock, and April Gentry. "'Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street'." Critical Companion to Herman Melville: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CCHM0855&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).

Sova, Dawn B. "'Annabel Lee'." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe005901&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).

Sova, Dawn B. "Poe, Edgar Allan." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe0957&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "'Ulalume'." Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EGL375&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).