Suvarna Garge (Editor)

To Helen

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Works by Edgar Allan Poe, Other books

Tom hanks reciting a poem edgar allan poe to helen

"To Helen" is the first of two poems to carry that name written by Edgar Allan Poe. The 15-line poem was written in honor of Jane Stanard, the mother of a childhood friend. It was first published in 1831 collection Poems of Edgar A. Poe. It was then reprinted in 1836 in the Southern Literary Messenger.


Edgar allan poe to helen thy beauty is to me poem animation


In "To Helen," Poe is celebrating the nurturing power of woman. Poe was inspired in part by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, particularly in the second line ("Like those Nicean barks of yore") which resembles a line in Coleridge's "Youth and Age" ("Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore").

Poe revised the poem in 1845, making several improvements, most notably changing "the beauty of fair Greece, and the grandeur of old Rome" to "the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome." Poe biographer Jeffrey Meyers referred to these as "two of Poe's finest and most famous lines".


In referring to Helen, Poe may be alluding to Helen of Troy who is considered to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived - according to the goddess Venus in the myth referred to as The Judgement of Paris. Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships" such as the "Nicean barks" of the poem. Poe also refers to Helen as Psyche, a beautiful princess who became the lover of Cupid. Psyche represented the soul to ancient Greeks, and Poe is comparing Helen to the very soul of "regions which are Holy Land" meaning the soul of Greece from which so much of our ideals of beauty, democracy and learning sprang forth. In ancient Greek, the name Helen literally means "sunlight; bright as the dawn". Her "agate lamp" may refer to the moment when Psyche discovered the true identity of Cupid by shining a lamp on him at night; it also refers to the enlightened knowledge of the ancient world, which still influences Western culture today. Guy Davenport has asserted that Poe is "normally far more exact that he is given credit for":

  • This poem inspired "Banolata Sen" by 20th century Bengali poet Jibanananda Das.
  • The poem is recited by Tom Hanks in the 2003 Coen Brothers film The Ladykillers.
  • The poem is used by Dennis Barlow to seduce Aimée Thanatogenos in The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  • References

    To Helen Wikipedia

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