Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson have many similarities in their poetry and lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are many differences in style and their views. Both of them are great representatives of American Romantic movement having their own taste and personal opinion. Living during the same period of time and region, they have distinct self-expression that has not as much in common as it could be. In this paper we will try to compare and contrast Poe and Dickinson. As an example we will describe their two poems – I Died for Beauty by Emily Dickinson and Annabelle Lee by Edgar Allan Poe.
Firstly it should be noticed that two poets – Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickens have many similarities in their lives. Both of them where born in Boston, the state Massachusetts in 1809 and both of them lived in England and America since then. During their life, poets where interested in similar things like history and literature. Living at the same time and having many obstacles and looses in their lives, they isolated from the real world. Emily Dickinson lived like an outcast of society. She has chosen solitude as a refuge and salvation from the violent and cruel world. She was afraid of new acquaintances and friendship because she did not wanted loosing connection between two people and to break her heart. Edgar Allan Poe had other methods to escape from a real world. He used alcohol and drugs to destruct himself slowly in a form of suicide. Poe died at the age of forty as a result of conscious and deliberate suicide.
Speaking about their poetry and common features, we can say that their works act like pictures that appear in the readers mind. Their poems are about darkness mostly and about loneliness. Both of them write about sorrow, loss and death. That is why, it is clear that they worked in one Gothic written style. Dark poems, short stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe are mystical and depressive. He, reflecting his point of view, describes macabre and pure beauty as a nightmare and shows pain through it. Detective stories and romantic episodes intrigue and inspire the reader.
For example, in a poem Annabel Lee, he writes about love and loneliness “The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, went envying her and me – Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea) That wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing by Annabel Lee” (X.J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, Poe, 633). Here, feelings of separation, desperateness and loss are shown as inevitable, but sad. Poe`s perception of beauty is shown in depressive moods and their decadence beauty. Emily Dickinson uses similar associations to put them in Poetry.
For example in the poem I Died For beauty, she states “I died fir beauty, but was scarce Adjusted in a tomb, When one who died for truth was lain In an adjoining room” (Vendler, Dickinson, 448). She expresses her sadness but also tragic beauty of death and art. In her isolation she created and described her own perception of beauty and fear.
In accordance to differentiate them, we can state that Poe, not being an outsider, had wider range of themes and ways of expressing this. Emily Dickinson wrote straightly from her own observations, that is why, her poetry is more personalized and subjective. Emily expressed herself in an artistic clear language, when Poe showed depth of his feelings through different allusions and complicated metaphors. As a woman, Dickinson wrote more about her perception of beauty and accentuated on this. When she tries to reach those feelings using her own imagination, Allan Poe creates mystic dreamy world that absorbs a reader.
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Comparing mentioned earlier two poems, we can say, that, Poe`s poetry is more picturesque, as he describes surrounding and imagery characters. Annabel Lee is his last major poem in which he shows his real dark side. It is an intense poem about a young girl whom he loves and looses. Starting like a fairy tale, he accentuates on their feeling of strong love. Their parting is very painful to him. The last phrase in this poem “the sounding sea” makes a reader think of the booming roar of the ocean, strangely and mystically terrifying and cold. There is no happy end just a sense of broken heart.
Dickinson, in I Died for Beauty, speaking from herself, shows her attitude not focusing on anything else. “Although this poem gives no specifics as to how the speaker and her neighbor in the tomb died for Beauty and Truth, Dickinson`s poetry as a whole gives evidence of why these ideas are worth dying for” (Leiter, 94). Dickinson, according to Cameron, asks the reader to accept the state that she is already dead (Cameron, 209).
To sum up, we can say, that Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, having tortured souls and bad memories from the past described beauty of their inner world. Their dark philosophical and metaphorical way to express themselves is a key point in their poetry. They highlighted similar themes of fear, death and depression. Poe accentuated more on visualizing fairy tale and nightmare scenes while Emily Dickinson made an accent on her own perception of beauty and feelings of sorrow and depression. Being one of the most influential and great representatives of American literature of 19th century, they highlighted decadence themes, despair and macabre inner world.
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