To Helen by Edgar Allen Poe Analysis Essay

Words: 1727
Pages: 7

“Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!”
By Edgar Allan Poe

“To Helen” by Edgar Allan Poe is a poem about a man speaking about the beauty of a woman both in body – with the potential reference to Helen of Troy – and in spirit – comparing her to the quintessential beauty of Psyche. The
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“Thy Naiad airs have brought me home” this line makes reference to the Naiads who were, in both Greek and Roman mythology, minor nature goddesses often referred to as nymphs who presided over mountains, rivers or forests. The Naiad airs would therefore be referring to a peaceful breeze. This symbolism of a Naiad airs provokes the reader to believe that the breeze is homebound and is sending the narrator towards their home.

The fact that this breeze is from the narrators home is expanded upon in the last two closing lines; “To the glory that was Greece / And the grandeur that as Rome” This ties in with the previous line stating that the breeze is indeed sending the narrator towards their native shore. The descriptions given of both Greece and Rome are reminiscent of the wonders they once were and is highly symbolic of times long gone by. The imagery of ancient and untouchable beauties is apparent throughout the entirety of the poem. The ending lines wrap up the stanza rather neatly and complete the references to the ocean that appears in the first line of the stanza.

“Lo! In yon brilliant window-niche / How statue-like I see thee stand!” This line once again opens up the stanza with a strong sense of imagery. It brings forth to the readers mind the classic silhouette of a woman against a window that is usually seen from a distance. Although possibly this clichéd vision may not have been as used back then as it is today