10 Most Famous Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American writer who is one of the most influential and popular figures of American literature. His poetry is famous for its dark romanticism and he often used the theme of the death of a young, beautiful woman. Poe’s poems appear throughout popular culture and lines from them are often quoted. Here are the 10 most famous poems by Edgar Allan Poe.

#10 Lenore

Published:1843

Poem:-

Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!--a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?--weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read--the funeral song be sung!--
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young--
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
"And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her--that she died!
"How shall the ritual, then, be read?--the requiem how be sung
"By you--by yours, the evil eye,--by yours, the slanderous tongue
"That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?"

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride--
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes--
The life still there, upon her hair--the death upon her eyes.

"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
"But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
"Let no bell toll!--lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
"Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
"To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven--
"From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven--
"From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven."

Synopsis:-

A Paean was the original title of this poem and it was first published as part of an early collection in 1831. The poem follows Poe’s favorite theme of the death of a beautiful woman which he called “the most poetical topic in the world”. It discusses the death of a woman named Lenore. There are at least two different speakers in the poem among who is Guy De Vere, Lenore’s grieving lover. A character by the name of Lenore is also mourned in Poe’s masterpiece The Raven, adding to the fame of this poem.


#9 The City in the Sea

Published:1845

Poem:-

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers and tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy Heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently—
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free—
Up domes—up spires—up kingly halls—
Up fanes—up Babylon-like walls—
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers—
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye—
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass—
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea—
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave—there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide—
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow—
The hours are breathing faint and low—
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

Synopsis:-

First published as The Doomed City in 1831, the final version of the poem was retitled The City in the Sea when it was published in 1845. The poem tells the story of a city in the west ruled by a personification of Death. The city is predestined for catastrophe, and in the end, the waves turn red and the city begins to fall into the sea. The descent into the sea is portrayed as a descent into hell. The City in the Sea is considered one of the best poems from Poe’s early years.


#8 Eldorado

Published:1849

Poem:-

Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,   
   Had journeyed long,   
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old—
   This knight so bold—   
And o’er his heart a shadow—   
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength   
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—   
   ‘Shadow,’ said he,   
   ‘Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?’

   ‘Over the Mountains
   Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,   
   Ride, boldly ride,’
   The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

Synopsis:-

El Dorado (Spanish for “the golden one”) was initially a term used to describe a mythical tribal chief in the New World but with time the legend changed to make it a city or a kingdom. Several unsuccessful expeditions took place in search of El Dorado. Poe’s poem describes the journey of a “gallant knight” in search of the legendary El Dorado. The poem might be a reference to the unsuccessful quest of Poe, or humans in general, for impossible to achieve dreams. It might also be a comment on the California Gold Rush, which was taking place at the time.



#7 The Haunted Palace

Published:1839

Poem:-

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A wingèd odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute’s well-tunèd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
Porphyrogene!
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh—but smile no more.

Synopsis:-

One of Poe’s most popular works, The Haunted Palace uses a decaying and haunted mansion as a chilling metaphor for insanity. The poem starts with a beautiful stately palace but it is destroyed by the end with its residents becoming phantoms. It can be interpreted as a representation of how negative thoughts attack the mind plunging it into darkness and depression. The Haunted Palace was incorporated in the famous short story by Poe titled The Fall of the House of Usher, which was published later that year.


#6 To Helen

Published:1831

Poem:-

Helen, thy beauty is to me
   Like those Nicéan 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!

Synopsis:-

Edgar Allan Poe wrote this poem in honor of Jane Stanard, the mother of a childhood friend who had died recently and to whom he was very close. The use of the name Helen instead of Jane in the poem is most probably Poe’s way of connecting Stanard to the famous Helen of Troy. One of Poe’s most famous poems, To Helen celebrates the nurturing power of woman. Its lines “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome” have been referred to as one of “Poe’s finest and most famous lines”.



#5 The Bells

Published:1849

Excerpt:-

I.

        Hear the sledges with the bells—
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Read Full Poem Here

Synopsis:-

Diacope is when a writer repeats a word or phrase with one or more words in between. The Bells is known for the diacopic use of the word “bells” and for its musicality. Published after the death of Poe, the poem can be divided into four parts – the silver bells of youth and excitement; the golden wedding bells of romance and marriage; the alarm bells of brass suggesting descent into terror and despair; and finally the iron bells of death. Though there can be several interpretations, The Bells is most often interpreted as a representation of the human life cycle from the excitement of youth to the horror of death.


#4 Alone

Published:1875

Poem:-

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

Synopsis:-

This is a 22-line untitled poem which was written by Poe in 1829 after the death of his foster mother Frances Allan. It was unpublished during his lifetime and was first published in Scribner’s Monthly with the title Alone in September 1875. It is seen as an autobiographical work expressing Poe’s feelings of isolation and inner torment when he was 20 years old. In the poem, the narrator presents his thoughts in first-person from the perspective of an adult looking back on his lonely childhood. The tone of the poem is dark with lines like “And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone.” Alone is seen as one of Poe’s most revealing works.



#3 A Dream Within a Dream

Published:1849

Poem:-

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone? 
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Synopsis:-

In this poem the narrator questions whether it is really important that life has robbed him of purpose, ambition or love since it all feels like a dream. He compares important things in life slipping away to the slipping away of grains of sands he holds in his hand; and unable to hold on to even one grain leads him to the question whether it is possible to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The poem’s line “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” is one of the most popular quotations from the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.


#2 Annabel Lee

Published:1849

Poem:-

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.

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 the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Synopsis:-

This was the last complete poem of Edgar Allan Poe and was published in New York Tribune on 9th October 1849, two days after his death. The poem follows one of Poe’s recurrent themes — the death of a young, beautiful, and dearly loved woman. The narrator, who fell in love with Annabel Lee when they were young, believes that their love was so intense that angels became envious and caused her death. He retains his love for her even after her death and is sure they will be reunited. Annabel Lee is thought to be written by Poe in memory of his wife Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, who had died a couple of years earlier.


#1 The Raven

Published:1845

Excerpt:-

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.

Read Full Poem Here

Synopsis:-

In January 1845, The Raven appeared in the New York Evening Mirror and became an immediate popular sensation. It was soon reprinted, parodied and illustrated; and made Poe a household name. The poem tells the story of an unnamed lover who, while lamenting the death of his beloved Lenore, is visited by a talking raven. The raven enhances his distress with its constant repetition of the word “Nevermore”, slowly plunging him into madness. The poem makes use of a number of folk and mythological references; and is noted for its stylized language and supernatural atmosphere. It influenced numerous later works including the famous painting Nevermore by Paul Gauguin. The Raven is not only the most famous poem of Edgar Allan Poe but also one of the most renowned in English literature.



3 thoughts on “10 Most Famous Poems by Edgar Allan Poe”

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