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An Evening With Poe
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The Comedy of Terrors
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Alone
A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site
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Type of Work
Background
Point of View
Tone
End Rhyme
Meter
Summary
Text of the Poem
Theme
Figures of Speech
Biography
Questions, Writing Topics
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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings... 2011
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Type of Work and Publication

.......Edgar Allan Poe's "Alone" is a lyric poem of twenty-two lines.The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore has provided the following information about its composition and publication:

Poe wrote this poem in the autograph album of Lucy Holmes, later Lucy Holmes Balderston. The poem was never printed during Poe’s lifetime. It was first published by E. L. Didier in Scribner’s Monthly for September of 1875, in the form of a facsimile [exact reproduction]. The facsimile, however, included the addition of a title and date not on the original manuscript. That title was “Alone,” which has remained. Doubts about its authenticity, in part inspired by this manipulation, have since been calmed. The poem is now seen as one of Poe’s most revealing works. (Edgar Allan Poe Society. "Original”. 5 Aug. 2011. 12 September 2011.<http://eapoe.org/works/poems/alonea.htm>)
Background

.......Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. Not long after his father abandoned his wife and Edgar, Mrs. Poe died. Edgar was left alone. A childless coupleJohn Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Va., and his wifeadopted Edgar. Allan was believed to be Poe’s godfather. At age six, Poe went to England and Scotland with the Allans and received schooling there. 
.......After he returned with the Allans to the U.S. in 1820, he studied at private schools and then attended the University of Virginia for eleven months but had to withdraw because he incurred gambling debts that Allan refused to pay. When Edgar returned to Richmond, he discovered that the girl he loved had become engaged. After moving to Boston, he published several poems but lack of money forced him to join the army. Meanwhile, his foster mother died. Allan was able to help him enroll at West Point Military Academy, but Poe got himself expelled after refusing to attend classes and other activities. 
.......Thereafter, Poe and his father became estranged, and Poe was once again without a family. However, he then began pursuing a writing career in New York, Baltimore, and Richmond and achieved some success but also began drinking heavily. His experiences and his temperament led him to focus on tales of horror and the grotesque and poems that often focus on death. Click here for additional biographical information

Point of View

.......The speaker presents his thoughts in first-person point of view from the perspective of an adult looking back on his childhood.

Tone

.......The tone of the poem is somber and dark, reinforced by such words as sorrow, alone, stormy, thunder, and demon

End Rhyme

.......The poem consists of eleven rhyming couplets. (A couplet is a pair of rhyming lines.) The first four lines demonstrate the rhyming pattern.

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
Meter

The first twelve lines of the poem are in iambic tetrameter. Lines 1-4 demonstrate the pattern.

.......1.......................2...................3.............4
From CHILD..|..hood’s HOUR..|..I HAVE..|..not BEEN

.....1.................2...................3.............4
As OTH..|..ers WERE..|..I HAVE..|..not SEEN

.....1.................2..................3...............4
As OTH..|..ers SAW..|..I COULD..|..not BRING

.....1..................2..................3.................4
My PAS..|..sions FROM..|..a COM..|..mon SPRING

At line 13, Poes changes to trochaic tetrameter, as lines 13-17 demonstrate. Lines 14 and 18 are catalectic (having a final incomplete foot).
......1..................2................3...............4
FROM the..|..TOR..rent,..|..OR the..|..FOUN tain—
......1.................2...............3...............4

FROM the..|..RED cliff..|..OF the..|..MOUN tain—

......1..................2.................3..................4
FROM the..|..SUN that..|..ROUND me..|..ROLL'D 
...1.............2...............3............4

IN its..|..AU tumn..|..TINT of..|..GOLD— 

Summary
By Michael J. Cummings

.......Since his childhood, the speaker says, he has been unlike others. His upbringing—his emotions—did not develop in a typical family setting. In fact, he was alone most of the time, a melancholy child. Everything he loved, he says, he loved alone. His temperament and personality came from every "depth of good and ill" (line 11) around him—from violent torrents and calm fountains, from red cliffs, the sun, lightning, thunder, and a cloud shaped like a demon.

Text

From childhood’s hour1 I have not been
As others were—I have not seen 
As others saw—I could not bring 
My passions from a common spring2— 
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.

Notes

1.....hour: Years of childhood.
2.....common spring: The experiences that everyone else draws upon. 
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Theme

.......Being alone as a child can lead to a "stormy life" shaped by both good and bad influences.

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Figures of Speech

Anaphora

.......Poe frequently uses anaphora, a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of a clause or another group of words. Anaphora imparts emphasis and balance. Here are boldfaced examples from "Alone":

I have not been
As others wereI have not seen 
As others saw—I could not bring

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— 


.......Following are examples of other figures of speech from the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.

Alliteration

And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

As others were—I have not seen 
As others saw—I could not bring 

From the same source I have not taken 
My sorrow—I could not awaken

From the torrent, or the fountain— 

Metaphor
  in the dawn
Of a most stormy life
Comparison of a lifetime to a day
Author Information

.......Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. After being orphaned at age two, he was taken into the home of a childless coupleJohn Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Va., and his wife. Allan was believed to be Poe’s godfather. At age six, Poe went to England with the Allans and was enrolled in schools there. After he returned with the Allans to the U.S. in 1820, he studied at private schools, then attended the University of Virginia and the U.S. Military Academy, but did not complete studies at either school. 
.......After beginning his literary career as a poet and prose writer, he married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm. He worked for several magazines and joined the staff of the New York Mirror newspaper in 1844. All the while, he was battling a drinking problem. After the Mirror published his poem “The Raven” in January 1845, Poe achieved national and international fame. Besides pioneering the development of the short story, Poe invented the format for the detective story as we know it today. He also was an outstanding literary critic. 
.......Despite the acclaim he received, Poe was never really happy because of his drinking and because of the deaths of several people close to him, including his wife in 1847. He frequently had trouble paying his debts. It is believed that heavy drinking was a contributing cause of his death in Baltimore on October 7, 1849. 

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Study Questions and Writing Topics
  • Write an essay that focuses on the good and ill (line 11) that influenced Poe.  
  • Write a short poem about yourself. Use rhyming couplets throughout. 
  • Everyone has good and bad sides, as Poe did. Tell your class about how your bad side once got you into trouble—or about how your good side helped another person or rewarded you in some way. 
  • Most of the couplets in the poem have masculine rhyme, in which only the final syllable of one line rhymes with the final syllable of another line. Other couplets have feminine rhyme. Define feminine rhyme and identify the two examples of it in the poem. 
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