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The City in the Sea -- Edgar Allan Poe

Forwarding Martin's poems while he's away...
(Poem #141) The City in the Sea
 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 that 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.
-- Edgar Allan Poe
This is one of Poe's typical, 'atmospheric' poems, gloomy, and with the
mystical, almost eldritch atmosphere that hints at, but never quite
reveals, the supernatural horrors lurking beneath the surface. This is
the true darker side of the sea; not the violent and death-dealing
aspect, but the 'hideously serene' waters that entomb a city ruled by
Death. Compare the descriptions of the sea in Coleridge's 'Rime of the
Ancient Mariner', and note that for a sailor, a still sea often could
mean death - the world of difference between 'calm' and 'becalmed' - and
'hideously serene' becomes less of an oxymoron.

Formwise, the verse seems to be a bit less regular than usual, with
several breaks in the metre, most notably omitted unstressed syllables.
Examining some of the latter, phrases like 'dim west' and 'dull tide'
suggest that Poe's aim was to create a heavy, deadening effect. I won't
go over the formal analysis in detail, except to note that the long line
in the first verse ('where the good and the bad...) might be influenced
by Coleridge's "the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky" (and then,
again, it might not, but it's an interesting point.)


fane: A temple

Poe-related stuff: See Poem #85

39 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

TeQuieroDre1207 said...

what is this poem really talking about and what does the topic and title
mean? please write back for school paper
thanx, amanda

rawls_b said...

Hi, I am not an expert or even pretend to be good a poetry analisis. I am a Poe fan and find that many of his themes are the same. In this poem I believe that he is refereing to the Earth as a whole. he discusses the greatness of it and its ever decline. it is becoming a hell. Once standing great but no on its ever decline. The whole best and worst gathering is a perfect reference to earth's inhabitance and death is seated to take over and none will escape.

Wether this is what Poe intended I like the inturpritation and it is intertaining and makes you think and changes your perspective. As i said before this is probubly not right so don't take it to the press. I do know that The City In The Sea was not the original title so if that will help you :) Good luck and go Poe

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