Poe’s Use of the Mythical and Lyrical in Creating Poetic Vision
An artist who has designed greeting cards and theatrical posters, Griffith “Griff” Littlehale excels in digital techniques. In his free time, Griffith Robert Littlehale enjoys reading works of philosophy, literature, and poetry, and he considers Edgar Allan Poe a formative influence.
Best known for his short works of mystery and suspense, which prefigured genres such as horror and the detective story, Poe was also a poet who famously authored The Raven. A lesser known poem, “Serenade,” was explored in an article in the quarterly Shenandoah. The short poem begins with the lines:
So sweet the hour, so calm the time,
I feel it more than half a crime,
When Nature sleeps and stars are mute,
To mar the silence ev’n with lute.
At rest on ocean’s brilliant dyes
An image of Elysium lies:
Seven Pleiades entranced in Heaven,
Form in the deep another seven:
Using a consistent rhyme and meter, Poe creates a nighttime setting that seems to situate the reader within an exotic dream state. This “magical” quality of the nocturne is emphasized by an archaic diction, combined with references to Greek mythology. The latter include allusions to Elysium, a paradise of untouched nature famously described by Homer in The Odyssey.
Similarly, the Seven Pleiades refer to a cluster of some of the nighttime realm’s nearest and brightest stars. They take their name from seven sisters, born of the union of Pleione, a sea-spirit, and the titan Atlas. The sisters took Olympian gods as partners, which led to the birth of classic deities such as Hermes. Such mystical references, combined with a lulling iambic tetrameter, create a cadence that is similar in many ways to a lullaby. Surprisingly, for an author known for his jarring visions, Poe has created a pastoral scene that equates nighttime rest with nature, renewal, and a sense of possibility.