An Analysis of “To The River___” by Edgar Allan Poe

April 25, 2018 General Studies

“Thou art an emblem of the glow/ Of beauty- the unhidden heart-/ The playful maziness of art” (3-5). “To The River___” by Edgar Allan Poe is a poem about a young boy who is enthralled with the daughter of Old Alberto. The origin of the poem may be explained by the fact that Poe wrote it at the mere age of eighteen; a time when emotions flow freely and the mind is yet to be fully developed. The poem describes the young girl as a perfect example of raw and pure beauty through classic literary elements such as imagery, tone, rhyme, and diction.

“To the River” is a beautiful poem that compares the elegance of a young woman to a crystal clear flowing river. To analyze the poem itself, there is a rhyme scheme of A-B-A-C-C-B-D-E-D-E-F-G-F-G. With the exception of one of the rhymes it is an alternate rhyming cuplet. This style of rhyme can be encountered in many of Poe’s works including “The Raven”. Even with a similar rhyme scheme the rhythms are completely different. This has to do with the diction that Poe incorporates into each of them.

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“For in his heart, as in thy stream, / Her image deeply lies-/ His heart which trembles at the beam/ Of her soul-searching eyes. ” (11-14). The way this poem is written allows for a natural flow of words perhaps to imitate the smooth flow of the river being described. This is exactly why poetry is an art that can only be fully appreciated when read aloud. The tone and imagery of this poem are what makes it as pleasing to the imagination as it is. Throughout the entire poem there are words used such as, wandering, unhidden, looks, deeply lies, and searching.

This sets a tone of unrest and constant yearning, which could suggest that the narrator feels as if the relationship could work, but the feelings are unreciprocated. It could also be interpreted that perhaps Old Alberto, the girl’s father, is in the way of their love and they are forbidden lovers of a sort. “But when within thy wave she looks-/Which glistens then, and trembles-/Why, then, the prettiest of brooks” (7-9). These three lines are perfect examples of the imagery within the poem because they contain an image of a river with its small peeks and waves trembling and glistening in the afternoon sun.

All the while it equates the natural beauty of the river to the beauty that the young man sees in the youthful maiden. In early 1829 the Romantic era was in full swing. At this point in time Poe would be an eighteen year old enlisted in the army. After dropping out of college due to lack of funds he joined the armed forces and wrote several of his lesser known poems. They all included a romantic theme which could be a result of being isolated from the opposite sex.

The general subject or goal of the Romantic era was to compare the beauty of nature to an everyday object or person and to create a snapshot of the scene being described. “[Romanticism] Shuns the artificiality of civilization and seeks unspoiled nature, prefers youthful innocence to educated sophistication, and contemplates nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development,” (Langley 2-5) The importance of the comparison between the river is huge in this poem because the way the river is described as a “bright, clear flow”.

It shows that this river in particular is special. The majority of rivers are muddy and murky which suggests that the maiden has a sense of purity about her. The poems broader theme is that you can’t always have what you want in life because the tone of longing in the poem suggests that the narrator’s desires were unfulfilled. The combinations of rhyme, diction, tone and imagery create a polished snapshot of the purity and grandeur of the young woman. “To the River___” by Edgar Allen Poe is a simple yet striking poem about the struggles of love and desire.


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