Sonnet: To Science By Edgar Allan Poe. A Presentation by Neeta Dixit (Roll No. 06D02016). Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American poet, short-story writer, editor and literary critic, and is considered part of the American Romantic Movement.
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A Presentation by
Neeta Dixit (Roll No. 06D02016)
writer, editor and literary critic, and is considered part of the
American Romantic Movement.
movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century
in Western Europe, and gained strength during the Industrial
Revolution. It was partly a revolt against aristocratic social and
political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction
against the scientific rationalization of nature, and was
embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature.
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
First published in 1829,it was written while Poe was in the Army. This is considered the best of his early poems written in the Army. It is symbolic of an important transformation in Poe's style and attitude. It's sonnet form shows Poe's poetic maturity and discipline. The subject matter reveals that Poe was entering the world of science, which he would later master. Before, his education and attention had been in classics and history.
Sonnet: The term "sonnet" derives from the Provencal word "sonet" and the Italian word "sonetto," both meaning "little song". A sonnet now is a poem of fourteen lines that follows a strict rhyme scheme and specific structure. The conventions associated with the sonnet have however evolved over its history.
Following the tradition of the English sonnet, this poem contains three quatrains and a concluding couplet.
The first quatrain,condemns Science as a “true daughter of Old Time” and as a “Vulture” that “preyest . . . upon the poet’s heart”
The second quatrain, poses rhetorical questions asking how a poet could like, respect, or join Science .
The third quatrain, accuses Science of spoiling some beautiful myths, such as that of Diana and the Hamadryad.
Finally, the concluding couplet reveals the reason for the persona’s lament; here, with the poem’s only first-person pronoun, the persona focuses attention on himself, accusing Science of depriving him of his reverie.
Under the traditional Shakespearean sonnet structure, Poe expresses nontraditional accusations of science. It is spoken through the vision of a passionate man mourning the slaughter of mythology, fantasy, art by its alleged arch enemy, Science. Science is portrayed as evil and words like "preyest," "Vulture," and "torn" are used to describe science's impact on mankind.
Poe does not see science and scientific development as a good thing , rather he feels that science "alterest all things with thy peering eyes." This vision of science grows stronger and appears in virtually all of Poe's later tales and stories.
He implores Science as to why “she” must impose her “dull realities” on the hearts of poets like himself, squelching their wandering minds. He questions the desertion of imagination by the objective force of science.
He is inclined to avoid logic in his argument, although the classic sonnet structure implies his own attempt to rationalize his own thoughts. Perhaps the structure contrasted with such feelings further insinuates humanity's paradoxical need for organization in every field of thought.
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,Vulture, whose wings are dull realities? “
He calls science, a true daughter of Old Time who changes all things by looking at them with peering eyes and inflicts emotional damage upon the vulnerable poet and a vulture, focused on dull reality.
Here Poe compares science to a “true daughter of Old Time” and a “Vulture.” Both comparisons help make a case against science and cast it in a negative light. The reference to time reminds the reader of death and decay, both of which come with time. Without time, after all, there would be no reason to worry about deadlines and responsibilities, and one could devote oneself completely to reverie. The reference to a vulture, similarly, conjures up the connotations of death and decay while completing the image in the previous line of science devouring the heart of the poet.
He questions that why should a poet love Science and the reason why he should think of it as wise when it does not permit him to indulge in imagination, even though he, the poet, perseveres it with undaunted courage.
This image of the poor brave poet with his heart being preyed upon as he is simply trying to enjoy the beauty of the stars presents a victimized character to the reader.
In Roman mythology, Diana was the hunting goddess, and an emblem of chastity. Here car indicates Diana’s chariot.
Now science has vanquished the hunt, leaving Diana aimless and lost.
To seek a shelter in some happier star?”
Hamadryad: Greek & Roman Mythology
-A wood nymph who lives only as long as
the tree, of which she is the spirit,lives.
Now with the advent of science, The Hamadryad
does not tend to the old forests; but science
explains the cycle of photosynthesis.
In Greek mythology, the Naiads were a type of nymph who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks.
Now instead of the Naiad, nymph of fresh water, being the source of the flood, science can come up with dreary explanations involving weather patterns.
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?”
The term "Elfin" (relating to or suggestive of an elf) is actually an adjective, but Poe uses it here as a noun.
Science has brought about the termination of the poet’s “summer dream”; readers have no choice but to understand that there are immense differences in the meanings of the words he meticulously chooses.
Diana, goddess of wild animals, all conjure up notions of magic,
beauty, and imagination.
and alliteration, “Sonnet: To Science” laments the effects of
science on poetry and imagination.