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“Alone” is a gothic poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. This poem was not published by Poe as it describes the mind of the poet and how he views the world by alienating himself.
About the Poet
Edgar Allan Poe struggled with making connections and articulating his emotions throughout his life. He has had a tragic life which affected the way he is and his view of the world which was different than most people is described in this poem.
“Alone” is a lyrical poem with a melancholic and darker tone. The poem consists of 22 lines that are composed in iambic tetrameter. This rhyme slightly changes towards the end of the poem.
Analysis and Summary
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—
The speaker has never been like other people ever since he was a child. He never saw things like other people saw and he never shared any common passions with other people, His passions were different and not liked or understood by the others.
The speaker opens the poem by expressing his discrete nature that he has developed over since his childhood. He never identified with any others around him. The title suggests that the poet has always been alone and the first four lines elaborate the same idea.
The speaker states how he has been struggling with making friends ever since he was a kid. He never connected with any others or never perceived things the way others did. His passions and interests were contrasting with other’s interests therefore he never found a common ground. Even if he tried to like other’s passions, it never excited him.
This reveals how the speaker saw things differently than most people. Maybe he was too mature for his age in his childhood. His passions were different and incompatible with others. It might refer to the darker and peculiar interest of the speaker which is similar to Poe and his life. Hence, the speaker is the poet himself.
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—
But it never made him sad for the same reasons. He never experienced happiness as others did or the way they expressed it. He loved everything by himself, all alone.
The speaker in the next lines tries to explain how these are not the reasons for his sorrow, but he has always felt the sadness. He could not awaken his heart to the same tone of joy that others were able to do.
Even when he found happiness he was never able to share it with anyone or even express it properly. For he was always alone therefore even his happiness had some underlying sorrow and distress. He was all he had, ergo he loved whatever he loved all 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—
In his childhood, which he considered the beginning of his stormy life, he discovered from the depths of good and ill, the mysteries that still bind him to this day.
The speaker reveals how he unveiled a mystery at the dawn of his tempestuous life which he refers to as his childhood. At such an early age, he discovered something from the depths of good and evil. His own mind surprised him and dragged him into the sorrows that he faced throughout his life since his early childhood.
His life which he describes as the depths of good and ill was always mysterious to him. He might’ve always questioned why he is different from everyone else. Why cannot he express or experience the same emotions that others do?
His enigmatic life weighed him with immense despair which often affected Poe’s work and his personal life.
Line 13- 16
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—
The mystery emerges from the fountains and waterfalls, from the red cliff of the mountains, from the sun’s golden rings that coiled around the speaker in Autumn.
The mystery that the speaker talks about in the previous verses emerges from nature. The waterfalls, red cliffs, golden rings of sun, these are specific colours that resonate with the poet. It further tells us how he perceives things around him. His mind is so active that all the things he witnesses, even the beauty of nature, turns into a study or analysis.
These colours, like the red mountain cliff, tells us how the cliff stands out from the rest of the mountain. It is risky as well, since the cliff does not have the foundational support like the rest of the mountain, it can break by a flood or heavy weight. But the view that the cliff sees is far more vibrant than that of the rest of the mountain. Similarly, the poet resonates with the cliff and its red colour that makes it stand out but also reveals the danger of it.
The sun that fills the sky with the autumn tint of gold. This beautiful view is enjoyed by the speaker alone. This tells us the alienation that the speaker has gone through or rather the choice he made to isolate himself from the rest of the people.
Line 17- 22
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—
As the lightning passes by him in the sky, from the thunder and the storm and through the cloud. This cloud that the speaker perceives as a demon.
These last lines describe how the speaker’s view and observations are different from the rest of the world. The speaker describes the sky to be heavenly, filled with the golden light of the sun. Then there is a sudden change in the climate and there is a storm and thunder that passes by the speaker. Amidst this, the poet sees a cloud. Clouds are often random shapes that can be interpreted as any object or thing through a long observation.
The poet observes the cloud as a demon. The rest of the sky is heavenly blue, but the cloud represents the devil. This is not how others will look at the cloud, they might see it as an icecream or a dog.
It can be said that the poet sees in his surroundings what he perceives of himself. Maybe he sees himself as a devil and therefore everything he observes has a darker and grotesque touch to it as his interests reflect upon his views. Therefore, the demon that he sees is perhaps himself.