Eldorado Poem by Edgar Allan Poe Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


It’s believed that “Eldorado” was one of Edgar Allan Poe’s last poems. At the height of the gold rush, it was printed in Boston’s Flag of Our Union in 1849. This setting may have influenced Poe’s creation of the “gallant knight,” who seeks riches and bliss. Scholars have frequently compared Poe’s search for happiness in his life to the knight’s journey in “Eldorado.” Poe passed just six months after finishing the work. Since it was composed, “Eldorado” has been the subject of several musical adaptations and has even appeared in the lyrics of hit songs.

About the poet

Edgar Allan Poe was a prominent character in American literature and Romanticism. He was also a writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe’s writings had an impact on literature, music, filmmaking, and television. He passed away in Baltimore in 1849 under unexplained circumstances.


Stanza 1

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

The first verse of Poe’s poem “Eldorado” introduces a “gallant knight” who is dressed cheerily or in colorful apparel and is stereotypically bold for a knight. He will go through “sunshine and shadow,” or dim regions and happy, upbeat ones. His objective is to seek Eldorado, a lost city that was formerly considered to have existed in South America. For over 500 years, explorers have been trying to find it without success. The major draw of the location was that stories claimed it to be a social paradise and to be totally made of or possess huge amounts of gold. The knight will probably take a lot longer to get where he is going and never arrive.

Stanza 2

But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

This appears to be happening since the speaker states in the second stanza that the knight “grew old.” As he had hoped, his journey did not come to an end. Instead, he is still on the road and is now in danger of dying. He had once been “so bold” as to go on this journey. But things aren’t looking so good right now. The knight’s heart is covered in darkness, a recurring picture in this tale. Any last hope and light are blocked out by it. There is “No spot of ground / That looked like Eldorado,” which is the sole reason for it. 

Stanza 3

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”

The knight finally arrives at the threshold of his destination in the third stanza. His resilience, which has gotten him thus far, is about to fail him. Then, though, something shifts. He encounters the “pilgrim shadow.” There are no specifics concerning this person’s identity or the location of their journey. The tone of the poem is so eerie that it is most likely that the subject is deceased. They might be a ghost that the knight has encountered on his latest journey into death. Instead of discussing this person’s enigma, the knight asks him his most urgent question: “Where can it be— / This land of Eldorado?” 

Stanza 4

“Over the mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied—
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Although the knight’s response to the “shade” is not particularly helpful, it does refer to the knight’s current situation and the futility of following one’s aspirations. It is instructed for him to travel “Over the Mountains” before traveling “Down the Valley of the Shadow.” This is a reference to the phrase “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. The mountains’ association with the Nile River’s source, which is outside the poem’s immediate scope, and their snow-covered tops are what give them their “moon” quality. Eldorado is a destination that can only be reached by death or by bringing death down upon the explorer, hence the knight’s quest is fruitless.