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"The City in the Sea" is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The final version was published in 1845, but earlier version was published as "The Doomed City" in 1831 and, later, as "The City of Sin". The poem tells the story of a city ruled by Death using common elements from Gothic fiction. Poe drew his inspiration from several works, including Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and was accused of plagiarizing "The City in the Sea" from a lesser-known poem.

Contents

Analysis

The city is one in the west ruled by Death who is revered above all: ‘While from a proud tower in the town, Death looks gigantically down.’ This is another classic Poe poem in that it deals with death and presents it in a non-conventional way. It is seen as a god that rules over a glorious, peaceful city in the west. There are ‘Domes and spires and kingly halls, and fanes and Babylon like walls…’ That the city is in the west is appropriate, because the west, in which the sun sets, has traditionally been associated with death. At the end of the poem a ‘stir in the air’ or a wave moves the towers so that they create ‘A void within the filmy heaven.’ Poe speaks in the last part of the poem of the end of days when ‘the waves now have a redder glow, the hours are breathing faint and low.’ The waves turning red is a sign of hell's coming, because red is the color of fire and hence the color of hell and the devil. ‘And when, amid no earthly moans, Down, down the town shall settle hence, Hell rising from a thousand thrones, shall do it reverence.’ The last lines of the poem speak of the devil's gratitude to death in allowing him to come forth and rule over Earth.

In addition, the end suggests that this city is more evil than Hell for it will hold the city of Death in reverence. It is suggested, that Death may be worse than the Devil.

The weird setting and its foreboding remoteness in "The City in the Sea" is a common device of Gothic fiction.[1] This combines with the poem's theme of a self-conscious dramatization of doom, similar to Poe's "The Sleeper" and "The Valley of Unrest."[2]

Inspiration

Poe was inspired at least in part by Flavius Josephus's History of the Jewish Wars, a first century account of the Biblical city of Gomorrah.[3] The poem also bears a resemblance to the Lucretius's classical poem "De Rerum Natura" and, specifically, an English translation by John Mason Good. Thirty-five of eighty-five consecutive lines parallel the work.[4] Poe's last version of the poem may also reference Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene with the term "proud tower".[5] The mood and style of the poem also seem to echo "Kubla Khan", a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, known to be a heavy influence on Poe's poetry.[6]

Critical reception

Poe was accused of plagiarizing part of the poem from a poem called "Musing Thoughts", first published in 1829 in The Token. Both poems include a line about a "thousand thrones".[7] Even so, it is considered one of his best poems from his early years.[8]

Publication history

An early version of the poem, titled "The Doomed City", appeared in Poe's 1831 collection simply called Poetry.[9] It was reworked, as many of Poe's works, and published in the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1836 as "The City of Sin". It was first printed under the title "The City in the Sea" in the April 1845 issue of the American Review. It was included by Rufus Wilmot Griswold in the tenth edition of The Poets and Poetry of America in 1850, the year after Poe's death, as an example of Poe's best poetry.[10]

Adaptations

A performed version of the poem was included on the 1997 album Closed on Account of Rabies, though the name of the poem was given as "The City and the Sea".[11]

References

  1. ^ Fisher, Benjamin Franklin. "Poe and the Gothic Tradition," collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Kevin J. Hayes, editor. Cambridge University Press, 2002. p. 79. ISBN 0521797276
  2. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 52. ISBN 0815410387
  3. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 51. ISBN 0815410387
  4. ^ Driskell, Daniel. "Marginalia - Lucretius and 'The City in the Sea'," collected in Poe Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2. December, 1972. Available online
  5. ^ Baker, Christopher P. "Marginalia - Spenser and 'The City in the Sea'," collected in Poe Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2. December, 1972. Available online
  6. ^ Campbell, Killis. "The Origins of Poe", The Mind of Poe and Other Studies. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962: 154.
  7. ^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 319. ISBN 0060923318
  8. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 51. ISBN 0815410387
  9. ^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z. Checkmark Books, 2001. p. 50. ISBN 081604161X
  10. ^ Edgar Allan Poe Society online
  11. ^ Neimeyer, Mark. "Poe and popular culture," collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Kevin J. Hayes, editor. Cambridge University Press, 2002. p. 79. ISBN 0521797276

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The City in the Sea
by Edgar Allan Poe
Heavily revised from its original version, "The Doomed City"
Wikipedia logo Wikipedia has more on:
The City in the Sea.

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently-
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-
Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-
Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol's diamond eye-
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass-
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea-
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide-
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow-
The hours are breathing faint and low-
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.


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