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ALONE (POE) INTRODUCTION

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In A Nutshell
Baltimore, Maryland, 1829: a young, 20-year old, slightly odd fellow has just relocated to the city that would eventually be the setting
for a great HBOshow. He had moved back after attending the University of Virginiawhere instead of racking up GPA points, he
racked up gambling debts. While back in Baltimore, he published some poems, but he really hoped to get his life on track bygoing
to West Point? Um, as in the United States Military Academy?
Yep, it's no joke. The same dude who brought us dark fantasies like "The Raven" once tried to make it as a military man. That may
sound bizarre, but what else would you expect from Edgar Allan Poe, the guy who wrote stories about houses
spontaneously imploding, dudes burying other dudes alive, mysterious immortal black cats, and all sorts of other macabre things.
Poe was definitely, absolutely cut from a different cloth. He marched to the beat of his own drummer, like when he married his
thirteen-year-old cousin, or dropped out of the army only to join the military academy. And that's before we get into the crazy, wild,
Stephen-King-style stories he was writing nearly 150 years ago.
EAPas we like to call himdefinitely knew he was different, and he wrote about it a lot. Enter "Alone," a short poem he wrote in
March of 1829 (when he was only 20) and that remained unpublished for over fifty years, finally seeing the light of day in 1875.
You see, 1829 was a tough year for Mr. Poe. In February of that year his foster mother passed away (his birth mother died shortly
after he was born, and his real father had already rolled out), and he was in the process of figuring out the whole military situation.
Throw into the mix ongoing issues with his foster father and constant rejection as a struggling writer (Poe's volumes of poetry
weren't selling at all), and you have a recipe for a giant migraine.
"Alone" expresses very candidly Poe's feelings of isolation and loneliness as a child, whereif the poem is any indicationhe was
pretty much different from everybody else he knew. And yet, that difference became an important part of Poe's identity. The second
half of the poem, for example, is all about how the speaker is possessed by some "mystery." Clearly, being differentbeing all
alonehas its perks. It's almost like the speaker is privy to something special, some visionary power, like ESP or something.
It is difficult to figure out what exactly this "mystery" is, but the bottom line is that sometimes being different is all that bad.
Sometimes, being different is actually a sign of one's creativity and uniqueness. Look at Poe. Sure, he's weird, but, hey, he's one of
the most revered writers in all of American Literature. It seems like a small price to payright?

WHY SHOULD I CARE?


There's probably a really strange kid at your schoolevery school has one. He (or she) probably wears different clothes than
everybody else, or his hair looks really odd. Maybe he talks to himself.
And it's not just that this dude spends all his time hanging out by himself. He's got completely different tastes, feelings, and desires
than everybody else, too. We have no doubt that you know exactly the type of person we're talking about, someone who fits the
dictionary definition of the word "loner."
Now, if this "different" person were to write a poem, it would be Edgar Allan Poe's "Alone." The first nine lines are all about how the
speaker was different from everybody else he knew in his childhood. All his peers liked one thing, but he liked something else. His
passions were different, his feelings were different, even his sorrows were different. To sum it all up, he waswell, alone.
This sounds kind of emo, right? Sure the speaker calls his childhood the "dawn of a stormy life," but the poem ends up being about
how being "alone" can actually have some benefits. He goes on and on later in the poem about how he has access to some
"mystery" that he sees everywhere around him. In other words, it's almost like he's saying "Yeah, I was really lonely and different,
but in exchange I was given this really cool gift that was almost like a sixth sense."
Now, here's the thing about this loner kid: at some point in time, somewhere, in some way, that loner is going to beyou. No matter
how hard you might try, chances are that one day you'll be the odd one out, feeling isolated and alone. And that's when this poem

will spring to mind. Being alone doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can actually be a kind of gift, giving you special, mysterious
insights that others just don't have.
So consider this poem bummer insurance. It may not at first be fun to feel left out, but non-membership can have its privileges, too.

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ALONE (POE): TEXT OF THE


POEM

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From childhood's hour I have not been


As others wereI have not seen
As others sawI could not bring
My passions from a common spring
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrowI could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone
And all I lovedI loved alone
Thenin my childhoodin the dawn
Of a most stormy lifewas drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still
From the torrent, or the fountain
From the red cliff of the mountain
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed 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

ALONE (POE) SUMMARY

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Our speaker starts out by telling us all about how, when he was a child, he was different from everybody else: different likes and
dislikes, different views, etc. At a certain point, however, he came into contact with a very strange mystery. It's so mysterious he
doesn't know how to explain it to us, but he saw it in just about everything around him: the mountains, the fountains, the storms
even in some weird demon-cloud that happened to be hanging out in the middle of a bright blue sky.
Okay, so at least he's got that going for him?

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LINES 1-4 SUMMARY

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Get out the microscope, because were going through this


poem line-by-line.
Lines 1-2
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were

"Alone" opens with a short and simple sentence.


Our speaker says that, ever since he was a child, he has not been as others were. This is just like saying "I've always
marched to the beat of my own drummer."
We're with him, but what does he really mean? Did he dress differently? Did he wear strange clothes? Did he have a
loud haircut?
Probably notthis bad boy was written in the 1800s after all, and most folks just didn't go around rocking mohawks.
At this point, we don't know exactly what the speaker means when he says he was different so we should keep cruising
along and see if he sheds some light on this little puzzle.

Lines 2-4
[] I have not seen
As others sawI could not bring
My passions from a common spring

Well, this is nice. The speaker starts to give us a little more detail here about how he was different from all the other kids
he knew growing up.
He says he has "not seen/ as others saw" and could not bring his passions from a "common spring."

Okay, so basically he's saying that he saw the world in a totally different light than everybody else.
And he also says that he felt things differently, or, as he puts it: he couldn't bring his "passions" from a "common spring."
Now, he's not talking about that thing that pokes out of your couch cushion. He means one of those things they put on the
labels of bottled water.
The speaker is using a metaphor, then, to convey the idea that his feelings, desires, etc. came from a different source
than everybody else's. They all come from some common place, whereas his come from somewhere completely different.
Look at it like this: say that all of your friends think the chocolate cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory is just the best thing
ever, but, well, you can't stand it. The chocolate cheesecake just gets them soexcited, but you prefer the strawberry
cheesecake any day.
It's sort of like that. Everybody the speaker knew as a child got excited about one thing, but something completely different
floated his boat.
Now, speaking of this "spring," did you notice that it rhymes with "bring"? Did you also notice that "been" and "seen" sort
of rhyme?
Well folks, these are called coupletsthey're like little couples, or pairs. Two lines in a row that rhyme = one couplet.
To read more about other formal features of this poem, head over to "Form and Meter."

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LINES 5-8 SUMMARY

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Get out the microscope, because were going through this


poem line-by-line.
Lines 5-7
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrowI could not awake
My heart to joy at the same tone

Boy, it sounds like the speaker is in a rut here. He keeps using the same types of phrases ("from" here, "from" there, "I
could not," "I have not"). The poetic term for repeating the same structure like that isanaphora.
This time, he tells us that the source for his "sorrow" was not the "same" as everybody else's.
Maybe his friends got upset when fish sticks were served at school, whereas pizza is what bummed him out. W e don't get
the specifics.
Just as the "source" of his "sorrow" wasn't the same, though, so the source of his heart's joy wasn't either. Our speaker
"could not awake/ [His] heart to joy at the same tone."
This is a pretty effective metaphor. Check it out: the heart is "asleep," but can be woken up when it "hears" a certain tone.
And speaking of tones, head over to "Sound Check" to read more about sound in this poem.
Before you do, we'll just point out that the poem's use of rhymedcouplets is holding up here.

Line 8
And all I lovedI loved alone

Ah, finally we get a reference to the poem's title. We were starting to wonder if the speaker would actually come right out
and start talking about being alone.
In a very alliterative line (check out "Sound Check" for more), the speaker says that everything he loved, he loved alone.
This is kind of cool, because "alone" could mean have two different meanings.
We've been reading all about how the speaker was different than everybody else he knew growing up. His passions were
for different things, his sorrows were different, etc.
Another meaning of "alone," though, is that the speaker "alone" loves the things he loves. In other words, nobody else can
have the same experiences that he doeswhich, when you think about it, is kind of true.
So, we know that Poe has a reputation for writing about depressing stuff, but maybe by the end of this poem these
feelings of alienation will give way to something a little less dark, something more positive.
Let's hope so.

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LINES 9-12 SUMMARY

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Get out the microscope, because were going through this


poem line-by-line.
Lines 9-12
Thenin my childhoodin the dawn
Of a most stormy lifewas drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still

Now it looks like things are starting to shift gears a little bit. That big ol' "then" that opens line 9 tells us that the speaker is
about to take things in a different direction.
At some point in his childhoodat some "then"some mystery took hold of the speaker's life, and it looks like it still
hasn't let go.
Remember, he's writing this poem much later in life and is looking back on his childhood.
Now, we know that the "mystery" took hold of the speaker during his childhood. The speaker drops a sweet metaphor to
describe that childhood as the "dawn/ of a most stormy life."
Childhood is the beginning of life, hence the word "dawn." Now, "dawn" makes us think of the sun, a new day, a fresh
start, and all that sort of stuff.
Unfortunately, the speaker's "dawn" was the beginning of one of those crummy, stormy days.

Instead of a beautiful day, the speaker gets a "stormy life." It sure sounds like he's looking back and realizing that all the
bad things in his life started in childhood.
Another clue is that word "bind." That just makes us think of being tied up, controlled, and enchained.
So, putting it all together: childhood was the beginning of what became a difficult life. Some mystery took control of him
then, and still has him in its power.
Hmm, no wonder people sometimes say that Poe was a haunted man. It makes sense when you read stuff like this don't
you think?
One more piece of business about all this mystery stuff: The speaker says it comes from "every depth of good and ill."
There's some as-yet-unspecified mystery, right? It could be a power, a sixth sense, a spiritsomething that cannot be
described.
And the speaker experiences or finds this mystery everywherein the good things and in the bad things.
Okay, we know this doesn't make a whole ton of sense, but let's just bear with it for a while, shall we?
And besides, it's fitting that the speaker's description of this "mystery" should be mysterious.

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LINES 13-16 SUMMARY

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Get out the microscope, because were going through this


poem line-by-line.
Lines 13-16
From the torrent, or the fountain
From the red cliff of the mountain
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold

Hmmso things don't get any clearer now do they? The speaker delivers some more anaphoric lines to describe this
whole mystery business that, quite frankly, is still a mystery to us.
The point of all these lines is that this mysterious "mystery" is found everywhere.
Rather than simply say "it was everywhere," though, or just list off 8 billion things, the speaker gets clever and refers to all
several categories of things.
So far we've got all forms of water (a "torrent," which is just a waterfall or rush of water, and a fountain), all forms of earth
and land ("red cliff of the mountain"), and all forms of light (the sun).
Next the speaker describes the sun as possessing an "autumn tint of gold."
Autumn is a time of transition, the time when summer is just about over but when winter hasn't quite arrived yet.
Leaves change colors, leaves fall, the weather changes, the days get shorteryou know the drill.

The point here is that the speaker is describing his own transitionfrom a lonely, confused kid to somebody with access
to a very powerful mystery.
What's more, this transition is also happening on a poetic level.
For example, the poem's meter is changing a little bit, from mostlyiambs to mostly trochees. You can read a bit more
about this in "Form and Meter."
The tone is also changing, from one of frustration or depression to something a little differenta tone that still expresses
alienation but also a sense of inspiration. Let's read on to see if that continues.

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LINES 17-22 SUMMARY

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Get out the microscope, because were going through this


poem line-by-line.
Lines 17-19
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by
From the thunder and the storm

The anaphora continues ("from [] from") as the speaker tells us about some other things in which he finds this
mysterious mystery.
He sees the mystery in the lightning in the sky when it shoots past him ("passed me flying by"), and in the thunder and the
storms that he sees overhead.
So, these often powerful, terrifying, natural events (storms, thunder, lightning) actually cause other feelings in the
speaker?
It sort of seems that way doesn't it? They are a source of mysterypower, inspiration, the divine, whatever it may be.
It's entirely possible that the speaker is talking about all these terrifying, tumultuous things because they somehow reflect
his own inner turmoil.
Recall, for example, that the speaker describes his life as "stormy"rough, tough, difficult.
By seeing the mystery in storms and thunder, the speaker may be trying to look on the difficulties of his life as a source of
power or inspiration.

Lines 20-22
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view

The poem's dramatic conclusion devotes three lines to the last source of mystery: a cloud that takes the shape of a
demon in the speaker's eyes ("view").
Hmmthis is Poe we're dealing with here, so we suppose the whole demon thing is pretty standard stuff.
But what's the deal with it?
Well, in a poem that is about alienation and loneliness, it seems only natural that various "demons" would pop up all over
the place, right? When you're in a bad mood, or feeling negative, you start looking at everything around negatively.
Now that we think of it, we can't help noticing that this passage has an image of alienation jammed right in the middle of it.
The "rest of Heaven" is blue, except for a cloud that looks like a demon.
That describes the speaker just perfectly. He's the "demon," while everybody else around him is the blue heaven.
Okay, don't take this too literally. The idea is simply that everybody else is one thing ("blue"), and he is another thing, that
one "cloud," so to speak.
In this way, the poem ends where it startedby talking about alienation.
But there's one important difference. The speaker has spent the second half of the poem talking about a mystery. We
can't help feeling that, while he may have felt lonely, he definitely was able to tap into something pretty cool.

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WATER

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Symbol Analysis
In a poem that often seems pretty bleak, water is a symbol of life. There's the early reference to a "spring," followed later by a
"fountain." And in the same line that "fountain" occurs, you've got "torrent"a word that makes us think of a powerful waterfall or
torrential rain. Then of course there are all those things that make us think of water, even though no liquid is actually even
mentioned (we're looking at you "storm" and "blue"). If this poem often seems a little, well, desolate at times, there's always a little
water there to freshen things up a bit.

Line 4: The word "spring" does a lot in this line. It describes a pool of water, it symbolizes freshness and inspiration, and
it's also ametaphor for what is described explicitly in the next line: a "source."
Line 10: "Stormy life" is another metaphor for the speaker's rough and difficult life. We can't help but think of torrential
rainfall here, a more destructive kind of water.
Line 13: It's a daily double here. The "fountain" symbolizes life, just like the spring, whereas the "torrent" recalls line ten's
"stormy" and symbolizes power and destruction. The speaker is able to access that "mystery" he describes in both what is
calm and serene (a fountain), and powerful and strong (a torrent).
Lines 19-21: The "storm" symbolizes power, strength, and destruction, much like "torrent" does in line 13. This is balanced
by the serenity symbolized by the blue heaven (minus, of course, that demon-cloud deal). This balance recalls the
balance of line 13 as well.

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THE SKY

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Symbol Analysis
Thunder, clouds, the color bluethis poem is stocked with things that make us think of the sky and the heavens. But why? Well, this
is kind of a poem about inspiration, about having access to some "mystery" that pervades the universe, right? And a stereotypical
image of inspiration happens to be a guy looking up at the sky. That's one reason why images of the sky are all over this poem.
Another reason is because this is a poem about loneliness and disconnection. The speaker describes feelings of alienation and
difference, and he looks towards the sky because he doesn't feel any connection with those around him. He's looking for meaning
elsewhereup there, in the heavens, not here.

Lines 9-10: The speaker uses a metaphor to describe his childhood as the "dawn" of a "stormy life" (another metaphor).
While the speaker's life is stormy, i.e. rough, the word dawn makes us think of the sun rising in the eastern sky. We can't
help but think of light, new life, and hope.
Lines 15-16: The "mystery" is drawn from the "sun" that surrounds the speaker with an "autumn tint of gold." The image of
golden sunlight recalls the "dawn" of line 9, and again reminds us that things are changing. The word "autumn" speaks to
the same point, as autumn is a time of transition.
Lines 17-18: Matched with the sunlight is a different kind of lightlightning. Often a symbol of energy or terror, there's
nothing too scary about the lightning here. It's simply another feature of the natural world that communicates to the
speaker the "mystery" he's been describing.
Line 19: Thunder and stormsthose definitely take place in the sky. Like the lightning, these usually inspire terror. Here
again, however, they are a source of mystery or power for the speaker. Note that earlier in the poem the speaker
describes his own "stormy life." This may be an attempt to look on "stormy" or difficult things as a source of inspiration,
mystery, and power, and not just negative emotions.
Lines 20-22: The cloud the speaker sees isn't just any ordinary cloud. It takes the "form" of a "demon" in his eyes. You
know how sometimes you think you can see shapes in the clouds? It's the same thing here. The cloud looks like a demon,
which suggests that all is not right with the speaker, but also reflects his own unique view of the world.

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FEELINGS

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Symbol Analysis
Loneliness is a feeling, just like anything else. But it's not the only feeling mentioned in this poem. We've got everything from "joy"
(7) and "sorrow" (6), to more complicated things like love. There's also a brief discussion of "passions" (4), which more than
anything makes us think of powerful feelings. Despite the negative emotions that are foregrounded, then, there are a few positive
things to think about.

Lines 3-4: The speaker clearly has lots of "passions," or feelings. The idea is that there is more to him than just loneliness.
These feelings just come from a different source ("spring" is a metaphor for source here).
Lines 5-6: In a neat little chiasmus, the speaker says he hasn't taken his sorrows from the same source either. The
balance of passion and sorrow here is just like the poem's balancing of "good and ill" (11), torrent and fountain (13), and
death and life.
Line 8: Despite everything, the speaker has strong feelings of love for well, something, but he does it all alone. Note
the ambiguityhere. The speaker is either loving by himself, or he's the only who loves, as in "I alone am the one who
loves." The poem leaves both interpretations open.

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ANALYSIS: FORM AND METER

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Iambic Tetrameter
What's the form of one hand clapping? Our lonely speaker actually has a lot of formal surroundings in this poem. For example,
"Alone" is made up entirely of couplets and is mostly composed in a meter called "iambic tetrameter." Before you run away in horror
(this is Poe, after all), let us explain:
You may be thinking: "I've heard of iambic pentameter, but not iambictetrameter." No worriesif you know your pentameter,
understanding tetrameter is cake. It is exactly the same as iambic pentameter, except each line has four beats (or iambs) instead of
five (tetra- means four). And what is an iamb, you ask? Oh, it's only the most common beat type in English poetry, one composed of
an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (daDUM).
Let's look at a few examples. Here is line 4:
My passions from a common spring.
This is nothing fancy, just some plain old iambic tetrameter: 8 syllables, 4 iambs, totally regular. When you read it out loud, you
should hear daDUM, daDUM, daDUM, daDUM.
Now, while line 4along with many other linesis pretty "normal," "normal" can get boring for poets like Poe. To that end, take a
look at line 13:
From the torrent, or the fountain.
Hmm, now wait just a minute here. That line looks almost exactly like the ones we just looked at, except the pattern is reversed. The
line is composed of beats that contain a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Instead of daDUM, we have DAdum.

The really neat thing is that this type of line has a name too: "trochaic tetrameter." It's just like iambic pentameter, except there are
four trochees (DAdum) instead of four iambs.
There are a few things you need to know about this trochaic tetrameter business. First, while line 13 is nice and neat, some of the
others, such as line 16, are not so neat:
In its autumn tint of gold.
Everything is cool except that last little beat ("gold") is missing its unstressed partner. But can you do that? The short answer is yes.
It is perfectly acceptable in poetry to leave off a syllable here and there. The fancy name for this omission is "catalexis" (how's that
for a 10 dollar word?). Just think of a cat and a Lexus, and you'll have no problem remembering it.
Now if catalexis and trochaic tetrameter aren't really your thing, you can take a slightly different approach. Without going into too
much detail, we'll just tell you that it is possible to think of lines 13-22 as trimeters, or three-beat lines. If you're of the three-beat
school, you need to know that the first foot of each line is almost always going to be an anapest, while the remaining two will
(usually) be iambs. Try your hand at scanning line 22 and see what you come up with.
Now, it's okay if your head is spinning because ours is too. We bet that there's totally a point to all this confusion. But what might it
be? Why are there so many different ways to scan these seemingly simple lines? And why does Poe change things up around line
13 anyway? These are all good questions. The good news is that they all have answers.
Think about it: as the poem gets closer and closer to line 13, the tone starts to shift. Right when the speaker says "then," there are
suddenly trochees (DAdum) popping up all over the place. It's not quite like the speaker is yelling, but he definitely starts to sound
less depressed and more confident. Look at lines 13-15. Each one of those lines starts with "from" (that's called anaphora), and you
can hear the poem building to the climax that is the last line: "Of a demon in my view." Yikes, dude.
So the poem's meter is actually a subtle, but powerful, way to reinforce the speaker's mood and the poem's meaning. There was
definitely a method, then, to Poe's metrical madness.

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ANALYSIS: SPEAKER

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"Alone" is a retrospective poem, which means that it's a poem told by a guy looking back on his childhood. This complicates the
whole speaker issue. The guy who is actually speaking in the poem is, of course, an older, more mature version of the guy he's
describing. However, the speaker is also that younger child that he describes in the poem. It's almost like he temporarily transports
himself back in time and reassumes his former identity.
So let's talk about the younger version of the speaker a little bit, because that's who dominates the poem. Now, this isn't a poem
about bullying or getting made fun of, but the kid in the poem feels completely alone and isolated. His tastes, passions, and even his
sorrows are completely different from everybody else's.
The speaker of this poem isn't just some lonely guy, however. He's also special. He's alone, sure, but because of that he gets to
experience a kind of "mystery." We don't know exactly what this isit is a mystery, after allbut we get the feeling that it's not
entirely a bad experience. The speaker associates this mystery with powerful, inspiring views, ones that only he can see. That
makes things seem just a little better now, doesn't it?

The last thing we have to tell you is that this poem is very autobiographical, which means it is one of many places where Edgar Allan
Poe talks about himself, reflecting Poe's own sense of his difference. He was orphaned at a young age (his father took off before he
was born and his mother died when he was very young), and he generally felt out of place. "Alone" very openly describes the young
Edgar Allan Poe, and his own feelings of both isolation and inspiration.

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ANALYSIS: SETTING

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Where It All Goes Down


"Alone" is all over the place when it comes to settings. Think of all the different places the poem mentions: mountains, fountains,
autumn sunlight, torrents, thunderstorms (complete with lightning). Clearly, we are supposed to think about the natural world when
we read this poem, but not just any old natural world. This is a natural world that is full of mysterythe lightning isn't just lightning,
the mountains aren't just mountains. They are almost magical. While the speaker declines to give us any more specific details, the
whole demon-cloud business gives us a clue as to the supernatural energy of that the speaker is attuned to in his environment.
In addition to a mysterious natural world, there are a few other places we should probably discuss. "Alone" is a semiautobiographical, retrospective poem about Poe's childhood. Poe was born in Boston in 1809, orphaned at the age of 2, and then
adopted by a Richmond couple who took him to England for five years in 1815. While none of these places are discussed
specifically, Poe's shuttling back and forth between three different cities within ten years almost certainly inspired some of the
feelings of loneliness and alienation described in "Alone."
Ultimately, the setting here is one that both emphasizes the speaker's loneliness, but also highlights his specialness. Let's face it
one of the reasons you probably haven't ever seen a demon cloud before might be because you're too busy enjoying a rich social
life. After an extended period of isolation, your surroundings may look very different to youas is the case with our speaker here.

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ANALYSIS: SOUND CHECK

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If we were going to describe the sonic qualities of this poem in one word, that word would be repetition. It is everywhere. In rhymes,
in words, in soundsall over the place. You really can't swing a dead cat without hitting some repetition. What? If we know Poe, we
think he'd be okay with thatmetaphor.
The most prominent literary figure in this poem, for example, is anaphora. Take a look at lines 2-3:
As others wereI have not seen
As others sawI could not bring
The repetition of "As the others [verb]I could-have not [verb]" really drills these lines into the reader's mind. The same repeated
pattern technique can be found in lines 13-15:
From the torrent, or the fountain
From the red cliff of the mountain
From the sun that 'round me roll'd.
On top of the anaphora, there is of course the matter of the rhyme scheme. Rhyme is simply the repetition of sounds, and this poem
features 11couplets, or successive lines that rhyme with each other. In addition to the rhymes, the poem repeats lots of other words
("I," "my," "others") and sounds, like the long I sound in lines 17-18:
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by
The repetition of the same vowel sound here is known in the poetry biz asassonance.
Okay, so there's a lot of sonic repetition going on here. What's the point of it? Well, there are at least two ways one can look at this.
First, this poem is all about difference. The speaker feels different from everybody elsehe gets sad about different things, likes
different things, etc. In a way, the fact that the poem repeats many of the same sounds is kind of like an answer to that theme of
difference. All this sameness is the speaker's way of balancing out all that difference.
Still, there's another way you can look at all the sonic repetition. The speaker essentially describes a feeling of being in a rut, right?
He's different, he's unique, he's alone, andwell, it's a real bummer. In the same way that the speaker feels sort of stuck, so too the
poem is kind of stuck repeating the same words and sounds and structures, over and over and over again.

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ANALYSIS: WHAT'S UP WITH


THE TITLE?

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"Alone" is one of those poems that never really had a title. But wait, we just said it's called "Alone." Soyeah, we should probably
clarify that. It has a title now, but young Edgar never bothered to give the poem a title while he was still alive (remember, it remained
unpublished at his death). When the poem was finally published in 1875, the publishers decided to give it the oh-so-apt title "Alone."

Apt? Yes, we said it. For starters, "Alone" is a poem about, well, loneliness. The whole first half of the poem is about all the ways in
which the speaker is different from all his peers. He sees things differently, he feels sorry about different things, his passions come
from elsewhere, and so on. The speaker's complete difference from everybody else makes him feelyou guessed italone. As he
says, "all I loved, I loved alone" (8).
There is another sense in which the title "alone" is apt. Think of like this: you can say "I am sitting by myself in my room eating
candy, and I am all alone." You can also say, "I alone, among my friends, can speak Chinese." It is a small, but important difference.
The speaker is both alone, as in lonely, but alone as in the only one who is special.
Okay, so the poem doesn't actually say that, but think about that line "I loved alone." If you push just a tiny bit, you can see that it
can be read both ways. It means both "I loved by myself" and "I alone loved." The underlying idea is this: the speaker is alone, but
his loneliness is also uniqueness. So this one-word title is full of hidden complexitya bit like our speaker.

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ANALYSIS: CALLING CARD

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Mystery
You can always count on Edgar Allan Poe to be mysterious, that's for sure. Many of his famous stories feature bizarre events that
are, ultimately, unexplained. In "The Fall of the House of Usher", for example, a mansion spontaneously implodes, while "The Black
Cat" features a mysteriously death-defying black cat. Even Poe's biography is plagued by mystery. His death, for example, is one of
the most notorious literary puzzles of all time. He was found dying in an alley, with clothes that weren't his. The exact causes of his
death are still, to this day, unknown.
Which brings us to "Alone," a poem thatwhile not as off-the-wall and gnarly as some of Poe's other worksstill has its fair share
of mystery. Not only is the word "mystery" a big part of the second half of the poem, we are also left with a bunch of unanswered
questions. What is so different about the speaker, for example? What exactly does he mean when he says the mystery was "drawn"
from the mountains, fountains, torrents, and everything else under the sun? Poe was the original international man of mystery, but
that mystery doesn't always need to involve guys gettingburied alive.

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ANALYSIS: TOUGH-O-METER

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(2) Sea Level


"Alone" is a pretty smooth go, for the most partno crazy Shakespearean words, no weird, off-the-wall metaphors. We're also
spared any long, convoluted sentences that don't make any sense.
The only real hiccup with "Alone" is the fact that there are, technically speaking, only two sentences, one that goes from lines 1-5,
and one that goes from 6-22. Sure, that adds up to one giant sentence, but it's all just a whole lot of "from this and from that" type
stuff. You may have to read it more than once, but you shouldn't be too winded by the time you do. Just stick with us and enjoy the
stroll.

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ANALYSIS: TRIVIA

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Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge


Nobody really knows how Poe died. No, seriouslyit's actually a big mystery. Some theories include alcoholism, other medical
conditions, and even a savage beating. (Source)
Poe once did something he would never be able to do these days (thankfully). In 1836 he married his cousin Virginia. He was 27,
and she was just 14. (Source)
Apparently Poe wasn't a very happy fellow. Just four days before this super-famous photo, he tried to kill himself by overdosing on
laudanum. (Source)

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ANALYSIS: STEAMINESS
RATING

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Exactly how steamy is this poem?


G
This is a poem about loneliness. The speaker's only real companions are the fountains and mountains and torrents he describes.
There's nothing even remotely sexual going on in "Alone."

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LONE (POE) THEME OF


ISOLATION

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John Donne once said that no man is an island. Apparently he hadn't met the speaker of "Alone." This guy feels as much like an
island as one can. He's isolated, lonely, alienatedthe works. Ever since he can remember, he tells us, the speaker has not been
as others were. He sees things differently, doesn't get excited about the same things as other people, and so on. The speaker even
suggests that it is his difference from everybody else that has made his life a "stormy" one. Luckily for him (and us), this poem isn't
all "woe is me." By the end of the poem, it kind of seems like the speaker is isolated, but also unique, even gifted.

Questions About Isolation


1.
2.
3.
4.

Does the speaker seem bothered by his isolation at all? How do you know?
Do the feelings the speaker describes ring true for you at all? Why or why not?
What is the effect of the repetition of the words "My" and "I" in the poem?
Is it possible that the speaker is exaggerating his feelings of loneliness? This is a retrospective poem, after all. How can
you tell?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
The poem is classic proof of how isolation, loneliness, and the like can make one's life extremely difficult.
Actually, this poem shows us that being isolated, or different, doesn't always have to be a bad thing.

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ALONE (POE) THEME OF MAN


AND THE NATURAL WORLD

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"Alone" has it all. There are mountains, cliffs, and springs. There are torrents, and storms, and lightning. There's a strange cloud, a
blue sky, and a nice golden sun. There's even mention of the time of yearautumn. Nature is all over this poem, especially the
second half. This isn't your typical "oh tree you are so pretty" type poem, however. Nope, this is a poem where the natural world,
while awe-inspiring, is also full of mystery. The sun isn't just the sun, and that weird red cliff on the mountain isn't just there for
decoration. The speaker feels something magical, and he finds it in the natural world around him, which to him is both terrifying,
beautiful, and his only real companion.

Questions About Man and the Natural World


1.
2.
3.
4.

Is there anything deliberate about the natural features the speaker describes? Why torrents and lightning, for example?
What is the effect of rhyming "fountain" and "mountain"?
What's with the weather in this poem? How does it influence the way you read the poem?
What's the significance of calling the cliff of the mountain "red"?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
In some ways, the natural world becomes the speaker's true companionthe one to which he can really relate.
This poem show us that only a person that is truly unique, that does not think like everybody else, can experience the magical
mystery of the natural world.

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ALONE (POE) QUOTES


See more famous quotes from poetry

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Find quotes from this poem, with commentary from


Shmoop. Pick a theme below to begin.
Isolation Quotes
From childhood's hour I have not beenAs others were; I have not seenAs others saw (1-3)

Man and the Natural World Quotes


I could not bringMy passions from a common spring (3-4)

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ALONE (POE) ISOLATION


QUOTES
See more famous quotes from poetry

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #1

From childhood's hour I have not been


As others were; I have not seen
As others saw (1-3)
The speaker has marched to the beat of his own drummer for a long timesince he was a child, in fact. There are all the "others,"
and there is him. The repetition of "I" in these lines will continue throughout the poem, and emphasizes the speaker's singularity.
Isolation
Quote #2

I could not bring


My passions from a common spring (3-4)
The distinction between the speaker and everybody else is further described. His passions do not come from a "common spring." In
a way, then, the speaker becomes associated with what is uncommon. This foreshadows the sense of uniqueness we detect later in
the poem.
Isolation
Quote #3

From the same source I have not taken


My sorrow (5-6)
This marks the third time the speaker has said "I have not." All these negatives ("have not") make us think that being different is a lot
like, well, not having somethinglike friends, or things in common with other people. It sounds like poverty to us. Bad times.
Isolation

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ALONE (POE) ISOLATION


QUOTES
See more famous quotes from poetry

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #1

From childhood's hour I have not been


As others were; I have not seen
As others saw (1-3)
The speaker has marched to the beat of his own drummer for a long timesince he was a child, in fact. There are all the "others,"
and there is him. The repetition of "I" in these lines will continue throughout the poem, and emphasizes the speaker's singularity.
Isolation
Quote #2

I could not bring


My passions from a common spring (3-4)
The distinction between the speaker and everybody else is further described. His passions do not come from a "common spring." In
a way, then, the speaker becomes associated with what is uncommon. This foreshadows the sense of uniqueness we detect later in
the poem.
Isolation
Quote #3

From the same source I have not taken


My sorrow (5-6)
This marks the third time the speaker has said "I have not." All these negatives ("have not") make us think that being different is a lot
like, well, not having somethinglike friends, or things in common with other people. It sounds like poverty to us. Bad times.
Isolation

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ALONE (POE) ISOLATION


QUOTES
See more famous quotes from poetry

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #1

From childhood's hour I have not been


As others were; I have not seen
As others saw (1-3)
The speaker has marched to the beat of his own drummer for a long timesince he was a child, in fact. There are all the "others,"
and there is him. The repetition of "I" in these lines will continue throughout the poem, and emphasizes the speaker's singularity.
Isolation
Quote #2

I could not bring


My passions from a common spring (3-4)
The distinction between the speaker and everybody else is further described. His passions do not come from a "common spring." In
a way, then, the speaker becomes associated with what is uncommon. This foreshadows the sense of uniqueness we detect later in
the poem.
Isolation
Quote #3

From the same source I have not taken


My sorrow (5-6)
This marks the third time the speaker has said "I have not." All these negatives ("have not") make us think that being different is a lot
like, well, not having somethinglike friends, or things in common with other people. It sounds like poverty to us. Bad times.
Isolation

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #4

I could not awaken


My heart to joy at the same tone; (6-7)
That phrase "could not awaken" is really troublesome. For a brief second, we think the speaker is either dead or permanently asleep
because the line endsyikes. This suggests that isolation is eerily similar to death, or being really, really, sleepy.
Isolation
Quote #5

And all I loved, I loved alone (9)


Major alliteration going on here, that's for sure. And of course, this is the central moment of the poem, where "alone" is redefined.
It's not just a case of "Oh, I'm all alone and in love by myself." It's also "I alone am the only one who loves." So, at least the speaker
has that going for him.

Isolation
Quote #6

And the cloud that took the form


(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view. (20-22)
A cloud that takes the form of a demon? This is classic Poe. It's also a sign of how the speaker's isolation has affected him. Part of
the reason, perhaps, that the cloud takes the form of the demon is because the speaker is already feeling pretty bummed about
everything.
Isolation

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ALONE (POE) MAN AND THE


NATURAL WORLD QUOTES
See more famous quotes from poetry

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #1

I could not bring


My passions from a common spring (3-4)
"Spring" here refers to a natural body of water. The connection between nature and human passions is something the poem
develops later, especially when the speaker talks about the "mystery" he can access via mountains and fountains and torrents.
Man and the Natural World
Quote #2

Then- in my childhood, in the dawn


Of a most stormy life- was drawn (9-10)
The rhyme on "dawn" and "drawn" is totally cool here. Dawn makes us think of new beginnings, and we know "drawn" goes with
mystery. In a way, then, the mystery that the speaker is about to describe is like the sunshine that shows up later. It's the beginning
of a new era.

Man and the Natural World


Quote #3

From the sun that round me rolled


In its autumn tint of gold, (15-16)
Sun and goldthose are pretty positive things. Gold makes us think of money and riches, whereas we associate the sun with
warmth and life. The natural world here seems like a comforting, nurturing presence that enwraps the speaker.
Man and the Natural World

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How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #4

From the lightning in the sky


As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm, (17-19)
The long "I" sound in "lightning," "sky," and "flying" is telling. It reminds us of all the times the speaker says "I" and implies that there
is a close connection between the speaker and the natural world. They're totally BFFs.
Man and the Natural World
Quote #5

And the cloud that took the form


(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view. (20-22)
This lone demon-cloud is kind of like nature's version of the speaker. The cloud is completely different when compared to the "blue"
sky, just as the speaker is totally different when compared to all his peers.
Man and the Natural World

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ALONE (POE) QUESTIONS

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Bring on the tough stuff - theres not just one right answer.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

What is the "mystery" that the speaker describes? What is the effect of the speaker's refusal to tell us more about it?
What is the effect of all the anaphora in this poem, really?
Why do you think Poe declined to publish this poem? Does it seem unfinished in any way to you? Why or why not?
How do you feel about that strange parenthesis in line 21? What effect does it have on the way we read the poem?
In what ways is this poem still relevant today? Does it speak to you at all?

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