Literary Analysis Of To Helen By Edgar Allan Poe And Helen By H.D

682 words - 3 pages

Men have idealized prominent female figures in society like Marilyn Monroe as the literary and symbolic emblem of sexual beauty; while her beauty brought her overwhelming popularity, it ultimately lead to her destruction. Similarly, Helen of Troy, a mythic symbol of voluptuous desires, has also been subjected to such actions; in fact, since the times of the Odyssey, many people had joined in on elaborating her mythical beauty. Although both poems agree that Helen is the epitome of beauty, Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “To Helen” focuses on the positive effects of beauty—bringing comfort and joy to the man who beholds her—while H.D.’s “Helen” draws readers’ attention to the negative consequences of overwhelming beauty—an object of the Greeks’ detestation.
In his poem “To Helen,” Poe reveals Helen’s profound effect on the speaker by presenting her as a woman of inspiring, idealistic beauty. In the first stanza, the speaker’s exhaustion before seeing Helen is revealed by the alliterative “weary, wayworn traveler,” as if he who looks upon Helen has a sickness that only Helen’s beauty can cure. Poe further reveals the speaker’s longing of Helen through the metaphorical description of “desperate seas” which reveals that the speaker’s life has been full of despair, longing for Helen’s alluring and comforting hearth. When the traveler finally beholds the beauty of Helen, his life then turns from despair to having a firm footing as evident when the speaker refers to “home.” The speaker, revealing that he has been metaphorical in his descriptions of himself as a sailor, implies that the “home” to which he refers to is not a physical location but a state of mind. An allusion to Psyche from Greek mythology is evident in line fourteen: the symbolic reference comes from the story of Psyche’s lamp which revealed the truth about love to the soul. When the speaker concludes with the exclamation "Ah, Psyche," he calls upon all the powers of beauty, truth and love, as they reside in the soul, to praise Helen.
In contrast, H.D.’s “Helen” attacks the traditional imagery of...

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