The City in the Sea


The City in the Sea

"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.

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 ironic in itself fore the west has always been associated with good and life and the east with evil and 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 hells coming since 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. [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] 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." [Meyers, Jeffrey. "Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy". New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 52. ISBN 0815410387]

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. [Meyers, Jeffrey. "Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy". New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 51. ISBN 0815410387] 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. [Driskell, Daniel. "Marginalia - Lucretius and 'The City in the Sea'," collected in "Poe Studies", Vol. 5, No. 2. December, 1972. [http://www.eapoe.org/pstudies/ps1970/p1972209.htm Available online] ] Poe's last version of the poem may also reference Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" with the term "proud tower". [Baker, Christopher P. "Marginalia - Spenser and 'The City in the Sea'," collected in "Poe Studies", Vol. 5, No. 2. December, 1972. [http://www.eapoe.org/pstudies/ps1970/p1972209.htm Available online] ] 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. [Campbell, Killis. "The Origins of Poe", "The Mind of Poe and Other Studies". New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962: 154.]

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". [Silverman, Kenneth. "Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance". New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 319. ISBN 0060923318] Even so, it is considered one of his best poems from his early years. [Meyers, Jeffrey. "Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy". New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 51. ISBN 0815410387]

Publication history

An early version of the poem, titled "The Doomed City", appeared in Poe's 1831 collection simply called "Poetry". [Sova, Dawn B. "Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z". Checkmark Books, 2001. p. 50. ISBN 081604161X] 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. [ [http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm Edgar Allan Poe Society online] ]

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". [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]

References

External links

* [http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-city.htm Full text of the poem]
* [http://www.eapoe.org/works/info/pp038.htm Publication history] at the [http://www.eapoe.org Edgar Allan Poe Society]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Kingdom by the Sea — (1983) is a written account of a three month long journey taken by novelist Paul Theroux round the United Kingdom in the summer of 1982. Starting his journey in London, he takes a train to Margate on the English coast. He then travels roughly… …   Wikipedia

  • The Village by the Sea — infobox Book | name = The Village By The Sea title orig = translator = image caption = author = Anita Desai illustrator = cover artist = country = India, United States language = English series = genre = Nonfiction publisher = Heinemann release… …   Wikipedia

  • City by the Sea — Promotional poster Directed by Michael Caton Jones Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Sea Island Mathematical Manual — or Haidao suanjing (海岛算经) was written by the Chinese mathematican Liu Hui of the Three Kingdoms era (220 ndash;280) as an extension of chapter 9 of The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art. [L. van. Hee, Le Classique d I Ile Maritime: Ouvrage… …   Wikipedia

  • The Sea (play) — The Sea is a play written by the English dramatist Edward Bond in 1973. It is a comedy set in a small village in rural East Anglia in the Edwardian period. The play draws on some of the themes of Shakespeare s The Tempest .The play is set in 1907 …   Wikipedia

  • City Beneath the Sea — For the 1953 adventure film, see City Beneath the Sea (film). For the 1971 film, see City Beneath the Sea (1971 film). City Beneath the Sea is a song by Harry Connick Jr, which first appears on the 1996 album Star Turtle, and is included in the… …   Wikipedia

  • The Sea Fairies — infobox Book name =The Sea Fairies image caption = author = L. Frank Baum illustrator = John R. Neill cover artist = John R. Neill country = United States language = English genre = Children s novel publisher = Reilly Britton release date = 1911… …   Wikipedia

  • The Old Man and the Sea — For other uses, see The Old Man and the Sea (disambiguation). The Old Man and the Sea   …   Wikipedia

  • The Log from the Sea of Cortez — infobox Book | name = The Log from the Sea of Cortez title orig = translator = image caption = Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research cover author = John Steinbeck cover artist = country = United States language = English… …   Wikipedia

  • The Sea Hawk (1924 film) — Infobox Film | name = The Sea Hawk (1924) director = Frank Lloyd producer = Frank Lloyd writer = Novel: Rafael Sabatini Titles: Walter Anthony J.G. Hawks starring = Milton Sills Enid Bennett Lloyd Hughes Wallace MacDonald Marc MacDermott Wallace… …   Wikipedia