In the poem “Eldorado,” poet Edgar Allan Poe delivers a fundamental message that can be understood if carefully evaluated. Poe gives the account of a knight in search of a land called Eldorado, which holds riches and fortune. After much futile searching, the knight’s enthusiastic quest for treasure ends in death. The foremost theme of this poem is the desire for wealth and treasure. This theme is an influence from Poe’s life and the relevant Gold Rush of 1849 (Coad 60). The literary devices, symbols, relevancy, and personal experiences offer a deeper meaning to the poem than what lies on the surface. Poe’s skillful use of these elements helps to stress the ignorant desire humans have for wealth and fortune.
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The poem delivers a reflective moral issue many readers can, in some way or another, relate to. Poe uses the word “shadow” in each of the four stanzas of the poem, each stanza consisting of six lines. The third line in each stanza is where the use of the word shadow is introduced. Though the word occurs multiple times, it has a different meaning each time. The first shadow represents a literal shadow, a casting shadow of the sun. It could also be interpreted as happiness and sadness. The second shadow represents the shadow that has overcome the knight’s heart after much unsuccessful searching. The third shadow represents a live figure, possibly his or maybe an angel. And the fourth shadow figuratively refers to “Valley of the Shadow” (21). The fact the knight has grown old and weak, and must cross “Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow” is seen as a symbol of the knight’s death, relating to the Biblical valley of death (19-21). Through Poe’s use of the word shadow and the period in which the poem was written, readers can understand Poe’s message.
Poe uses the shadow in each stanza to convey his message. As the meaning of the shadow changes, so do readers emotional state. As he begins the first stanza, readers see a happy, gaily, bedighted knight who is enthusiastic about going on his search for gold. This start gives readers a sense of happiness and jolt of energy. His shadow could also be a foreshadowing of future events. However, Poe begins the second stanza with the word “But.” This contradictory word signals a shift between the first and second stanza and also a shift in emotion. The knight has become old, disheartened, and dismayed as the shadow is used in context to signal the emotional state of the knight. This signal causes readers to suddenly have a change in emotion; readers become sympathetic towards the knight. Poe continues to elaborate on the disappointment of the knight in stanza three. The knight encounters a live or possibly imaginative figure and asks the shadow “where is Eldorado,” reflecting on his hopeless journey in which he wasted his life. This figure could possibly be an angel providing guidance, an angel of death, or even himself. As the shadow replies to the question in stanza 4, readers are left with the idea that he has come to the end of his life and has died. With the closing of the poem, the audience can relate to the pain the knight feels. In all, the repetitive shadow becomes engraved in the readers mind, helping to sway the emotions. The life of the knight also provides a moral for people to learn.
Poe’s moral in “Eldorado” is not to seek for riches on earth. The only true riches are the riches one receives after death. The knight in the poem seeks for physical riches for many years without any hope, leaving him disheartened and at the end of his life. When asked where Eldorado could be, the knight was told “Down the Valley of the Shadow” (21). This insinuation emphasizes the main point that true riches are found in Heaven, not earth, and any riches sought on earth leads to despair and death.
As suggested by The Meaning of Poe’s Eldorado by the John Hopkins University Press, it can be argued Poe portrayed himself as the knight (Coad 60). Poe published his poem in 1849, the same year as his death. Like the knight, Poe had sought after an accomplished life, which he failed to do during his life. He was also unstable in the last years of his life. However, the knight most probably was a reference to the many prospectors of the California Gold Rush, which took place during the time the poem was written. The poem may have been Poe’s warning to the many prospectors that would experience the same hardships of the knight.
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Poe’s repetition of shadow and Eldorado and use of other symbols play an important part in his poem. It helps to further stress his main point. Other such devices Poe uses to communicate to his audience is through auditory and imagery senses. Poe uses aabccb rhyme scheme in the first three stanzas and xxabba rhyme scheme in the fourth stanza of his poem . Poe’s creatively written stressed and unstressed poem is one way Poe remarkably appeals to the readers auditory and imagery senses. The use of this rhyme scheme creates a thumpity, thump sound when read aloud, bringing the clattering of the horse’s trot to life. The symbols and rhyme scheme helps to immerse the reader into the scene of the poem and drives them to continue reading until the end.
“Eldorado” is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe that has a stressed message to readers. It tells the story of a knight who traveled for a period of his life searching for a city of gold, Eldorado. It provides a message to all readers that true riches and happiness are only acquired through Heaven after death. If one attempts to search for wealth, in hopes happiness will follow, that person will come to the end of their life saddened and in despair. Poe’s use of symbols, rhyme scheme, and repetition brings life to his poem, which keeps the readers entertained and helps to convey his message. The poem brings light to the life of everyone and anyone searching for happiness and wealth on earth. Thus, Eldorado is “Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride . . . If you seek for Eldorado!” (19-24).
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