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To Helen

In “To Helen”, Poe depicts a weary traveler called home by the majestic image of the beautiful Helen. Through idealistic imagery and diction, he develops the romantic image of feminine beauty. The lofty rhyme scheme throughout the poem similarly enhances the speaker’s admiration of Helen. In response to Poe’s picturesque description, H.D. reveals her title character in “Helen” as a brutal reminder of the hardships of war. Her usage of imagery and diction create a cold, undercutting tone, which, along with the flat rhyme of the poem, echo Helen’s association with death and destruction. In equating Helen with the dark images of war, H.D. mocks Poe’s idealistic image of feminine beauty. The speaker of “To Helen” feels weary from the hardships he faces at sea. During his travels, however, the image of Helen motivates him until he may return home. In relating his semblance of her, the speaker describes a majestic, admirable woman. The imagery Poe employs contributes to his romanticized perception of beauty. Upon seeing Helen, the speaker note, “How statue-like I see thee stand.” This image evokes thoughts of a woman placed high on a pedestal, revealing the high regards the speaker holds towards Helen. Similarly, the “agate lamp within thy hand,” presents an image of light and empowerment. The speaker humbles himself as he remembers Helen, emphasizing her powerful, majestic image. In contrast, H.D. employs dark imagery to support her disheartening, cold depiction of Helen. Her speaker describes Helen’s eyes as having, “the luster as of olives.” The effect here leaves the reader feeling almost haunted, as if fearing Helen rather than admiring her. Similarly, the speaker uses the word, “wan and white,” in portraying Helen’s face. This image associates her with illness, or death, signifying the death and loss of war. As H.D.’s speaker exposes the dark side of Helen, Poe’s whimsicall...

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To Helen. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:11, August 29, 2014, from