"Alone" by Edgar Allan PoeWhat is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allen Poe about? what is the meaning and WHY DID HE WRITE THIS?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.

[These lines suggest the speaker's sense of feeling different from other people, even from a very early age. He not only feels different from others; he sees (or thinks) differently and also feels differently. His emotions are not the kinds of emotions most other people feel.]

From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

[Once again the speaker emphasizes his sense of distinctness. He feels alienated from others. Neither his negative nor his positive emotions resemble those of most people. Even in loving, he was unusual.]

Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:

[Just as the speaker felt different from others when he was a child, so he feels different from them now. He cannot quite understand why or how he came to feel so different from others: such feelings are a "mystery" to him. But he does not seem to regard his feeling of distinctness as anything liberating or empowering; rather, it is confining: it "binds" him even to this day.]

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.

[Here the speaker elaborates on all the various ways in which he feels different: no matter what he experiences, he experiences it differently from the way most people experience it.  This is especially true of his perceptions of nature.  The final line is especially dark and ominous: where other see blue skies, the speaker of this poem imagines a cloud taking the shape of a "demon."

This is in many ways a typically "dark" Romantic poem, in which the speaker feels isolated, troubled, and confused. Poe is a master of such poems and of such writings in general.]

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Edgar Allan Poe's poem, as noted above, perception is everything. Unless the author has elucidated a personal response to the poem, as readers, we are simply left to wonder about his meaning. Each of us brings our own perception to the poem based upon our personal experiences and reactions to the poet's work.

In "Alone," we are confronted with the sense that the poet has felt differently than those around him...from the time he was born.

From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

Poe notes that he has been different and felt differently. Things that he feels strongly ("passionately") about are not the same as the experiences of others, noted here as "a common spring." With these people, he has nothing in common. He is "alone." In sorrow he has not been the same, has been unable to draw joy from life as others, and he has been alone in love.

There is a noticeable shift, when he speaks of the "dawn of a stormy life:"

Then--in my childhood, in the dawn

Of a most stormy life--was drawn

From every depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still...

From early in his life, it has been stormy—difficult and full of upheaval. He does not understand, for he feels enveloped in a mystery that confronted him when he was young and still has not revealed the truth of itself to him.

Poe makes note of nature passing by, something gently and other times in a "torrent" or like "lightning." Regardless of the guise in which it presents itself, the speaker makes note of the blue sky, which should be synonymous with heaven—gentle, calming and beautiful. However, for Poe, the cloud on the blue backdrop is anything but heavenly.

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view.

The cloud that he perceives once again separates him from what most people see in a could—and this is the basis of his concern, the source of his sense of alienation. Poe sees not something lovely in the shape of a cloud moving across heavens, but a demon instead. Poe makes note of the image and is aware that he is alone in how he sees and experiences the world.

litlady33 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with any poem, there can be many interpretions about the meaning, as well as different takes on why the author wrote it. "Alone" seems to be, on the most obvious level, about Poe's childhood. Those who study Poe know that he is a dark person and he was different from most people; and this poem seems to reflect that. The first lines capture his uniqueness: "From childhood's hour I have not been/ As others were- I have not seen/As others saw." Throughout the remainder of the poem, he discusses what that loneliness and isolation did to him growing up, comparing it to various images, including a storm, a mountain, and lightning. In my opinion, Poe wrote this to help readers, or even just himself, understand and come to terms with the reason- and consequences- of his lonely life.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can only use conjecture in deciding why Poe wrote his poem; however, there is clearly an intensity to this poem that suggests that Poe was compelled to express himself.  Often in an artist there is this compulsion to communicate with others those deeply personal and intense experiences in one's life.  As Joseph Conrad wrote "Meaning depends upon sharing."  Thus, the act of expression gives further meaning to itself in its communication.

Poe seems in this poem the same intense persona that one finds in artists such as VanGogh

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly this poem concerns the genesis of a poetic spirit, which Poe obviously feels he has. Note the way that the title of the poem, "Alone," is linked to Poe's feeling of being separate as a child thanks to his different outlook and perspective on life. However, as the poem continues, what becomes clear is that it is this difference that enables him to achieve genius through his expressing that outlook in literature.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that any one poem can have many different interpretations based upon an individual reader. That being said, it is his solitude which gave him a different outlook on life. The poem's movement speaks to that (as stated by accessteacher). I actually think that this poem speaks more about Poe, both directly and indirectly, than any other works of his.