illustrated portrait of American author of gothic fiction Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the meaning of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Alone" and its relation to Poe?

Quick answer:

In "Alone," the speaker expresses his sense of loneliness in life, in his interests, and in his joy. This relates specifically to Poe in that it reflects his loneliness and brokenness in his early life and his perception of his own eccentricity.

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"Alone" was written when Poe wasn't yet the renowned author he came to be. He wrote this poem when he was only twenty, after a particularly tough year. He had faced quite a bit of literary rejection during this time, and his foster mother also died this year. He had already lost his birth mother and had no contact with his biological father, so he was feeling pretty lonely in the world.

This sense of solitude is reflected in "Alone":

I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I loved—I loved alone—

Poe's use of the em dash in these lines and throughout the poem represents a sense of brokenness pervading his early life. With little faith in or support from the adults around him, he is left constantly trying to "awaken / [His] heart to joy" and failing. He cannot do it. He loves "alone," without his biological mother or father.

In the beginning lines, the reader is also made aware of Poe's tendencies toward the eccentric (assuming the speaker is Poe representing his own thoughts, not an imagined persona). He opens with these lines:

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—

Poe has never been like other people, not even as a young child. He has always been interested in things that do not interest other people and sees the world differently. Considering the subject matter of his work (e.g., a man who murders a neighbor because of his evil eye, a man who narrowly escapes death by a swinging scythe, a raven who taunts a man by incessantly repeating "Nevermore," and a speaker who lies on his love's grave every night), it's really not all that surprising that Poe marches to the beat of his very individual drum.

This is all conveyed with a type of strength. Poe doesn't mourn his inability to "fit in" with the mainstream; after all, his eccentric ideas make him the poet and author we are still fascinated with almost two hundred years later.

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The poem “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe was not published during his lifetime.  It was not until 1875 that the poem was verified as being an authentic Poe poem written in 1830 when Poe was only twenty-one.

The poem is basically a flashback of an adult narrator looking back at his childhood. The tone of the poem is gloomy and dark, reinforced by such words as sorrow, alone, stormy, thunder, and demon.

Poe speaks about his uniqueness.  Unfortunately, he was never able to fit in and found himself melancholy throughout his childhood.  In his relationships, he was often left out.  The purpose of the poem is psychologically sound if it is true that it helps to write out what the person feels is wrong in his life. Whether it helped Poe or not, the reader is better able to understand the mystery of why Poe was miserable in his life and he wrote about the subject of loss and unhappiness.

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 writes explains that he was not like the other children in his outlook, his play, his enjoyment; he knew that he was not normal or happy as the others were.  His joys were not the same and did not come from the same place.

He was always alone with his pleasure and loves. The mystery that holds him together came from every experience that he has had. This formed his temperament and personality.  During his childhood and in the beginning of his stormy life, he is a part of both the good and bad experiences.  

In some ways, he was protected from the storms, the thunder and lightning, the precipice of  danger, by the sun that encompassed  him. Poe may be referring to a higher power although later in life it is said that he was an atheist.  As he looks back at his life, he sees the blue sky and heavens above; yet, one of the clouds appears like a demon. 

And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view

Poe in his life had many demons that he suppressed. From this line, the reader may wonder if Poe felt as though the devil was always at his shoulder.  His way of handling his problems was with drugs and alcohol. 

There are those people who because of a lack of security and love as a child never find happiness in their adulthood.  They may be supremely talented, have millions of dollars, but are unable to face each day and the future without a struggle. Poe was one of those strange people.  Despite his magnificent talent and even his attraction to women, he always looked for something that he did not have in his life. 

This poem is especially interesting because it was written at such a young age.  Obviously, Poe was already unhappy, unable to understand why he was so miserable, and longing to find a place or person who could help him find why he was the way he was.

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How does the poem "Alone" tie in with Edgar Allan Poe's life?  

"Alone" is a poem told in the first-person point of view as an adult looks back on his childhood. The narrator realizes that a childhood of isolation and loneliness separated him from other children and not only affected his life as a child but continues to affect him in the present day. Much of Poe's work has an autobiographical tone to it, and "Alone" is no exception. There is evidence of isolation, rejection, and loneliness in Poe's upbringing that can very easily allow readers to believe that the "I" narrator in "Alone" is, in no small part, Poe himself. 

Many people assume Poe was an only child; in fact, he had a brother and a sister who went to live with different families when Poe's mother died. This separation from his siblings could have contributed to the sense of loneliness so prevalent throughout the narrator's childhood. 

Readers can see Poe's childhood upbringing in the very first line of the poem:

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 lost both of his natural parents at a young age (his father abandoned the family and his mother died of tuberculosis), and he went to live with John and Frances Allan. John Allan was gruff, and he never treated Poe as his natural-born son. In fact, when Allan died, he left Poe entirely out of his will in spite of being the only father figure Poe had ever known. The first stanza of the poem suggests some of the frustration Poe must have felt in his foster home that led to him feeling misunderstood and alone. 
The poem is believed to have been written in 1829, though it was not published during Poe's lifetime. In 1829, Poe was 20 years old, and it is the year Frances Allan died. His age, the death of his foster mother, and an escalating estrangement with his foster father make this a likely time for him to have been highly introspective and look back on his childhood to investigate how his childhood influenced his newly adult life. 
Though Poe never specified the autobiographical elements of the poem, readers who know even a basic biography of his life's events can begin to see how Poe might have felt fully capable of writing about isolation, loneliness, and how he felt, "...all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—."
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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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

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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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.

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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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.]

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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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.

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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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.

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What is the poem "Alone" by Edger Allan Poe about? What is the poem's meaning and why did Poe write it?

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.

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