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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Poetry Essay Prompt #1

Prompt: The following two poems are about Helen of Troy. Renowned in the ancient world for her beauty, Helen was the wife of Menelaus, a Greek King. She was carried off to Troy by the Trojan prince Paris, and her abduction was the immediate cause of the Trojan War. Read the two poems carefully. Considering such elements as speaker, diction, imagery, form, and tone, write a well-organized essay in which you contrast the speakers’ views of Helen.

BY H. D.
All Greece hates 
the still eyes in the white face, 
the lustre as of olives 
where she stands, 
and the white hands. 

All Greece reviles 
the wan face when she smiles, 
hating it deeper still 
when it grows wan and white, 
remembering past enchantments 
and past ills. 

Greece sees unmoved, 
God’s daughter, born of love, 
the beauty of cool feet 
and slenderest knees, 
could love indeed the maid, 
only if she were laid, 
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

To Helen
By Edgar Allan PoeHelen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

Although H.D. and Edgar Allan Poe each wrote a poem with the same name of "Helen", they both demonstrate very opposite esteem for the subject and couldn't be more divergent. In Poe's writing Helen come across as a very beautiful and inviting women, whereas, H.D. downsizes Helen's beauty with the use of simile and imagery.

Poe writes in three stanzas of five lines that have definite rhyming pattern. The first stanza has the pattern a/b/a/b/b. Poe uses a simile to compare his Helen's beauty to that of Helen of troy, who was considered one of the world's most beautiful women. With tone of reverse and imagery Poe portrays Helen like a goddess. Poe uses the simile and alliteration to show compare Helen beauty's to the emotions of a log that is traveling back to its homeland to be reunited.The poem is a tribute to a beautiful woman, held in high regard.

On the other hand, the Helen of H.D.'s poem is hated by all of Greece.In this three stanza poem, a couple of the lines in each stanza rhyme and the stanza length increases by a line as the poem progresses.H.D. contrasts with a tone of abhorrence and imagery that paints the picture of a monster. H.D. uses parallelism in the first two stanzas and anaphora to convey his attitude toward Helen is that of hatred and bitterness towards her beauty. As the poem progresses, Helen is blamed for past tragedies and the description of her appearance changes to the appearance of a pale unmoving form, resembling death. There is no regard or sympathy for the Helen who was so widely accepted as a symbol of beauty and love.

   H.D. and Poe have different views about Helen's beauty, these portrayals of Helen in these two poems are examples of two extreme interpretations of the physical appearance and symbolism of a historic figure.

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