“To Helen” by Edgar Allen Poe is a letter written as a poem
to the mythical person, Helen of Troy. She was believed to
be the most beautiful person in Ancient Greece. Poe
describes her beauty by using metaphors and rhymes to
give the reader a clear perception of Helen’s beauty.
In the first stanza Poe uses the sea to describe her
beauty. “That gently, o’er a perfumed sea, The weary,
way-worn wanderer bore To his own native shore.”(line 3)
This representation displays the fact that her beauty makes
him feel as though he were at home. He feels comforted like
some one who has been lost at sea for a long time and
finally finds his way back to his homeland.
The second stanza symbolizes the features of the
fictitious woman that the author very much enjoys. He
describes her face as a timeless masterpiece, her hair
flowing like the sea, her glory, and her magnificence.
Through magic He has been brought to a place that is the
equivalent to home. Like Greece in all its glory and Rome in
its greatness this place is the best of both worlds.
In the final stanza, the author pictures himself in a
position where he views her as an unreachable, unmoving
object. As known in Greek mythology, Helen was an
unattainable lover because she was destined to be only with
Menelaus, her husband. However, the poem “To Helen” the
author can attain her only through his innermost thoughts
and imagination.
“To Helen” begins a painting that only one’s
imagination can complete. It takes a person’s own feelings
and puts them into the meaning of the poem. The reader
must imagine the “perfect person” for them. Then confront
the fact that they will never be able to have a fully intimate
relationship with this “perfect person” since destiny will not
permit it.