Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.
Background of the Poem
''Al Aaraaf,'' first published in 1829, is an early poem by American poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe. It is based on tales from the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, and talks of the possible afterlife in a place called Al Aaraaf. Poe himself claimed that he wrote this poem before the age of fifteen.
Poe was inspired by Tycho Brahe's discovery of a supernova in 1572, which was visible for over a year. The imaginative poet associated this nova with Al Aaraaf, a star that was said to be the place between paradise and hell.
The idea of a purgatory-type place is discussed in Sura 7 of the Qur'an. In this realm, people are said to suffer no punishment, yet not attain the rewards assumed to come with entrance into heaven.
Structure of the Poem
From its first publication until today, ''Al Aaraaf'' has been avoided by many scholars of poetry because of the difficult structure and obscure references. The poem is Poe's longest at 422 lines, and it is also quite complex.
If you have studied traditional poetry in school, you know that rhythm and meter can be difficult to decipher. ''Al Aaraaf'' is made even more difficult by the lack of a single recognizable rhythm or meter. Poe constructed his poem based on the flow of sound.
Part I begins as eight-syllable couplets then shifts to pentameter couplets with occasional interludes of alternately rhymed trimeter-dimeters. Part II features mostly pentameter couplets with an interlude of anapestic dimeters. Yes, this all sounds quite complicated, even for teachers of poetry, which is why many students, as well as scholars, have steered clear of ''Al Aaraaf.''
Subject of the Poem
Though the poem is based on the Qur'an, Poe seems to have been more interested in images of alternative reality and imagination than in religious precepts.
Key elements of the poem are the afterlife, ideal love, and ideal beauty. The message of ''Al Aaraaf'' focuses on searching and striving for ideal beauty.
Characters in the poem are symbolic representations of human emotions. The goddess Nesace symbolizes ideal beauty. The character Ligeia stands for the musical beauty found in nature. Ianthe and Angelo are passionate creatures.
Even knowing this much about Poe's subject matter, most readers still find the poem difficult to follow. Here is a small excerpt from Part One:
Twas a sweet time for Nesace- for there
Her world lay lolling on the golden air,
Near four bright suns- a temporary rest-
An oasis in desert of the blest.
Away- away- 'mid seas of rays that roll
Empyrean splendor o'er th' unchained soul-
The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)
Can struggle to its destin'd eminence,-
To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode
And late to ours, the favor'd one of God-
But, now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm,
She throws aside the sceptre- leaves the helm,
And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns,
Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.
The themes of the search for ideal beauty and disillusionment within the world of harsh reality may be as close as one can come to finding contemporary meaning in ''Al Aaraaf.''
The supernatural world of ''Al Aaraaf'' is portrayed as a wandering star, a beautiful place of gardens, a gorgeous dome, and magnificent halls.
The series of events that take place in Poe's poem move from the description of the setting to Nesace's prayers. A crisis begins after the prayers when Nesace calls out the dwellers of Al Aaraaf to wake up and leave the place. The climax of the narrative comes when Angelo and Ianthe refuse to leave and disappear.
''Al Aaraaf,'' first published in 1829, is an early poem by American poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe. Based on tales from the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, the poem's subject is the search for ideal beauty. The structure of Poe's longest poem is complex and varied, making it a difficult one for both students and critics.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack