To One Departed

Seraph! thy memory is to me
Like some enchanted far-off isle
In some tumultuous sea -
Some ocean vexed as it may be
With storms; but where, meanwhile,
Serenest skies continually
Just o'er that one bright island smile.
For 'mid the earnest cares and woes
That crowd around my earthly path,
(Sad path, alas, where grows
Not even one lonely rose!)
My soul at least a solace hath
In dreams of thee; and therein knows
An Eden of bland repose.

by Edgar Allan Poe

Comments (4)

One of the most puzzling sonnets, because the logic of it is not at all clear, and because there is very little in the literature of the time which gives clues as to how we should interpret it. Most of the Elizabethan sonnets are entirely restrained, and one almost believes that no thought of sex could ever have entered the lover's head. To a certain extent this is mere convention, and one has to read between the lines to see that complaints of the beloved's coldness, or that she is harder than flint and rock, imply that she refuses to give any sexual favours, not even a kiss. Occasionally a sonneteer oversteps the mark. Sidney, for example gives Stella a kiss while she is sleeping, and also writes a sonnet on desire, which I give below. But there is only one other sonnet which I know of among the many produced by Elizabethan sonnet writers which, like this one, oversteps the conventional bounds of what it is permissible to say of sexual desire. Sonnet 76 of Barnabe Barne's sequence Parthenophil and Parthenope instructs his 'upright parts of pleasure' to fall down, and tells his wanton thighs that they cannot entwine themselves round his mistress's thighs, as he had hoped. The sonnet may have had some influence on this one of Shakespeare's.
However none of this is much use in guiding our interpretations, for we lack the background knowledge of the fault that he is charged with, which he threatens to throw back upon his mistress, and we do not have information from other sources that Cupid and conscience were linked in any way. The poem explores the relationship between sexuality and love, and comes to the conclusion that the two cannot be separated, a conclusion at variance with the established tradition, from Petrarch onwards, which emphasises the soul at the expense of the body, and veers much more towards the neo-Platonic view that only the visions of the soul are worthy of consideration.
Awesome I like this poem, check mine out
Here Shakespeare talks of conscience, youth and treason Of love's triumph over flesh he doth recall It seems the lack of an ability to reason Results in votes of 1 from simple fools