Edgar Allan Poe, an American author, and editor noted for his literary work was a key figure in the Romantic Movement and a pioneer in the genre of detective novel and poetry writing. He is one of the best-known writers who often gives his own life to each of his novels so that he draws readers who are interested in them. Poe wrote this poem with the facts, and he wrote about the things that most meant to him in his life.
The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour
This poem The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour, was published by Poe in 1827, the same year he left school. The speaker in this poem is Edgar himself and it has a standard rhythm scheme of ABAB. The poem has a dark mood which changes to one of happiness halfway through the poem but returns to a dark mood in the last stanza. In the first three stanzas, Poe talks about his discouraging and frustrating childhood because of his unsupportive foster father but the second half, Poe is seeing his freedom and realizing that he can follow his dream. However the last stanza returns to the dark mood as Poe realizes his happiness will be short lived (Poe).
Organization and Structure
The poem is organized into six stanzas and which are divided into two sections with three lines per stanza. In the first three stanzas, Poe talks about his childhood where he remembers his foster father, John Allan’s unsupportive attitude towards his writing during his childhood period when he began writing because it was a profession looked down upon during this time period.
In the last two stanzas, stanzas Poe talks about his newfound freedom after dropping out of school to follow his dream. The last stanza returns back to the dark mood as Poe realizes that his happiness life will be short because he will have to endure an endless life full of struggle as he now flies on wings that were dark alloy and which flutters and falls back. Poe in his poem employs mainly the use of metaphor and personification as the stylistic devices. Three of the styles are analyzed below.
This is where nature or human characteristics are attributed to something that is not human or simply the representation of an abstract quality in human form. Poe uses a number of metaphors to portray his feelings clearly. However the use of personification takes the poem to a whole new level. Poe in his poem personifies pride and power. In the first stanza, third line. “The highest hope of Pride and Power”. He addresses Pride and Power as if they were human and friendly figures. He also talks of pride and power as having left, “they have varnished.” Poe gives them human characteristics where they can move. In the third stanza first line, “Pride, what have I now with thee” Poe also addresses pride as a person with human characteristics.
Poe also personifies hath as in the first stanza fourth line, “I feel hath flown.” This means that he has lost his pride and he no longer wishes for power. He talks of hath as a fellow human being and also gives it the ability to flee away. Poe uses personification for example in the case of pride and power in his poem to mainly give the reader a visual sense of the increasing pride and power at the beginning of his poem.
The images in this poem are portrayed mainly by metaphors and similes. Metaphor being a direct comparison between two things that are not similar, Poe uses a number of metaphors to portray his feelings clearly. In his poem, Poe uses metaphors like, “wing was dark alloy” Here wings are likened to a dark alloy. This is because at the beginning of the poem Poe was riding on Pride and Power’s wing as they flew higher and higher. But when Pride and Power can’t fly any more, Poe is left to ride a metal wing falling to the ground and a very high rate (Myrodias). In the line of the third line of the third stanza, “The venom thou hast pour'd on me.” Here, Poe describes the problem with too much pride as "venom". And that pride will take hold of another, quite possibly his descendents (note the passage of one’s life and the mention of offspring)
Allusion involves making reference to something known. It can either be historical or biblical. Poe has employed the use of allusion in his work to bring out his ideas clear. The ideas presented in Poe’s poem are mostly alluded to the bible. In the first two lines of the last stanza when Poe talks of a creature fluttering, “For on its wing was dark alloy, and, as it flutter'd – fell” it is most likely struggling to fly and uplift itself. The wing being made of dark alloy cannot overcome the weight of the material to fly so it falls. In the biblical context, the dark angel is no longer pure enough to stay in heaven and it thus falls off as the wings that were dark alloy in Poe’s poem; his vanity and contaminated mind has caused him to fall.
The dash between highest hope of pride and power as in the third line also alludes to the subject of heaven and God’s glory as in the biblical context. Evoking a lighter tone of godliness but the next line, four “I feel hath flown” brings the reader back down from the clouds. Up until the last verse, Poe constantly confuses the reader by toying with his/ her emotions. He begins with an optimistic view, when he rides on pride and power to a more as in line five, “Of power! said I? yes! such I ween;” then immediately contrasts it with a more pessimistic, cynical statement, “but they have vanish’d long, alas!” line six which also reflects life in itself, full of happy events, then followed by more unhappy one full of struggle (Myrodias).
In conclusion, The Happiest Day, Happiest Hour poem by Allan Edgar Poe is a good poem that is build by use of some important stylistic devices mainly personification and metaphor as analyzed. Poe in his poem says that the emotional fall one takes after their happiest moment outweighs the overall happiness. The happiest moment Poe felt was the moment when his pride and power were at their highest (Sova). From Poe’s poem, we are warned that as Pride and Power fly higher and higher the imminent fall grows larger. And like anything else that falls from a great height, a crater is left, making the fall longer than the flight and harder to recover from. The poem plays a key role to remind us that when you are at your highest point, you are also at your most vulnerable. More analysis of Poe’s poem can also be done using the work of some literary editors like, Arthur Hobson Quinn, in his book, A Critical Biography and Dawn B. Sova’s book Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe; A Literary Reference to His Poetical Work among others.
Dawn, Sova. Critical Comparison to Edgar Allan Poe; A Literary Reference to His Life and Work
Myrodias, Antonis. Visioning Five Nikes. New York: Google Art Project, 2013.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Poetic Principle. BiblioBytes, 1995.