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by Edgar Allan Poe

Analysis: Shout Outs

When poets refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary and Philosophical References

  • Ultima Thule (line 6): In ancient times, this referred to the most northern part of the world. Ultima means "farthest" in Latin. "Thule" was the name for an island in the North, maybe the place we call Iceland now. So Ultima Thule meant beyond Thule, at the edge of the world. Over time, people started to use it to refer to any mysterious and far-off destination. For Poe, then, it means a place that's unimaginably far away.

  • Darkened Glasses (line 50): We think this is probably a reference to a famous line in the Bible about versions of reality. The original quote is from 1 Corinthians 13:12 – "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." Both Poe's poem and the Bible passage are talking about how we see things in dim, dreamlike ways, how reality can seem like a shadow-world, hazy and unclear. Both of these works ask us to imagine a world where we see clearly at last. There are tons of differences here, of course, but we think this reference makes Poe's text even richer.

  • Eldorado (line 42): This is a mythical city of gold. The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro went looking for this city in 1541. Since then, it has become a general term for a fantastic, unreal paradise full of riches – just the kind of place that would have to show up in a Poe poem.

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