by Edgar Allan Poe
Analysis: Calling Card
Helen, Thy Name…
There was something about the name Helen that Poe really liked. He not only wrote the "To Helen" that we've been talking about, but also another poem in 1848 with the exact same title that you can read here. We should note that the short version we discuss in this module is much more famous than the other one, which is a lot longer. Unlike the first "To Helen," this one was actually addressed to a woman whose real name was Helen (well, Sarah Helen Whitman but close enough). The fact that Poe wrote two poems with the exact same title tells us something about his fascination with the name and, probably, all that it symbolizes (beauty most of all).
In addition to these two poems, Poe tossed the name around occasionally in his letters, usually when speaking of Jane Stanard, the woman who inspired the first "To Helen." Thus, in a letter to Sarah Helen Whitman (the name just keeps coming up!), he referred to Jane Stanard as "Helen Stanard." Moreover, in the same letter, he actually talks about the poem "To Helen"! Wow. Just think about this: he writes a letter to a woman named Helen, mentions another woman he calls Helen, and then talks about his poem "To Helen." Helen, Helen, Helen indeed!