by Edgar Allan Poe
To Helen Theme of Love
Helen, Psyche, beauty—"To Helen" is chock full of references to love, mostly of the, ahem, mythical kind. All these references to mythological love, while they sound cool, are a bit depressing. They aren't real! In other words, the poem describes a love that is ideal, that is more of a fantasy than a reality (remember that Poe had his friend's mom in mind, after all). This doesn't mean it can't be awesome and beautiful and fun to think about, though. Right?
Questions About Love
- Poe met Jane Stanard when he was 14. Does this poem describe the feelings of a teenager or an adult? Is a teenager even capable of the emotions described here? Why or why not?
- Why does the speaker change Helen's name to Psyche in the poem's last stanza?
- Does the speaker's emphasis on Helen's looks (hair, face, beauty) make him seem shallow at all? Why or why not?
- Is it possible that the speaker isn't really in love and is just infatuated? Why do you think so?
Chew on This
Love can be a dangerous business! The names Helen and Psyche remind us of powerful love affairs but also of war, violence, and suffering.
Sometimes, love is just too perfect to be real. All the mythological references in this poem imply that love is a myth—an ideal or fantasy.