Study Guide

Alone (Poe) Lines 9-12

By Edgar Allan Poe

Lines 9-12

Lines 9-12

Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—

  • Now it looks like things are starting to shift gears a little bit. That big ol' "then" that opens line 9 tells us that the speaker is about to take things in a different direction.
  • At some point in his childhood—at some "then"—some mystery took hold of the speaker's life, and it looks like it still hasn't let go.
  • Remember, he's writing this poem much later in life and is looking back on his childhood.
  • Now, we know that the "mystery" took hold of the speaker during his childhood. The speaker drops a sweet metaphor to describe that childhood as the "dawn/ of a most stormy life."
  • Childhood is the beginning of life, hence the word "dawn." Now, "dawn" makes us think of the sun, a new day, a fresh start, and all that sort of stuff.
  • Unfortunately, the speaker's "dawn" was the beginning of one of those crummy, stormy days.
  • Instead of a beautiful day, the speaker gets a "stormy life." It sure sounds like he's looking back and realizing that all the bad things in his life started in childhood.
  • Another clue is that word "bind." That just makes us think of being tied up, controlled, and enchained.
  • So, putting it all together: childhood was the beginning of what became a difficult life. Some mystery took control of him then, and still has him in its power.
  • Hmm, no wonder people sometimes say that Poe was a haunted man. It makes sense when you read stuff like this don't you think?
  • One more piece of business about all this mystery stuff: The speaker says it comes from "every depth of good and ill."
  • There's some as-yet-unspecified mystery, right? It could be a power, a sixth sense, a spirit—something that cannot be described.
  • And the speaker experiences or finds this mystery everywhere—in the good things and in the bad things.
  • Okay, we know this doesn't make a whole ton of sense, but let's just bear with it for a while, shall we?
  • And besides, it's fitting that the speaker's description of this "mystery" should be… mysterious.

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