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Analysis and comments on The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe

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Comment 3 of 13, added on April 6th, 2006 at 3:13 PM.

hey. anyone have any ideas why he says
"Strange, above all, thy length of tress"

what's weird about her hair length? did they cut it because she was dead?
or is it too long?

Camille from United States
Comment 2 of 13, added on January 18th, 2006 at 1:44 PM.

Basically, the speaker of this poem seems unable to forget about his dead
lover who nows lies within her grave. We see that he wants to forget about
his lover (via the line: Looking about the Lethe, see!) We also see symbols
for rememberance in the form of rosemary. The speaker of the poem is
conflicted. He doesn't want to accept that his lover is dead (strange is
thy pallor! strange thy dress! strange, above all, thy length of tress, and
this all solemn silentness!)

The most interesting image though comes with the lines: I pray to God that
she may lie/Forever with unopened eye,/while the pale sheeted ghosts go

By adding these extra "ghosts", Poe is making a statement on the
relationship between love and death. The lover inside the casket can't join
the ghosts because his love refuses to move on and quit his mourning (or
perhaps even accept that she is truly dead) and thus has captured her in
this state of dreaming.

Poe spends an awful amount of time describing the dead lover in a state of
dreaming. It should be noted that dreams are typically contrasted with
reality (and Poe has done this in other poems, see: "Dreams" and "A Dream
Within a Dream".) The earlier comments about how he expected his lover to
appear also show that the speaker is trying to deny reality. By picturing
her dreaming, the speaker further tries to mitigate the concept of death
(by comparing it to an eternal sleep where one dreams of wonders). In
reality, the speaker is the one dreaming and unable to accept reality. He
romanticizes death, almost turning it into a game and something wonderful,
which seems morbid but is really trying to deal with the loss of a loved

But that still begs the question: Why is this poem important outside of the
poem itself?

Although most of us don't go around talking about how wonderful worms
crawling over our skin must feel (Oh may her sleep,/ as it is lasting, so
be deep!/Soft may the worms about her creep!) humanity does, indeed,
romantacize death. The religious among us believe in an eternal heaven
after death, "He/she's gone onto a better place", "Forty virgins are
waiting up there for you!", etc. What at first seems like Poe romantacizing
death in a creepy way, typical of his style, ends up creating a poem that
turns out to have a deeper meaning in the context of human society. By
depicting this almost insane romantic death filled with morbid details
(that isn't really death, but a kind of dreaming) he is ironically
attacking the idea of romantacizing death as would be done in mainstream
society through religion.

Eric from United States
Comment 1 of 13, added on October 18th, 2005 at 12:30 PM.

i luv it i luv him

amy from United States

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Information about The Sleeper

Poet: Edgar Allan Poe
Poem: The Sleeper
Added: Apr 27 2005
Viewed: 12570 times
Poem of the Day: Nov 22 2013

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