17 pages 34 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Lake

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1827

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Literary Context: Romanticism

“The Lake” is an example of Edgar Allan Poe’s Romantic poetry, meaning it furthers the ideas of the British Romantic poets, such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, and Lord Byron. John Keats’s idea of Negative Capability, which includes being in a state of uncertainty—or not knowing—as part of the pursuit of beauty, can be directly connected to “The Lake.” Poe’s imagery includes the unknown realm of water in the dark night and the unknown realm of death. Poe is also influenced by American Romantic writers, whose work often celebrates the vastness of American nature. While the lake Poe writes about is enclosed by natural elements, like the trees, it is outside of human civilization, and therefore is part of this “vastness.”

Another important element of Romantic poetry is the role of the imagination. In his essay “A Defence of Poetry,” Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley argues, “Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight” (Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defence of Poetry.” 1840. Poetry Foundation). In “The Lake,” Poe discusses “him who thence could solace bring / To his lone imagining” (Line 21).