INTRODUCTION TO THE POEM: The poem Israfel, was penned in an army encampment after Poe left college and was first published in the year 1831 in a collection titled Edgar. A. Poe. However, it was altered and amended to be published again in the August 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger. The poem was originally written in eight stanzas of varied lengths and in an introduction to the poem, Poe explicates that he derives the legend of Israfel from the Koran of an angel who is blessed with a lute for a heart and who possesses “the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures”. In reality, although the name ‘Israfel’ is not principally mentioned in the Islamic holy texts, there is a constant reference to an unnamed trumpet-angel and it is probable that this figure is what inspired Poe to create the poem Israfel.
Central Idea of Israfel by Edgar Allan Poe
As mentioned earlier there could have been quite a few number of texts to draw inspiration for this poem and hence it is possible, that Poe had extracted this idea from George Sales Preliminary Discourse on the Koran. However, the name of the angel is not revealed in the holy texts and Israfel has simply been identified as the trumpet-angel suggested in the Koran. The central intention of the poem is to visualise the competition of a human voice to that of a supernatural entity and to declare the challenge to see who fares better. It is the pronouncement of an imposing mortal who believes his songs of woe and joy has more relevance in terms of passion than that of the lyre-hearted angel gifted with divine powers but no real experience of life. Basically, it reflects Poe’s own principles of poetry, which suggests that a truly inspired song has to have mortal relevance and rendition and it is not enough for a poem to just be beautiful in form and lyric lacking in any actual impact.
Themes of Israfel by Edgar Allan Poe
The poem Israfel has a very fundamental theme of Romanticism. According to the Romantics, art should always be an expression of nature and humanity and should appeal to the human heart in contrast to classical elegance. There is a strong suggestion of the individual in the poem Israfel, where the widely accepted traditional notion of music has been questioned by the refreshing realism of the poet. Poe has been successful in expressing many of these Romantic characteristics of artistic freedom in this poem. Also the symbols and motifs of the celestial bodies present the rich imagination of the poet, and creative imagination is crucial to the Romantic theme.