Helen of Troy was the most beautiful woman in the world, and both poets understood that there were no women like her. Poe sees this as only positive, she is beautiful and pure. Poe believes that her beauty is a gift from the heavens, and by existing, she graces everyone that shares her world. H.D. on the other hand, sees this beauty as an example of what others are not, and therefore common people are upset, because they’ll never be as good as her. These two poets shape their separate views through contrasting usage of poetic devices.
The poets use the recent history of the speaker as a basis for which their speaker forms their opinion. In Poe’s poem, Helen had recently crossed seas and the people of Greece rejoice in her beauty, while in H.D.’s poem, death had occurred in the recent past. The speaker in Poe’s poem only sees the beauty that Helen’s face brings, whereas H.D.’s takes in a larger picture of war, lust, and jealousy.
The tone in each of the poems differ greatly. Poe sets his tone of optimism through his choice of comparison to all the lovely things in nature. H.D. makes his tone stand out by pointing out that everybody hates her and won’t be happy until she’s dead. Poe’s poem remains pure through focusing only on Helen’s face and hands, but H.D. details more lustful body parts, as a strategy to add corruption to the tone. In the time period this was written, a woman was not supposed to show her feet or knees, as these were seen as very sexual.
With 3 stanzas and 15 lines, these poems share a similar basic structure, but digging deeper will yield many differences in other parts of the structure. Poe’s rhyming scheme is more formal than that of H.D. in order to emphasize that Poe’s speaker is addressing a goddess while H.D.’s is addressing an evil. Poe’s rhythm is also more consistent than H.D.’s, also showing the differences in the speaker’s preparation of the announcement to Helen.
The two poets use very different strategies to get their drastically differing points across. Poe uses formalities as flattery, while H.D. relies on the outrage of the speaker to show frustration. The speakers are shown to have different opinions on the same subject through different uses of poetic devices.