Eldorado (poem)

Eldorado (poem)

"Eldorado" is a ballad poem by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in April 1849.


The poem describes the journey of a "gallant knight" in search of the legendary El Dorado. The knight spends much of his life on this quest. In his old age, he finally meets a "pilgrim shadow" who points the way through "the Valley of Shadow." It was first published in the April 21, 1849, issue of the Boston-based "The Flag of Our Union". [Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, Paperback ed., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801857309. p. 605.]


The poem is made up of four six-line stanzas. Poe uses the term "shadow" in the middle of each stanza. The meaning of the word, however, changes with each use. First, it is a literal shadow, where the sun is blocked out. In the second, it implies gloom or despair. The third use is a ghost. The final use, "the Valley of Shadow," can be replaced with "Valley of Death," possibly suggesting that Eldorado (or riches in general) does not exist in the living world.

The time of the poem's publication, 1849, was during the California Gold Rush and was Poe's reaction to that event. [Campbell, Killis. "The Origins of Poe", "The Mind of Poe and Other Studies". New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962: 159.]


Gaily bedight,A gallant knight,In sunshine and in shadow,Had journeyed long,Singing a song,In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old,This knight so bold,And o'er his heart a shadow,Fell as he found,No spot of ground,That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength,Failed him at length,He met a pilgrim shadow;"Shadow," said he,"Where can it be,This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the mountains Of the moon,Down the Valley of the Shadow,Ride, boldly ride,"The shade replied,"If you seek for Eldorado!"


"Eldorado," along with "Hymn" and "Evening Star," was adapted by choral composer Jonathan Adams as "Three Songs from Edgar Allan Poe" for SATB chorus and piano in 1993.The poem was used for the lyrics of a Donovan's song on his 1996 album Sutras.

An abridged form of the poem, sung in verse appears in the John Wayne western film of the same name, El Dorado. The poem was sung several times throughout the film. It is sung in the movie by a very young James Cann who played the part of Alan Bourdillion Traherne (Mississippi) a riverboat cards player who had set out into the west to locate the whereabouts of four gunmen who had shot and killed his mentor. After avenging the old man's death he then links up with John Wayne in pursuit of an illusory place called El Dorado.


*cite book | title=Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance | last=Silverman | first=Kenneth | authorlink=Kenneth Silverman | publisher=Harper Perennial | location=New York | edition=Paperback ed. | date=1991 | pages= | id=ISBN 0060923318
*cite book | title=Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z | last=Sova | first=Dawn B. | authorlink=Dawn B. Sova | publisher=Checkmark Books | location=New York | edition=Paperback ed. | date=2001 | pages= | id=ISBN 081604161X

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