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Science and art. Two rivaling fields, two opposite poles. Edgar Allan Poe cleverly combines both in his poem “Sonnet — To Science” through his consistent inquiries throughout the poem. Although the title would suggest Poe is writing a love poem to Science, the content of the poem shows otherwise. The poem is Poe’s way of lamenting over scientific development and the dangers it poses towards poetry and art. 
Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer who lived and wrote in the early nineteenth century, when the world was just beginning to witness the effects of the Industrial Revolution. The revolution was on its way to spread to America and this poem acted as a warning for the potential upheaval from the artistic community were science and technology to reach American soil. Poe is not alone in his fears and concerns for science. At each step of technological advancement, while there is the excitement over innovation, there is always the underlying fear it would one day overpower, or destroy, humanity that accompanies it. “Sonnet — To Science” hints at the tension between the advancements the Industrial Revolution would bring and the rich culture value of the preceding Romantic era. Poe, being a member of the American Romantic movement, much preferred the natural and innocent state of the Romantic era and translated that belief to the poem. 
Straight away in the first stanza, Poe makes clear the subject of this poem: science. The poem follows the classic form of a Shakespearean Sonnet, perhaps paying homage to the Romantic Era. The way the subject is introduced — first word of the first line, with an exclamation point, “Science!” — sets the tone of the poem as declarative and resemblant of a protest. Critic Derek Pollard discusses the contrast between the first line and the rest of the poem in an article he wrote in The Edgar Allan Poe Review: although the first line of the poem calls Science the “true daughter of Old Time,” the rest of the poem will turn out to suggests that Science has actually “repudiated Old Time and has severed her kinship with the poet and with the mythological and the folkloric traditions from which she herself has been birthed” (Pollard). Furthermore, since the Romantic Era is for a large part grounded in the appreciation of nature at its undisturbed state, Poe criticizes Science for “altering all things with its peering eyes.” In the third and fourth lines, Poe even more explicitly condemns science for the damage it has done, or will do, to art and poetry. By comparing Science to a “vulture” who “preys upon the poet’s heart,” Poe establishes Science as the villain who picks off flesh from whatever preceded it. Poe notably phrases it in the form of a question for its rhetorical effect in emphasizing the cruelty and bruteness of Science. This form of rhetorical questioning will reappear numerous times throughout the poem, which adds to the poem as it now closely mirrors a hostile interrogation. 
Poe extends his critique into the second stanza. In this stanza, readers are exposed to more ambiguous pronouns. It can be inferred that the speaker is referring to Science when he says “thou” or “thee,” and referring to another poet, or poetry in general, when he says “he.” With that in mind, the first line of the stanza serves as another rhetorical question asking how a poet could ever love Science. This recurrence of “wings” ties back to the analogy of the vulture in the first stanza, emphasizing the predatory aspect of the analogy. The phrases “wander,” “seek,” and “soar” all contribute to the connotation of exploration and discovery and are elements of science and industrialization. However, the enjambment in this stanza also suggests an alternative meaning where poetry is the one “wandering,” “seeking,” and “soaring,” bringing its readers on expeditions through imagination. In that case, the phrase “wouldst not leave” would be describing Science and how it is trying to look for the same treasures poetry is and taking them away from him before he can. Critic Derek Pollard further supports this idea through observing the rhyme scheme and the words that are associated together through the rhyme. Pollard points out how “the fact that wisdom—”wise” in the fifth line—is aligned with “jeweled skies” in the seventh line, suggesting that the poet is able to attain higher knowledge by means of his imaginative flights than Science, who as “vulture” only circles and descends” (Pollard). Through the analogy mentioned above, Poe insinuates that there are some things, such as beauty and aesthetic experience, art and poetry can achieve that Science can never mimic. 
The third stanza and the rhyming couplet’s incorporation of mythical allusions further reiterates the inherent difference between science and art. In line nine, “Diana” alludes back to the Roman goddess of hunting and virginity. She is thought to ride the moon across the sky at night, an angle of the moon people with a literature background see. On the other hand, however, science only sees the moon as a distant, lifeless piece of rock. The imagery here of Diana being dragged off is an attempt to portray how science as merciless in its pursuit. Then, the poem refers to Hamadryad, a Greek and Roman tree nymph, who lives and dies with its tree. Science’s perspective on trees is that there are no spirits or nymphs living in them, thus driving Hamadryad out of the trees. The poem continues to talk about Naiad, a water nymph, being forcefully removed from her water. The diction Poe employs in his description of each event — “dragged,” “driven,” “torn,” — all serve to paint Science as a cruel and inhumane matter. However, Pollard notes how the poem suggests that Nature, or the wilderness represented by Diana, Hamadryad, Naiad, and an Elf, is the one entity that appears to be “checking Science’s uncontested rise to power” (Pollard). Although the content of the poem suggests that Nature is abused by Science, the fact that mention of Diana, Hamadryad, Naiad, and an Elf is concentrated in four of the six final lines suggests how Nature is “crowding out Science from the position of privilege she has usurped from them” (Pollard). It is also notable that Science is also portrayed to be disrespecting Nature, which is an integral part of the Romantic Era, when it interferes with the moon, the trees, and the water. This adds to Poe’s purpose of not only criticizing the Industrial Revolution, but also in the mean time paying respect to the Romantic Era he is from.
In the peak of the Industrial Revolution, Poe publishes this poem as his means of showing disapproval: disapproval towards scientific and technological development and its malicious effect on art. Science disrupts creativity and fantasy that is imperative to art and poetry. This poem serves to portray Science from the perspective of a poet: brutal, cruel, and a predator. Poe highlights the blunt and crude nature of science as it shatters the existence of creativity and language and art.

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