My Quest for Eldorado
In Three Parts

This essay addresses Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado. I memorized this poem six decades ago for Mrs. Davis, my English teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School. I identified with the gallant knight in search of Eldorado. Poe describes me in the first stanza.

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

Well, at least I felt like the gallant knight.

Well, at least I felt like the gallant knight.

Twenty-five years ago, I went to a one-person play, Edgar Allan Poe--Once Upon a Midnight, in which John Astin was Poe. I have attended several Broadway plays, but Astin’s as Poe ranks at the top of the list with Les Miserables. Once Upon a Midnight and Les Miz addressed my dreams.


I had the opportunity to interview Austin and asked him about Eldorado. I told Astin about my dreams of my Eldorado. Astin demurred from my idea. He paused for a moment and then explained his understanding of Eldorado.

Eldorado is a summation of the philosophy of this play: no matter what happens in life, you suffer that which is to suffer, enjoy that which is to enjoy, and you keep on riding forward with boldness and courage. That courageous journey is Eldorado itself. It is nothing outside of our lives. It is not another land where we will find solutions to all of our problems. Eldorado is in our own lives. If we learn to challenge the Mountains of the Moon with boldness and ride through that shadowed valley, we will live in Eldorado.

I accepted Astin’s insight, but that was a quarter century ago. This is the second part of this essay. I’ll be eighty at the end of this week. Poe expresses how I feel in my attempts to find my present-day Eldorado. I feel like the former gallant knight.

The gallant knight is in his twilight years.

The gallant knight is in his twilight years.

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.

Poe ends his poem with the advice of the shade to the old gallant knight, which is the final part of this essay.

The shade said, Ride, boldly ride.

The shade said, “Ride, boldly ride.”

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!”

It seems to me that Eldorado is both an adventure and a realization. Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” The morphing together of dreams and the destination are what makes Eldorado important. It bonds my Weltanschauung and my drive. Without the dream or the drive, I am wasting my remaining time, and I hear my clock ticking. I had led death on the dancefloor of my life twice, successfully. However, like Gilgamesh, I am fully aware that I am not immortal. Gilgamesh said, “Forget death and seek life.”

One final addendum. Life isn’t only about the person living life, nor is it only about the person’s Eldorado. However, it is a fatal flaw when we view life from the me perspective. My Eldorado includes a broader perspective and a more inclusive one. It is about family. I have people within my family who live in a faraway place. My boldly riding tells them that I see value in them and encourages them in their search for Eldorado.

Our Family

This is an interesting animation of Poe’s Eldorado.

This is a link to my interview with John Astin.