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Major Themes of Poe’s Poetry

  1. Love – usually of a mourning man for his deceased beloved.
  2. Pride – physical and intellectual.
  3. Beauty – of a young woman either dying or dead.
  4. Death - a source of horror.


In his best poem “THE RAVEN” Poe tried to follow the ancient tradition of using symbols as did the great European masters of symbolic literature: Dante in his “Divine Comedy”, Shakespeare in “The Winter’s Tale”, Byron in “Cain”, Coleridge in “The Ancient Mariner”. In his poem Poe followed folk-lore traditions.

The principal personage in “The Raven” is a young man, the narrator. At the beginning of the poem he is seated at his desk in the dead night absorbed in his books. He is despondent because he has lately suffered a tragic shock: the death of his beloved (a prototype is Virginia Clemm, Poe’s wife, who died of tuberculosis).

His despondency grows steadily until it takes the shape of a black raven that flies into the room and perches upon the marble bust of Athena which stands above his chamber door.

In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

The young man asks the bird its name and the raven replies: “Nevermore”. The young man is much surprised: “Nevermore” seems to be the very word he had in his subconscious mind; it suits his melancholy mood.

Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-

Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before-

On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."

Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

He questions the raven about his lost Lenore. He wants to know whether the soul of his departed beauty is somewhere alive and awaits him. But the only answer is “Nevermore”. The word “Nevermore” is repeated after each of the young man’s questions. This sad word is the only answer the young man can expect, and it finally shatters his desperate illusion of hope. The young man tries to drive the raven away, to efface the sinister bird out of his memory, but all in vain.

"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the young man has to accept the fact that the pain of sorrow will never depart from his heart, and despair will embrace his soul forever. The poem ends in a frozen scene of death-in-life:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted - nevermore!


The Raven (lines 1-18)

ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“'Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door -

- Only this, and nothing more.”


Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -

Nameless here for evermore.


And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -

This it is, and nothing more…”


1. Throughout literature, ravens have been associated with mystery and evil omen. The raven’s jet-black feathers, threatening stare, and lamenting cry all contribute to the bird’s reputation as a prophet of gloom. The raven is also noted for being intelligent, easy to tame, and mischievous.

2. One of the most distinctive features of Poe’s work is his use of rhyme – the repetition of sounds at the ends of words. In “The Raven” the poet uses to types of rhyme – end rhyme and internal rhyme. You can see that the last words in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth lines in every stanza are rhyming words. This is called end rhyme. Poe also uses rhyme within lines – internal rhyme. For example, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary…



1. What emotions does “The Raven” cause you to have?

2. What is revealed about the setting and the speaker in the first stanza? What is the speaker ding? Why does he do this?

3. Describe the mental state of the speaker.

4. Who is Lenore?

5. What meaning does the word nevermore have in the poem? What effect is created by the repeated use of this word?

6. Comment on the mood, or atmosphere, that is suggested by the words bleak, dying, ghost.

7. Why do you think the poet adds emphasis to the word “here” in the refrain?

8. Find examples of alliteration and consonance in the poem. What role do these sound effects play in this poem?

9. What mood is suggested by the alliteration of the s- and l-sounds in this poem?

10. “Tapping” and “rapping” are onomatopoeic words; that is, their sound echoes their meaning. What mood, or atmosphere is created by these sound effects?

11. List the words from the poem that have sound made by the letters ‘ore’.

12. What if the raven’s visit occurred at noon on a sunny summer day? Would the poem have the same effect? Why or why not?


Writing option:

Imagine that you are the speaker in “The Raven”. Write a letter to a friend asking for advice about how to cope with your grief over losing Lenore. Or write the letter from the friend, giving the speaker advice.


Edgar Allan Poe's love for Virginia Poe, and the affect that her suffering and dying had upon him, are reflected in his tragic poem “Annabel Lee”. Like Poe's most famous poem, “The Raven”, it tells of a man mourning a dead lover. It is unclear whether the Annabel Lee character referred to a real person. Some say it was written for his wife, some for a lover, and others that it was the product of Poe's gloomy imagination. However, unlike “The Raven”, in which the narrator believes he will "nevermore" be reunited with his love, “Annabel Lee” says the two will be together again.



It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.


I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea:

But we loved with a love that was more than love--

I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.


And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsman came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.


The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me--

Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.


But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we--

Of many far wiser than we--

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:


For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by the sea,

In her tomb by the sounding sea.



  1. What is the name of his love?
  2. How old were they?
  3. Where did they live?
  4. What was the girl's whole purpose in life?
  5. What came out of a cloud?
  6. What do you think happened to Annabel Lee?
  7. Do you think it is very romantic to be in love with some one who has died or is unattainable? Why or why not?


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 890

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