The Raven: Rhyme Scheme, Frequent Meter And Poetic Devices
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” was first published in the year 1845 and serves as one of the poet’s most popular works. The poem is highly renowned for its stylized language, trochaic octameter writing, and supernatural atmosphere that relays the poet’s message. The poem is a narrative about a talking raven’s mysterious encounter with a troubled lover and its attempts to understand the man’s gradual decline into near madness. The narrator often describes the lover as a student who is distraught by the painful loss of his lover, Lenore. According to Poe, the poem was written in a highly logical and methodical manner, thus making it appealing to both critics and mainstream fans of poetry. Additionally, the poem incorporates a great deal of religious, mythological, and classical references. A critical analysis reveals that its form and structure are well integrated to convey the intended message.
One of the most significant aspects of the poem is its rhyme scheme. Rhyme scheme refers to the use of rhyming words strategically and repeatedly in a poem. Edgar Poe’s poem has one of the most unique rhyme schemes comprising both internal and end rhymes, which play a major role in developing the mood and tension in the poem. The end rhyme mainly encompasses the rhyming words used at the end of a particular line. In the first stanza, the end rhyme is ABCBBB as indicated by the words, “weary”, “lore”, “tapping”, “door”, “door”, and “more” (1-6). Interestingly, for all the other stanzas, the end rhymes for the first through to the third line are unique while the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines are the same. Repeating the B rhyme in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines helps to develop an eerie tone and atmosphere.
On the other hand, it may be evident that the first and third lines may lack a rhyming pattern at the end. However, the poet compensates by creating internal rhymes in that the rhymes are within the line as opposed to the end. Taking the first line of the first stanza, for instance, the words “dreary” and “weary” make a rhyme while in the third line, the words “napping” and “tapping” also rhyme. The internal rhyme is effective in creating tension in each stanza. In essence, the poem is a highly musical composition comprising a total of 18 uniformly measured sonnets, a regular rhyme scheme of ABCBBB, including both internal and external rhyme patterns.
The frequent meter in the poem is that of trochaic octameter. Such a meter comprises of 8 trochees-pairs of both stressed and unstressed syllables. The Raven’s first five lines in each stanza are all written in trochaic octameter, where the second, fourth, and fifth line in each stanza lacks the final unstressed syllable. Additionally, the sixth line in every stanza comprises of three trochees with an additional final stressed syllable. The fifth and sixth lines provide a clear example of how the poem employs the trochaic octameter scale, as illustrated below;
“And my / soul from / out that / shadow / that lies /
floating / on the / floor
Shall be / lifted- / never / more!” (5-6).
The poet is able to create variety in the rhythm by incorporating pauses while ensuring the sound is not monotonous through the use of consonance and assonance.
The second poetic device used to help convey the intended message is figurative speech. The poem is set in a melancholic tone while the fundamental theme is mainly about the controversial and mystical question of death. In most cultures, including the one where the poem is set, the raven is a symbol of evil and death. In the entire poem, the raven utters one single word but repeatedly— “Nevermore.” The poet has personified the raven and portrays it as a noble guest, who has decided to visit a sad young lover. It is quite possible that the Raven’s main intent towards the distraught lover is to act as a harbinger of death. According to the narrator, the raven makes a grand entrance into the room, which is described as stately. The narrator further describes that the raven perches in the room as an act of dignified nobility. Furthermore, when it speaks, it does not simply caw like other ravens but like a noble person: using a great deal of emotion and lucidity. The narrator states,
‘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 – ‘ (38-40)
‘But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour’ (55-56)
Personalizing the raven compounded by the visual movements and auditory sensations, create a haunting effect. Furthermore, the poet has repeatedly personified inanimate objects by providing them with animate properties, thereby developing an ominous tone in the poem. For instance, the narrator states, “And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor” (Mays 730). In this line, the poet provides the inanimate embers of a fire with ghostly properties.
The author also employs the poem’s setting to accentuate its mood. The setting of the candle-lit chamber in addition to the grief-stricken speaker creates a frightening feeling and prepares the reader to expect an unusual occurrence. In the first stanza, the narrator describes that its midnight; hence he is feeling weak and tired. When he almost falls asleep, he hears a knock, or rather, a tapping on the door. Setting the time at midnight and at the same time introducing an unexpected visitor at such an hour creates an ominous mood. The second stanza is set on a wintery December. The writer describes the fire with an eerie appearance and whirling shadows on the door. Additionally, the man is distraught and wishes it was morning, after which it is revealed that he is mourning the loss of his lover. The setting again helps to create an ominous mood since it is during a dark, wintery December night. In conclusion, the author has been successful in ensuring that the poem’s form and content complement each other through the effective combination of rhyme scheme, figurative speech, and setting to create an eerie and ominous mood and convey the intended message of grief. The stylistic devices are creatively employed to keep the reader captivated by reducing the monotony of narration and having them think deeper than the superficial meaning of the wording employed. It is through these stylistic devices that the reader of this poem develops interest in the reading and is challenged to think and synthesize the information that is derived from the poem.
- Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction To Literature. 12th ed., Norton, 2017, pp. 730-33.