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“The Raven” and “Lenore”

Most of Poe’s better poems are fine examples of virtuosity in the manipulation of sound. Of these, “The Raven” and “Lenore” stands prominent. In these poems it is proven beyond doubt that he specialized in prosodic devices. He strove to attain a more felicitous verbal music by the use of repetition in such forms as alliteration, assonance, echoes, repetends, refrains and onomatopoeia. To him sound was more important than sense; and sound was used to reinforce his characteristic effects of melancholy, mystery, terror, and horror.

These poems show forth that he was better to be known as a magical conjurer of mood and the creator of an original music. The poem “Lenore” is undoubtedly sad, though here we also have a feeling of indignation mixed the sadness. Here a young and beautiful woman lies dead as a result of the ill-will and cruelty of her kinsfolk. The hypocritical family priest wants the usual ritual of death to be performed in the dead women’s case, but the dead woman’s lover, a man called Guy de Vere, becomes furious on hearing the priest’s exhortation as it was the “evil eye”(11) and the “slanderous tongue”(11) of her kinsfolk that brought about her death.

Although the bereaved lover has the hope that the dead Lenore is now in heaven, the poem is a most moving and poignant one. The situation presented in the poem constituted sufficient material for a full fledged story. In fact, this poem partakes of the character of a ballad as well as of a play. The poem is admirable also because of its felicities of word and phrase.

“A saintly soul floats on the Stygian river” (2); “Yon drear and rigid bier” (4); “an anthem for the queenliest dead” (6); “a dirge for her the doubly dead” (7); “but waft the angel on her flight with a Paean” (26) – these are all examples of the use of appropriate words and phrases which also appeal to our aesthetic sense. Furthermore, the poem is a rhythmical and musical triumph. It is a pleasure to go through the poem for the sweet sound of its lines. Here is line in which we have alliteration and assonance as well as internal or medial rhyming: “From moan and groan to a golden to a golden throne beside the king of Heaven.

”(22) “Lenore” is one of the most gripping of Poe’s poems because of its narrative quality, its dramatic situation, its atmosphere of sadness, the intensity of its changing emotions, its felicity of diction, and its melody. Though obscurity s claimed to be totally absent in this poem, a certain amount of suggestiveness or indefiniteness is present. The exact circumstances of Lenore’s death, the exact reason for the rift between her and her relatives, the reason why Guy de Vere could not help her in her predicament – these things are left to our imagination. We are free to speculate upon the true circumstances of the case.

On the other hand, in “The Raven”, the bereaved lover is a scholar who is trying to drown his grief in his scholarly studies, though the effort to forget his dead beloved proves futile. The lover, occupied with his books of learning, is disturbed by a raven tapping at the shutters of his window. to every question that the bird is asked, it gives the same reply, “Nevermore” because that is the only word which it had learnt under the tutorship of its master from whom it has escaped. The raven has become a symbol of mournful and never ending remembrance. We can also consider it as the symbol of Poe’s rejection of the belief in immortality.

The bust of Pallas on which the bird perches is also a symbol that stands for the life of learning into which the lover in the poem had plunged himself in order to drown his sorrow. The raven as a bird of ill omen also carries many associations and many suggestions. The grief in this poem is deeply felt by the speaker, so that we fully share it with him. Every question by the bereaved lover is strictly relevant to the situation in the poem, and the questions reach their climax in the final question about the possibility of the lover’s reunion with the beloved in the next world.

There are several intensely dramatic-cum-pathetic situations in the poem: one is the bird’s entry into the chamber; another is the lover’s recollections of his beloved’s visits to his chamber and her body pressing the cushion when she sat down on it; yet another is the bird’s reply of “Nevermore” to the lover’s final and crucial question. It is, indeed a gripping poem with the interest of both a narrative and a play. The poem contains many felicities of word and phrase, and it is, too, a musical triumph. The following lines are just one example of the musical quality of the poem:

“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before ;”( 13-14) These lines serve as a perfect example of the various devices used by Poe to produce musical effects. As for the music and melody of this poem, poe here makes the fullest use of all available technical devices to endow his poem with an exquisite singing quality which adds greatly to its lyrical character. Ample usage of alliteration, internal rhyming and the like proves him to be a superb craftsman.

The imagined situation; the fanciful thoughts of the lover; the intensity of the lover’s emotion; the felicities of word and phrase; the melody and the music – all these qualities combine to create a masterpiece of romantic poetry. As for Poe, beauty is the sole legitimate province of a poem, and melancholy is the most legitimate of all poetical tones. Hence he drew a conclusion that the death of a beautiful woman would be the most poetical theme in the world. Both the poems under consideration comprise of the same theme and with that we have the added qualities of suggestiveness, rhyming, alliteration, assonance, and splendidness.

One important ingredient of almost every poem of Poe is its narrative quality. There is either a narrative or the seeds of a narrative in them. The narrative in “The Raven” is crystal clear and full-fledged, in the poem but in “Lenore”, we are only given the outlines of the story; we are free to fill up the outlines. All the following qualities evident in the two poems point out to his geniosity in craftsmanship: his felicities of word and phrase, his fine sense of form, the abundance and the vividness of his imagery, the symbolist technique, the narrative quality of his poems, and the music and melody of his verse.

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