What poetic devices are used in "The Raven"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Perhaps the most prominent poetic device used in "The Raven" is alliteration. This use of alliteration seems to thrust the poem forward, as if hastening to a conclusion. Good examples are:

And the silken, sad, uncertain... 

...filled me with fantastic terrors...

The most brilliant use of alliteration in all poetry is to be found in these lines:

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfurmed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

The "s" sounds begin with "denser" and recur in "unseen," "censer," "Swung," and "seraphim." They are followed in the second line by "f" sounds in "foot-falls" and by "t" sounds in "tinkled" and "tufted."

There are many internal rhymes throughout the poem, beginning with:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...

Poe uses similes and metaphors throughout "The Raven." For example:

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

Poe's major contribution to poetry was in his symbolism. The raven obviously symbolized death. The French, especially through Charles Baudelaire, were so capitivated by the innovation that "symbolisme" became a major movement in French poetry. Poe explains his theory of poetry with special attention to his composition of "The Raven" is an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition" (see reference link below).


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