What is the meaning of the word lisp in the poem "Romance" by Edgar Allan Poe? Is there symbolic meaning behind it?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The word "lisp" used as a noun usually denotes a speech imperfection in which sibilant /s/ or /z/ is mispronounced, sounding more like a /th/ phoneme. However, when used as the verb "to lisp" it also denotes childish speech, especially in early literature in which it is a standard convention of a toddler's or young child's imperfect speech.

The presence of Poe's use of "lisp" in the first stanza of "Romance" reinforces his description of himself as a young child. Since Poe is speaking of himself as a child, it makes sense that a "paroquet" (parakeet) was a familiar friend and "Taught me my alphabet to say —". Paroquets are small parrots and thus are attributed with the skill of mimicking speech. This image of a boy and bird and time to learn the alphabet stands in sharp contrast to the primary thematic image of a grown up who now says: "That little time with lyre and rhyme / To while away — forbidden things!"

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial