In his poem “Ulalume,” Poe explores into the memory he has of the past

The skies they were ashen and sober;

The leaves they were crisped and sere—

The leaves they were withering and sere;

It was night in the lonesome October

Of my most immemorial year;

It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,

In the misty mid region of Weir—

It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir. (Quoted in Poe, Andrew, Harry, Gustave 74)

Several poetic devices have been used by Poe in his poem, Ulalume. The extensive use of imagery clearly creates a picture in the minds of the readers regarding the mood of the poem. His choice of words and use of rhyming words is also evident. The use of repetition or near repetition in the poem can also be cited in the poem. This journal identifies and analyzes the attributes used in the first stanza, and tries to explain their significance in the poem

The speaker was most likely motivated by memories that he wishes to leave in the past. In the first line, he describes the day as immemorial. Later in the poem, we see notice that he was heat broken the very same night of October, last year. We are not told what year it is, but the word immemorial is used to mean a very long time ago. By referring to an experience that had only happened last year as immemorial, it clearly makes the speaker unhappy and wishes completely forget about it.

Poe’s choice of words in the poem is very impressive. Hadas stated that a good poem is characterized by the “poet’s use of visual imagery” (42). The application of visual imagery has been extensively used to describe the landscape. He describes the leaves with the words crispy and sere. This creates a picture of brown, dry and brittle leaves in lifeless vegetation. By indicating that it was a lonesome night in line four, the reader is made aware that the speaker is had no company with him. He further states in line six, that he was close to Lake Auber (line six), which is found in place called Wire (line seven). He describes Wire with the words Misty (line seven), ghoul-haunted and woodland. This lets the reader know that Wire was a woodland region, haunted by the ghosts that feed on the dead. This ghostly and misty surrounding creates a picture of a horrifying environment. He further describes Lake Auber in line eight, as tarn to mean that it was small. Poe uses an imaginary lake and location, Lake Auber, which in actual sense does not exist. By using these words, he creates a fairy tale felling in the story.

In the first stanza, Poe has played around with rhyming sounds. The first stanza rhyme scheme is A1 B1 B1 A2 B2 A3 B3 A3 D3, where B1 is the repetition of the word sere, A3 is the repetition of Auber, and B3 is the repetition of Weir. All nine stanzas begin with A1 B1 B1 A2 as a scheme for the first four lines, while the rest of the verses’ schemes are all very similar. His choice of words at the end of every line creates a pleasant sound to the readers.

Use of symbolic words in the poem can also be cited in the first stanza. In line one; he describes the skies as being ashen and sober. The symbolic word here is skies. The skies are symbolic of his grim and sorrowful moods. Withered, crispy and sere leaves, as used in line two and three, are also symbolic to his ruined and helpless state.

Poe also used a little bit of onomatopoeia in the first stanza. Instead of using the words dry and brume, Poe uses crispy and misty to create an onomatopoeia in the poem. The sounds made by these words when pronounced, could have been the reason why the Poe used them in the line as compared to the other synonyms.

Poe applies an almost refrain in two occurrences in the first stanza. Power states that a poet should avoid repeating lines in their poems by refrain or almost refrain (7; ch. 2). Poe only changes a few words to echo and emphasize the previous lines. The third line is a near repetition to the second line. They are practically the same only that the word crisped has been replaced by withering in line the third line. Line 8 is another instance of almost repetition of line 6. He repeats line six, but only changes his description of Lake Auber. He replaces the word dim with dank, which means damp and cold. Repetition or near repletion in poetry can be used as an emphasis. The speaker is therefore trying to stick his point into the readers’ visual imagination.

The ninth line is another near repletion of line seven, but with a few changes. Wire is described as a woodland region.

Poe has used two concept of meter in the first stanza. The two include, iambic and anapestic. A meter can be defined as the rhythm created by the accented and unaccented syllables arrangement. Carper defines a meter as ‘the rhythm structure in a poem that brings it to life” (5).

Iambic meter is when a stressed syllable follows an unstressed syllable. An example in the poem can be found in line one on stanza one. The word “skies” is an iamb. Anapestic on the other hand a word whose stressed syllable follows two unstressed syllables. Examples of anapests in the same line are the words ashen and sober.

Slashes are put between the chunks of the meter and the stressed syllables in bold. The first line of the stanza can be segmented as follows:

The skies | they were ash|en and so|ber;
(Iamb) (Anapest) (Anapest) (Extra Beat)

There are other types of meter, which can be used in poetry. Trochaic meter is the exact opposite of iambic meter.

Did Poe use excessive imagery in the poem? Can the rhyme in the first stanza be made any better? How does the use of fairy in line six affect the overall mood of the poem? These questions come about from the first stanza of the poem. The accented syllable is followed by an unaccented syllable. Dactylic is the forth type of meter where by the unaccented syllable follows an accented syllable. A spondee meter is a two-accented syllable. The final type of meter is the pyrrhic. In this case, the two unaccented syllable vary the rhythm.




Work Cited

Carper, Thomas, and Derek Attridge. Meter and Meaning: An Introduction to Rhythm in Poetry. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Hadas, Rachel. Form, Cycle, Infinity: Landscape Imagery in the Poetry of Robert Frost and George Seferis. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1985. Print.

Poe, Edgar A, Andrew Barger, Harry Clarke, and Gustave Doré. Edgar Allan Poe: Annotated and Illustrated : Entire Stories and Poems. Memphis, Tenn.: BottleTree Books, 2008. Print.

Power, Alacoque. The Refrain in Nineteenth Century English Poetry: An Abstract of a Dissertation. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1960. Print.

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