Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809. Though that is over 200 years ago, we still read his work today.
He’s famous for his short stories and for poems like “The Raven.” (You know, that “Nevermore” poem.)
In an essay, Poe explained how he was very careful to choose just the right words for how they sound and for the effect he was trying to achieve. You’ll see that he was very successful in his poem “The Bells,” which is rich with writer’s devices.
Now it’s your turn: Read Poe’s poem “The Bells” out loud. This delightful poem moves from the high, jingling sound of silver bells to “mellow wedding bells” to “brazen” bells sounding an alarm. Then the bells sound even deeper: tolling iron bells that tell of bad news.
Notice how the phrase “mellow wedding bells” even sounds soft and mellow because Poe chose short “e” sounds in those words. That’s called assonance: using the same vowel sound inside neighboring words. The word “brazen” has a long “a” sound coupled with a harsh “z.” It sounds like alarming.
When you read the poem, start with your voice up high for the jingling bells and end with your voice very low and deep with the bad-news iron bells.
Here’s a hint about the poem’s meaning: It’s not about the bells. It’s about life. Poe touches on so many aspects of life, from the “world of merriment” to the “moaning and groaning” of very sad times.
Here are three prompt choices:
1. Write your impressions of the poem or of the messages of the different kinds of bells.
2. Which bell do you identify with the most?
3. If you would like to try your hand at writing poetry, write one based on sounds, as Poe does.
Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Watson
Image: Sharon Watson
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