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Fall of House of Usher
Pit and the Pendulum
Masque of Red Death
Premature Burial
Tomb of Ligeia
An Evening With Poe
The Mystery
Of Edgar Allan Poe
Comedy of Terrors
The Raven
Poe: a Light
And Enlightening Look
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Bridal Ballad
By Edgar Allan Poe  (1809-1849)
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site
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Type of Work
Summary
Point of View
Tone
Text of the Poem
Themes
End Rhyme
Meter
Lines 17-19: Interpretation
Who Is D'Elormie?
Figures of Speech
Study Questions
Writing Topics
Biographical Information
Other Poe Guides
Index of Study Guides
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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings... 2011
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Type of Work and Publication Years

......."Bridal Ballad" is a poem that presents the misgivings of a young woman who married a wealthy man after a soldier she loved died in battle. The Southern Literary Messenger first published the poem in January 1837 under the title "Ballad." The Saturday Evening Post republished it on July 31, 1841, as "The Bridal Ballad."

Summary

.......A young woman tries to convince herself that she is happy to have married a wealthy man, whom she calls "my lord" (line 5). And why shouldn't she be happy? After all, "Satin and jewels grand / Are all at my command" (line 3-4), she says. Moreover, she points out, her new husband "loves me well" (line 6).
.......However, she expresses reservations about her marriage. Here is why. When her new husband first vowed his love for her, she says, she became unnerved when his voice reminded her of the voice of another man who pledged his love for heru0097a man she apparently loved and wanted to marry. But he died in "the battle down the dell" (line 11). 
.......Apparently realizing something upset her, the young lady's new "lord" spoke soothing words to her and kissed her. In time, they agreed to marry and went to church for the wedding. Still the memory of the other man haunted her, even during the marriage ceremony. In her confused state, she somehow fancied that the man next to her was the man who died in the dell. Thus, she thought, "Oh, I am happy now!" (line 19).
.......After the wedding, her heart was broken because she broke faith with the first man. Nevertheless, she looked at the ring on her fingeru0097and all that it meantu0097and declared, "I am happy now!"
.......In the last stanza, she finally realizes that she is not at all happy with her marriage, for she had abandoned the memory of her true loveu0097the man who died in battle. She also worries that "an evil step [will] be taken" by the dead soldier, who "may not be happy now." 
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Text

The ring is on my hand,
   And the wreath is on my brow;
Satin and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
   And I am happy now.................................5

And my lord he loves me well;
   But, when first he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swellu0097
For the words rang as a knell,
   And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
   And who is happy now.............................12

But he spoke to re-assure me,
    And he kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o'er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!"................................19

And thus the words were spoken,
    And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken,
Here is a ring, as token
    That I am happy now!..............................25

Would God I could awaken!
    For I dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,u0097
Lest the dead who is forsaken
    May not be happy now............................31

Point of View

.......The speaker of the poem is a young woman who tells her little story in first-person point of view. A question arises about her mental stability after she twice mentions that she mistook the wealthy lord for her first love (the man who died in battle).

Tone

.......The poem begins cheerfully but turns somber and tense in the second stanza.

Themes

Guilt and Regret

.......The speaker obviously feels guilty about her marriage to the wealthy lord. Apparently she believes that she betrayed the love she shared with the fallen soldier. She appears to regret her decision to marry the wealthy lord. 

The Reality of Commitment

.......The wedding ring symbolizes commitment. Perhaps not until she sees the ring on her finger does the speaker fully realize that she has agreed to stay married to her new husband until death parts them. Self-doubt and the burden of commitment then begin to overwhelm her. 

Fear

.......The speaker appears to be afraid that the dead soldier will retaliate against her from the grave for marrying the wealthy lord. 

End Rhyme

.......The rhyme scheme of the poem is as follows:

Stanza 1: abaab
Stanza 2: cbccccb
Stanza 3: dbddddb
Stanza 4: ebeeeb
Stanza 5: fbfffb
.......Notice that the -ow sound established in the first stanza continues throughout the poem. 
.......Notice also that all the rhymes in the first two stanzas are masculine and that the rhymes in the last two stanzas are a mixture of masculine and feminine. In masculine rhyme, a single syllable at the end of one line rhymes with a single syllable at the end of another line (or several lines), as in hand, grand, and command. In feminine rhyme, the last two syllables of one line rhyme with the last two syllables of another line (or several lines). The feminine rhymes are o'er me, bore me, before me, and D'Elormie (stanza 3);  spoken, broken, broken, token (stanza 4); and awaken, shaken, taken, and forsaken (stanza 5).

Meter

.......The meter of the poem is trimeteru0097that is, all lines have three feet. The feet in some lines are all iambic; in other lines, they are a combination of an anapestic foot and two iambic feet. Here are examples (line 1 and 2). 

.......1.............2..............3
.....Iamb.........Iamb.........Iamb
The RING..|..is ON..|..my HAND...............................(Iambic Trimiter)

............1...................2................3
........Anapest.............Iamb............Iamb
And the WREATH..|..is ON..|..my BROW..................(Trimiter With One Anapest and Two Iambs)

Interpretations: Lines 17-19

.......Lines 17-19 challenge the reader, for he or she can interpret them several ways. Here are the lines:

And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!" 
And here are possible interpretations of them. 
1. The speaker is attempting to justify her decision to go to the altar, suggesting that her wealthy lord is just as desirable as the "dead D'Elormie." 
2. The speaker, making an excuse for her decision to marry, is attempting to deceive the reader into believing that she suffered a momentary spell that confused her.
3. The speaker is deranged.
Who Is D'Elormie?

.......D'Elormie is the name of the young woman's first love, the man who fell in battle in the dell. When writing the poem, Poe probably chose the unusual name because it rhymed with line 15 (o'er me), line 16 (bore me), and line 17 (before me). An apparently forced rhyme such as this is generally a faux pas in poetry. Is there any evidence to exonerate Poe from the charge of forcing a rhyme? Yes. There are people in the world who are named D'Elormie. Also, D'Elorme (without the i) is a French name that appears to have originated with de l'orme, (of the the elm). An elm is a deciduous tree, one which drops its leaves every year. Deciduous has become a synonym for temporary or short-lived. The man who fell in the dell was short-lived, temporary. 

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Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.

Alliteration

The ring is on my hand,
And the wreath is on my brow (lines 1-2)

And my lord he loves me well (line 6)

But, when first he breathed his vow (line 7)

And the voice seemed his who fell (line 10)

In the battle down the dell (line 11)

And who is happy now (line 12)

Anaphora
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken (lines 22-23)

Lest an evil step be taken,u0097
Lest the dead who is forsaken (lines 29-30)
 

Irony, Verbal
Here is a ring, as token
That I am happy now! (lines 24-25)
The bride is clearly unhappy even though she wears a wedding ring. (The ring is an outward sign suggesting that she should be happy, like other brides. But the ring only unnerves her.)
Metaphor
For the words rang as a knell (line 9)
Comparison of words to the ring of a bell
Author Information

.......Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. After being orphaned at age two, he was taken into the home of a childless coupleu0096John Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Va., and his wife. Allan was believed to be Poeu0092s godfather. At age six, Poe went to England with the Allans and was enrolled in schools there. After he returned with the Allans to the U.S. in 1820, he studied at private schools, then attended the University of Virginia and the U.S. Military Academy, but did not complete studies at either school. 
.......After beginning his literary career as a poet and prose writer, he married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm. He worked for several magazines and joined the staff of the New York Mirror newspaper in 1844. All the while, he was battling a drinking problem. After the Mirror published his poem u0093The Ravenu0094 in January 1845, Poe achieved national and international fame. Besides pioneering the development of the short story, Poe invented the format for the detective story as we know it today. He also was an outstanding literary critic. Despite the acclaim he received, he was never really happy because of his drinking and because of the deaths of several people close to him, including his wife in 1847. He frequently had trouble paying his debts. It is believed that heavy drinking was a contributing cause of his death in Baltimore on October 7, 1849. 

Study Questions and Writing Topics

  • Write a poem that imitates the meter of "Bridal Ballad." The topic is open.
  • What is the difference between a lyric poem and a ballad?
  • In your opinion, is the young woman mentally unbalanced?
  • Poe is famous for writing poems and short stories that focus, in part, on the supernatural. Does the supernatural play a role in "Bridal Ballad"?
  • What are other examples of alliteration besides those listed above?

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