Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
of Work and Publication Years
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."
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"
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 her—a man she apparently loved and wanted to marry. But he died in
"the battle down the dell" (line 11).
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).
the wedding, her heart was broken because she broke faith with the first
man. Nevertheless, she looked at the ring on her finger—and all that it
meant—and declared, "I am happy now!"
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 love—the 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."
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
And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first
he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swell—
For the words rang as a
And the voice
seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
And who is
But he spoke to re-assure
kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o'er
And to the church-yard bore
And I sighed to him before
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!"................................19
And thus the words were spoken,
the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be
And, though my heart be
Here is a ring, as token
I am happy now!..............................25
Would God I could awaken!
dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,—
Lest the dead who is forsaken
be happy now............................31
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).
poem begins cheerfully but turns somber and tense in the second stanza.
Guilt and Regret
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
The Reality of Commitment
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.
speaker appears to be afraid that the dead soldier will retaliate against
her from the grave for marrying the wealthy lord.
rhyme scheme of the poem is as follows:
Stanza 1: abaab
that the -ow sound established in the first stanza continues throughout
Stanza 2: cbccccb
Stanza 3: dbddddb
Stanza 4: ebeeeb
Stanza 5: fbfffb
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
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
(stanza 3); spoken,
(stanza 4); and awaken,
meter of the poem is trimeter—that 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).
And the WREATH..|..is
With One Anapest and Two Iambs)
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,
And here are possible interpretations
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!"
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.
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.
are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures
of speech, see Literary Terms.
is on my hand,
And the wreath
is on my brow (lines 1-2)
well (line 6)
when first he breathed
vow (line 7)
And the voice seemed his
fell (line 10)
In the battle down
the dell (line 11)
is happy now (line 12)
though my faith be broken,
though my heart be broken (lines 22-23)
an evil step be taken,—
the dead who is forsaken (lines 29-30)
Here is a ring,
That I am happy now! (lines
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
For the words rang
as a knell (line 9)
Comparison of words
to the ring of a bell
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 couple–John Allan,
a successful businessman in Richmond, Va., and his wife. Allan was believed
to be Poe’s 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.
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 “The Raven" 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.
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?