You may think that all of Edgar Allen Poe's poems are about death and dying. However, even though Poe certainly gained a reputation for writing about the macabre, he also wrote about love and passion – followed by death.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Death
- Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Death and Love
- Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Life
- Edgar Allan Poe Poems to Share at a Funeral or Memorial Service
We have perused his poetry to create a list of Poe's poems about grief and death.
Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Death
Poe is known for introducing the first detective story ("Murders in Rue Morgue") and writing sensational stories like "The Cask of Amontillado." However, he also was an accomplished literary critic and poet.
Here are some of his most famous poems about death.
1. "A Dream Within a Dream"
Famously, Poe died young, with alcohol contributing to his early death. In this piece, he contemplates how quickly the sands of time have passed.
The speaker stands on the shore and reflects:
"I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand –
How few! Yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep – while I weep!"
2. "The Raven"
If you know one poem written by Poe, it is probably "The Raven." In this famous piece, the speaker is haunted with thoughts of his lost love Lenore – "the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
His thoughts are interrupted by a visit from a raven that flies in through an open window. The bird torments the speaker with its constant intonations of the word "nevermore."
If you haven't read this piece since your junior year of high school English, take time to read "The Raven" in its entirety.
3. "Spirits of the Dead"
Poe's "Spirits of the Dead" discusses the mystery of death. This poem is sometimes found on lists of poetry for funerals.
4. "The Conqueror Worm"
You can probably guess the theme of this poem based on the title and your knowledge of Poe. Regardless of how we spend our lives, we all will end up as food for worms. This poem ends with the following couplet:
"That the play is the tragedy 'Man,'
And its hero the Conqueror Worm."
Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Death and Love
Poe wrote a lot about love followed by death. In fact, the death of a young woman seems to be one of Poe's favorite themes. This theme probably was a reflection of his experiences. Poe not only lost his mother at a young age, but he also lost his wife/cousin of tuberculosis when she was 24.
Here are some of Poe's poems about death and love.
5. "Annabel Lee"
"Annabel Lee" was the last poem penned by Poe. It tells the story of romantic love between the speaker and Annabel Lee. According to the poem's text, their love was so intense that the angels were jealous of it and took Annabel Lee away from her lover.
The speaker continues to grieve for his love but says:
"Neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee."
6. "To My Mother"
Poe's homage to motherhood is dedicated not only to his own mother (who died young), but it also honors the mother "to the one I loved so dearly." Poe's mother-in-law, the mother of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, lived with the poet until her own death.
7. "For Annie"
The speaker in "For Annie" struggles with a "fever called 'living.'" At last, he finds respite from his miserable life when he meets a beautiful woman. Now, even though the speaker is dead, he is alive "knowing her love."
The poem ends with the following stanza:
"But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars of the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie –
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie –
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie."
8. "Ulalume – A Ballad"
The speaker in this poem finds himself visiting the grave of his lost loved one – Ulalume. The visit to the grave leaves him devastated.
Many of Poe's poems are about the death of a beautiful woman. Poe's mother and wife both died while in their prime of life.
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9. "Bridal Ballad"
The speaker in this unique poem is a bride who is worried that her deceased lover may not be happy that she is newly married. Regardless, she is pleased to be a bride.
The death of a beautiful woman is again the theme of this poem by Poe. But instead of being sad that the woman has left him, Poe is happy that her spirit will "float up from the damned Earth!"
Life on earth is described as a "moan and groan" compared to what comes next – "a golden throne beside the King of Heaven."
Edgar Allan Poe Poems About Life
While death is certainly a favorite topic in Poe's poetry (as it is for many poets), the famous writer also wrote about other themes. Here are some poems by Poe that you might not have read in English class.
A knight searches his entire life for Eldorado. Finally, at the end of his life, he asks a "pilgrim shadow" where he could find it.
The shadows answer in the last stanza of the poem:
"'Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
"'Ride, boldly ride,'
The shade replied, –
'If you seek for Eldorado.'"
What is Poe's advice for living a good life? Perhaps it is "ride, boldly ride."
12. "The Bells"
The stages of life are described in Poe's "The Bells." In this piece, the "tinkle, tinkle, tinkle" of silver bells becomes the "melancholy menace" and "groan" of iron bells.
This poem needs to be heard to appreciate it to its fullest.
13. "To – – –"
This poem was later renamed "To Marie Louise" for Marie Louise Shew. Shew helped Poe's wife as she was dying.
14. "Eulalie – A Song"
Not all of the heroines in Poe's poems end up dead. For example, "Eulalie – A Song" describes a man whose life was a "world of moan" before Eulalie became his "blushing bride."
After, the speaker describes his life in this way:
"Now Doubt – now Pain
Can never again
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarte within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye – "
It is well known that Poe didn't have a happy childhood. He writes about his early troubles in this poem.
"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were – I have not seen
As others saw – I could not bring
My passions from a common spring."
16. "The Lake: To —"
The speaker describes the loneliness of a lake that he visited a lot during his youth.
The last stanza is rather menacing:
"Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in it gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining –
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake."
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Edgar Allan Poe Poems to Share at a Funeral or Memorial Service
You don't often find poems written by Poe in lists of funeral poems. However, you might find one that works for your situation.
17. "Sonnet – To Science"
While some might view the title and think this is a love poem to science, it is not necessarily true. In this piece, Poe is angry at science's "peering eyes" that offer "dull realities."
In this atypical Poe poem, the writer honors the Mother of God – Mary. The speaker asks for Mary's help in the last four lines:
"Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!"
19. "To One in Paradise"
Some prefer funeral poems about sorrow and grief. If this is your preference, "To One in Paradise" describes the pain of loss.
The ending stanza reads,
"And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams –
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams."
20. "The Sleeper"
Poe considered this poem to be one of his finest. Like many of his poems, "The Sleeper" is about the death of a beautiful woman.
One stanza states,
"The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!"
Poe wrote this piece to describe an angel whose heart is a lute and who has "the sweetest voice of all God's creatures." Poe gives the creature the name Israfel.
22. "To Helen"
This poem celebrates a beautiful woman – perhaps Helen of Troy. You might also consider Poe's "Elizabeth," should that be the name of your deceased loved one.
What Message Do You Wish to Share?
When selecting a poem for your own funeral (or the funeral for a loved one), consider carefully the message you would like to share with those attending the service. For example, do you wish to offer thanksgiving that your loved one existed and shared your life? Instead, you might want to share a poem that talks about the grief you are experiencing. Some look for poetry that reflects their faith and describes the promise of the afterlife.