These short movements are more impressions of the selected Poe works rather than attempts to musically summarize them.
The Raven ponders the confusion, angst and ultimate fury of the narrator who, sorrowing over the loss of his beloved Lenore, finds himself taunted and mocked by an enigmatic bird which strangely perches in his apartments. Listen for the “Nevermore” motif.
Annabel Lee is a gothic, romantic ghost story of sorts. A lover forever pines over the loss of his Annabel Lee, blaming the jealous angels for the tragedy. “Angels’ Envy” describes the stormy sea coast the young lovers frequented, while the eerie middle section, “Tomb by the Sea” explores the man’s supernatural obsessions.
To Helen was actually two distinct poems of the same title composed for the same woman. In one version, Poe extols the beauty and majesty of the woman (women?) quite effusively. In the other, he speaks about seeing Helen in her rose garden and introspectively wonders about what was and what could have been.
Hop-Frog relates a tale of a court jester famous for his humor and wit. He and his lovely Trippetta, both Hobbit-sized in stature, were kidnapped from another land to serve at the whim of a boorish king. When the king publicly and unwisely insults Trippetta, the jester contrives a unique punishment for him and his cackling advisors, involving a chandelier of sorts and a masquerade ball gone wild! The two heroes joyously escape, fleeing back to their country. The carnival-like “Hop-Frog & Trippetta Waltz” describes their celebration.
There is much discussion over the meaning of The Bells. In a basic sense, the poem simply evokes the emotions and rhythms suggested by the ringing of the various types of bells (tinkling silver sleigh bells, golden wedding bells, alarm bells, iron tolling bells); Poe might also be allegorically reflecting upon the whole of life’s journey from playful childhood through marriage and later stages of life. Listen for the “bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells” and the indefatigable “Nevermore” motif haunting throughout…