Mood is the feeling created by the writer for the reader. It is what happens within a reader because of the tone the writer used in the poem.
Here, consider it this way. A writer creates the tone, and you, the reader, feel the mood because of it. For example, the tone of a poem might be gloomy and dark and therefore you end up feeling sad because of it.
Here are some possible moods you might come across while reading and analyzing poetry, (many are the same or similar to the tones listed in the previous section): Romantic, optimistic, mournful, sorrowful, cheerful, mysterious, ominous, calm and pessimistic.
How do Writers Craft Tone and Mood?
Both of these literary devices are created through a particular use of syntax, imagery, setting and structure. Let’s look a little bit closer at the setting and imagery as these are some of the more obvious elements that influence the tone and mood.
One great example of how poets are able to use images to create tone and mood is in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven.’ Here are a few lines from the poem as examples of how important settings and images are:
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”
You would be right when reading this text to put forward a couple of different possible moods. It could be mysterious, melancholy or frightening. The tone on the other hand is sinister, dark and again, melancholic. In these lines Poe uses words such as “uncertain,” “terrors,” “ghost” and “sorrow”. They describe the setting, and the way the speaker felt within it as he heard the rustling and the rapping on his door. As the dark imagery builds, the reader is sucked into the writer’s world, and end up feeling (hopefully) what the poet intended them to.
Why does the Mood Matter?
Mood is at the root of all poetry. You might ask instead, why do people love poetry? It taps into reader’s everyday lives, the divine, the sublime and everything in-between and tries to put them into words. Without moods in poetry the words on the page would be bland, meaningless and perhaps even purposeless. If you have ever read a poem and felt something, or thought the writer was feeling something while writing, the mood (and also tone) is doing it’s job.