Poetry Sunday: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

How about something a bit spooky for Halloween? Something from that king of spookiness, Edgar Allan Poe. Like many of you, I suspect, I first encountered his poem "The Raven" in high school. I loved it! I loved the structure, the rhyme, and the rhythm of it that made it easy to remember, so unlike some of the other poetry we studied. Moreover, it told a story, again unlike some of the other poems in our literature book. So, it was an early favorite of mine. I love it still. I hope you do, too.

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

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.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Comments

  1. marvelous... it's been a long time since i read it; Poe was one of a kind, the father of a genre...

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  2. I suspect that Poe is rarely part of the literature curriculum outside the United States, and I had never before read the poem. It is quite wonderful, and just the verse for Halloween.

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  3. Absolutely perfect for today. I love Poe. I introduced Eleanor to him at a very young age through two adorable series called BabyLit and BabyLit First Steps. The stories are about a little raven named Edgar:

    Edgar Gets Ready for Bed
    Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart
    Edgar and the Tree House of Usher

    There is also a whole host of BabyLit books that introduces the littlest readers to classics and I had tons of them for Eleanor. Like, the Huck Finn one was all about camping vocabulary, Don Quixote was basic Spanish vocab, etc. I am sad Eleanor has waaaaaay outgrown these little primers, but she still enjoys Edgar even if it is an easy read for her.

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    1. I am delighted to hear about very young Eleanor being introduced to Edgar! I did not realize that there were these Edgar books available for the young. What a fabulous idea!

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  4. The perfect poem for Halloween. When I was young, growing up in the Bronx (a part of New York City), I used to pass by a cottage that Poe lived in during the last years of his life. "The Raven" wasn't written in Poe Cottage (as it is called now, and it still exists) but it was written in New York City, in a house that no longer exists. My husband has read a lot of Poe's works. Me, not as much, although I read The Raven in - yes- school.

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    1. I read a number of his things in an earlier life, include the stories featuring C. August Dupin which gave rise to the mystery genre. I haven't read anything recently but I'm always happy to revisit my old friend "The Raven."

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  5. I had this poem memorized once. I don't any more, but it's one I've always loved. :)

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    1. It was easy to memorize, wasn't it, because of the rhyming and the rhythm of the stanzas.

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  6. You're right; I hadn't read this one, or much thought of it, since sophomore English. I enjoyed it more and got a lot more out of it this time around. Thank goodness for that.

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    1. I always find it interesting that things that we read at a younger age can take on so much more meaning or even an entirely different meaning when we read them now.

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  7. One of my favorites by one of my favorites haha. You can never go wrong with The Raven for Halloween!

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  8. Good choice for Halloween, Dorothy. This is my husband's all-time favorite poem. He learned it in school and can still recite some of it. I don't remember learning it in school in England. Happy Halloween! P.x

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    1. Yes, I'm guessing it doesn't make it into the English curricula since there are plenty of homegrown poets to study!

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  9. I had a Poe love affair during my junior high and high school years. "The Fall of the House of Usher" remains one of the most terrifying of his short stories for me and "Annabel Lee" one of the saddest poems. His personal history also fascinated me.

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    1. One wonders how much his life experiences informed his writing especially the illness and death of his wife. "Annabel Lee" most definitely feels heart-felt.

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  10. Such a great poem and it's been so long since I've read it. Thanks for reminding me!

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    1. It is a great poem, one that so many of us remember fondly from our high school days.

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  11. An intriguing story is always memorable.

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    1. True and that is certainly one of the things that make this poem so memorable.

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