Most famous as the purveyor of nightmares both imagined and real in such stories as The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, Edgar Allan Poe saw himself first and foremost as a poet, a man of lyrical imagination but everything in his literary canon speaks of loss, or the fear of loss, and the desire to forget and the inability to do so. In a short life blighted by alcohol, drugs, ill health, and death it could be no other way. 
Even The Raven, a poem notable for its upbeat tempo and lyrical musicality deliberately written to be popular remains nonetheless a tale of torment and forced commemoration. 
The Raven was indeed popular in his own time and remains so today, but it never made him the money he hoped for in the few years remaining before his own mysterious death - but then that was the story of a life in which no amount of success would ever compensate for an overwhelming sense of failure. 
The Raven 
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, 
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals 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 
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore; 
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed 
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 
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 blest 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 further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered- 
Till I scarcely more than muttered, 'other friends have flown 
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 
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 lamplight gloated o'er, 
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er, 
She shall press, ah, nevermore! 
Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer 
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls 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 
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 
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 in parting, bird or fiend,' I shrieked, 
'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 
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 lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the 
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor 
Shall be lifted- nevermore!. 
Tagged as: Poetry
Share this post:

Leave a comment: 

Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings