03 Nov The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe – 1809-1849
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe – 1809-1849
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
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!
About the Poem
Questions about Edgar Allan Poe‘s The Raven? Check out our full poem summary for all the details you need.
“The Raven” is a poem about a man who is heartbroken because his beloved Lenore died recently. A raven taps repeatedly on the door and then the window as he spends a lonely December night in his room. The man initially believes the noise is the result of a late-night visitor, and he is surprised to find the raven when he opens the window shutter. The raven flies to and lands on a bust of Pallas after being left (an ancient Greek goddess of wisdom).
The man is amused by how serious the raven appears and begins speaking to it; however, the raven can only respond by croaking “nevermore.”
The man muses aloud that the bird, like all the people he cared about, will leave him soon. The man interprets the raven’s response of “nevermore” as the bird agreeing with him, though it’s unclear whether the raven understands what the man is saying or is simply speaking the one word it knows.
As the man converses with the bird, he gradually loses his grip on reality. He moves his chair in front of the raven and asks it despondent questions, such as whether he and Lenore will be reunited in heaven. Instead of being amused by the bird, he interprets the raven’s repeated “nevermore” response as proof that all his dark thoughts are correct.
He eventually becomes enraged and shrieks at the raven, referring to it as a devil and a thing of evil.
The poem concludes with the raven still perched on Pallas’ bust and the narrator, seemingly defeated by his grief and insanity, declaring that his soul will be lifted “nevermore.”
Central Themes in “The Raven”
From the summary of the poem, we know that “The Raven is a melancholy poem, with most of its themes centered on dark subjects. Three of the most important themes are highlighted below:
In “The Raven,” grief is the overpowering emotion, and the narrator is completely consumed by his grief for his lost love, Lenore.
At the start of the poem, he tries to distract himself from his grief by reading a “volume of forgotten lore,” but when the raven shows up, he immediately begins peppering it with questions about Lenore and becomes even more lost in his grief when the raven’s response of “nevermore” confirms his grief.
By the end of the poem, the narrator appears to be broken, stating that his soul will never be “lifted” again because of his sadness.
The raven, according to Poe, was a symbol of grief, specifically “mournful and never-ending remembrance.” He chose a raven over a parrot (a bird species better known for its ability to speak) because he thought it suited the poem’s dark tone better.
By the time he wrote “The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe had experienced a great deal of grief and had seen people close to him leave, become gravely ill, or die. He would have been well aware of grief’s consuming power and its ability to obliterate everything else.
The narrator’s deep love for Lenore causes him grief, as well as later rage and insanity. Even though Lenore has died, the narrator still loves her and appears to be obsessed with her. He describes Lenore in superlatives in the poem, calling her “sainted” and “radiant.”
In his mind, she is flawless, practically a saint. His love for this woman who is no longer with him distracts him from everything else in his life. Poe uses this theme to demonstrate the power of love and how it can remain powerful even after death.
Poetic Devices in “The Raven”
In “The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe employs a variety of poetic devices to create a memorable and moving piece of writing. Some of the most important of these devices are discussed below, along with how they contribute to the poem:
The repetition of a sound or letter at the beginning of multiple words in a work is known as alliteration, and it is perhaps the most obvious poetic device in “The Raven.”
Alliteration abounds in the poem, with phrases like “weak and weary,” “nearly napping,” and “followed fast and followed faster.” This poetic device contributes to the poem’s famous musicality and is one of the reasons people enjoy reciting it.
Poe makes several allusions in “The Raven.” An allusion is an indirect reference to a popular historical, classical or biblical entity. Among the most important are:
- The bust of Pallas the raven sits on refers to Pallas Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.
- Nepenthe is a drug mentioned in Homer’s ancient epic The Odyssey, and it is purported to erase memories.
- The Balm of Gilead is a reference to a healing cream mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible.
- Aidenn refers to the Garden of Eden, although the narrator likely uses it to mean “heaven” in general, as he wants to know if that’s where he and Lenore will reunite.
- Ravens themselves are mentioned in many stories, including Norse mythology and Ovid’s epic poem Metamorphoses.
Many readers would be familiar with the books and stories alluded to in the poem, and they would have recognized the references without Poe having to explain where they came from. Because doing so would have disrupted the poem’s tension and mood, Poe is able to simply allude to them.
Similar to alliteration, assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in one or more words found close together. It serves the same purpose as alliteration and appears beginning in the first line of the poem, where the long “e” sound is repeated in the words “dreary,” “weak,” and “weary.”
The majority of “The Raven” follows trochaic octameter, which is when there are eight trochaic feet per line, and each foot has one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable.
However, Poe actually used several types of meter, and he is said to have based both the meter and rhyming pattern of “The Raven” off Elizabeth Barrett’s poem ” Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.” Meter is very prominent in “The Raven,” and, along with other poetic devices, helps make it such a popular poem to recite.
Onomatopoeia is when the name of a word is associated with the sound it makes, and it appears throughout “The Raven,” such as with the words “rapping,” “tapping,” “shrieked,” and “whispered,” all of which contribute to the poem’s atmospheric quality and make readers feel as if they are in the room with the narrator and the raven.
Many words are repeated in “The Raven” the most famous being the word “nevermore” repeated by the bird himself throughout the poem. Other commonly repeated words and phrases in the poem include “Lenore,” “chamber door” and “nothing more.”
These all rhyme with “nevermore” and add to the feeling of despondency in the poem by emphasizing the raven’s bleak answer to every question.
The ABCBBB rhyming pattern is used in “The Raven.” The “B” lines all rhyme with “nevermore” and emphasize the last syllable of the line.
The poem also contains a lot of internal rhyme, such as “But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,” where “unbroken” rhymes with “token.”
The first line of each stanza contains internal rhyming. It also appears in the third and fourth lines of each stanza. In the example, “Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!/Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!” the words “token” and “spoken” in the third line rhyme with “unbroken” in the fourth line.
Poe composed the poem as a narrative, with no allegory or didacticism. The poem’s main theme is unwavering devotion. The narrator is torn between the desire to forget and the desire to remember. He appears to take pleasure in focusing on loss. The narrator assumes that the word “Nevermore” is the raven’s “only stock and store,” but he keeps asking it questions, knowing the answer. His questions are thus purposefully self-deprecating, adding to his sense of loss.