A Poetic Guilty Pleasure--"The Raven," in 4 Parts


Yes, I like "The Raven." In fact, Poe's poetry in general appeals to me. I love narrative verse and Poe's has a strong, some might claim overly strong, sense of rhythm, cadence, and weight. His subject is nearly always the same--a lost love--in this case "Lenore," but in others "Annabel Lee," and "Ulalume." So without further ado, Poe's most famous poem.

The Raven (Part 1 of 4)
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 visiter," 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 visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door--
  Some late visiter 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.

At one time I had much of this poem committed to memory--alas no more, merely this and nothing more--I still retain the first two stanzas or so. What I love in the construction of this poem are lines like this one:

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
  Thrilled me--filled me

Poe is so unabashedly over the top with the alliteration and assonance in the line. I treasure that greatly--it seems a sign of great craft, great care, and great time to make a line that unwinds so beautifully to its finish. Yes, the whole thing is rather melodramatic--but then television was not an entertainment available at that time, and the written word needed to include whole realms of things we would dismiss. Come back tomorrow for part II and more thoughts about Poe's dead women.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 23, 2002 8:16 AM.

Jewels in the Reliquary I was the previous entry in this blog.

Geoffrey Hill Although Mr. Hill is the next entry in this blog.

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