The Raven




"I had gone so far as the conception of a Raven--the bird of ill omen--monotonously repeating the one word, "Nevermore," at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself-- "Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?" Death--was the obvious reply. "And when," I said, is the most melancholy of topics most poetical?" From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious-- "When it most closely allies itself to beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world--and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover."

From Edgar Allan Poe's "The Philosophy of Composition," which was first published in Graham's Magazine, April, 1846.

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, 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 mein of lord or lady, perched
above my chamber door--
Perched upon my 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
sad soul 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 Tempest 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!


Edgar Allan Poe






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