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Edgar Allan Poe The Raven

Updated on April 28, 2009

"The Raven" A Reflection of The Tortured Soul of Edgar Allan Poe

The poem, "The Raven" written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1845, is one of his best works and remains one of the most popular poems ever written.

Gothic in mood, "The Raven," portays the primacy of emotion over reason experienced during grieving, and the loss of a loved one. I believe the power of Poe's writing is based on his own emotional experience with grief and mourning and his inability to completely resolve these issues in his own lifetime.

Dealing with loss is one of the most difficult and painful of human emotional issues we have to deal with. In "The Raven," Poe is able to connect with us powerfully on an emotional level.

(Picture taken of Poe in 1848, 1 year prior to his death)

Background of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

First published in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845, The Raven made Poe widely known and popular - just four years before his death.

Poe stated that with The Raven, he was attempting to write a poem that would be both popular and a critical success. He further reported that he was very methodical in composing this poem. Many of his thoughts and refections on "The Raven" are contained in his later essay, "The Philosophy of Composition."

The inspiration of a talking raven was said to have been somewhat based on Charles Dicken's talking raven in the novel, "Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty." The complex rhythm and meter of "The Raven" was borrowed from Elizabeth Barrett's poem "Lady Geraldine's Courtship."

Although the critics later disagreed about the value of "The Raven," it remains as one of the most popular poems ever written.

My Thoughts on the "The Raven" and Its Author

What does it all mean?

My thoughts on "The Raven" and it's meaning. I am looking at this poem in the context of my background in counseling psychology, as well as literature. Artists naturally project the world that they have seen and experienced into their work. The degree with which they are able to connect with our common human feelings and experience makes their work powerful.

"The Raven" recounts the narrator's (presumed a scholar or young student) slip into madness over the loss of his beloved Lenore. He is caught between feelings of wanting to remember her and wishing to forget (move-on) from his loss. This is very troubling for him.

I think these are common feelings in the loss of a loved-one, simultaneously holding out hopes of bringing the loved-one back (rejoining them) while dealing with the seeming finality of the loss. There is an attempt at bargaining with God and the powers that be.

Grief is an overwhelming emotion that takes literally years, if not an entire lifetime to overcome. It often leads us into episodes of "insane" (crazy, confused or irrational)thinking, or behavior, where we are not "ourselves."

This may be more troublesome during times where we are "weak and weary" and have less energy and stamina.

Poe takes us through the gamut of these emotions, confronting the shear terror of losing our beloved and dealing with the devastating loneliness and isolation.

Edgar Allan Poe's the Raven

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 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 marveled 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 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 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 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 in 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 lamplight 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

Symbolism Used in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

*The Raven in the poem represents death and the narrator's attempts to bargain with and obtain answers. Death's answer is final -"nevermore."

*Poe's allusion to "forgotten lore" is widely thought to represent the "occult" or "black magic."

*The "bust of ""Pallas" (Pallas Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom) is a classical symbol representing wisdom and knowledge. The combination of the Raven representing death and the fact that it perches itself upon the symbol of wisdom and knowledge, highlights the emotional frustration of dealing with a death.

*Poe is said to have chosen the raven as a central symbol in this poem, because it is capable of non-reasoning, speech while also representing symbols of darkness and of death. Poe actually stated that his choice of the raven represented "mournful and never-ending remembrance" (ie. unresolved grief).

*The raven is also a biblical symbol in the Book of Genesis of ill omen.

*There are other biblical references in "The Raven" such as "the balm of Gilead" referring to a medicinal resin from the Book or Jeremiah, related to healing.

*Poe also refers to "Aidenn" which is another name for the "Garden of Eden" or in this case a representation of paradise/heaven.

Major Personal Losses in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe

*Poe is born in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents are both stage actors, he is the second of three children. His father abandons the family in 1810 and his mother dies of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1811.

*Edgar, is taken in by John Allan and wife, a wealthy Scotch merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Allan deals in commodities including tobacco and slaves. Although raised in the Allan family (this is where the "Allan" in E. Allan Poe comes from), Edgar is never adopted by the Allans.

*Later in 1826, after a 1 year attempt at college studies at the University of Virginia, Edgar is all but disowned by the Allans following an argument over alleged gambling debts incurred, while a student.

*It is also at this time that Edgar learns that his fiancée, Sarah Elmira Royster, had married Alexander Shelton. Edgar moves to Boston.

*While Poe is serving in the military, he has a bitter argument with John Allan, following Allan's second marriage - Poe is finally disowned by John Allan at this point.

*Following his discharge from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Poe moves to Baltimore to live with his aunt, cousin (Virginia) and older brother. Poe's brother Henry dies 6 months later.

*In 1835 Poe secretly and privately marries his 13 year old 1st cousin, Virginia Clemm. She is listed as 21 on the marriage certificate. In 1836 they are married publicly in Richmond.

*In January 1842, Poe's wife Virginia shows the first symptoms of consumption. Virginia never fully recovers and dies in 1847. Poe's alcohol and drinking problems increase with his wife's illness and death.

(Picture of Virginia Poe, courtesy of Flickr)

What were the major influences of Poe's writing?

Edgar Allan Poe was mostly influenced by?

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" Perfomed by Vincent Price

Edgar Allan Poes "The Raven" Video Part I

Edgar Allan Poe's the Raven Part II

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    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      I'm a huge fan of Poe. Nice lens!

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      Great lens on a great poem! I once wrote a parody on The Raven for my husband's 30th birthday - partly because Poe is one of the only poets he recognized, LOL! But it is truly a great poem. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 5*

    • profile image

      GrowWear 8 years ago

      Enjoyed! Bravo!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 8 years ago

      great lens I love it!

    • profile image

      Jenysie 8 years ago

      Great Lens!!

      Very informative!

      Thanks for joining The Poetry Group!

      Sincerely,

      Jenysie

      P.S.

      5*

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 8 years ago

      Definitely one of my favorites out of all of Poe's works. Great lens.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 8 years ago from Northern California

      A very interesting look at how loss can impact a person and their work. Welcome to the Grief and Loss Club (Group)/

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Blessings for this fantastic lens!

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 8 years ago

      Fantastic Work Again! Thanks for adding it to Everything Spiritual!

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      tdove 8 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!