Tags

, , ,

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”.

An iconic line from a famous poem.

Written by a man who was orphaned at the age of three, lost the love of his life to tuberculosis, and then died himself at only 40 years old, it’s instantly recognizable to nearly everyone who reads it. It is the haunting refrain of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.

“The Raven” was published on January 29, 1845 in the weekly newspaper the New York Evening Mirror. It was reprinted a month later in both an issue of American Review and The Liberator, as well as countless other publications around the United States in the months following. It is arguably the most famous of Poe’s writings and made him a nationwide household name in a very short period of time.

Today marks the 168th anniversary of the publication of “The Raven”. This is not only my favourite poem, but also, in my opinion, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, surpassed only by the Bible and Dante’s Divina Commedia. In a mere 108 lines broken down into 18 stanzas, Poe captures the very essence of a man’s soul. He weaves an unforgettable tale of captivating beauty, undying love and heart-wrenching despair.

Much like the narrator in the poem, I too have been haunted by the raven since the moment I first heard that glorious opening line… “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” He bewitched me, and now I can recite “The Raven” from memory, in its entirety. From the first stanza to the last, and from last to first. An impressive, yet completely worthless skill.

Edgar Allan Poe will forever be remembered and revered for this literary masterpiece. It is truly a work of excellence. But there was another man who left an indelible mark of his own on “The Raven”. That man was French artist, Gustave Doré, who in 1882, began his only U.S. Commission — engraving illustrations for “The Raven”. Poe may have written a man’s soul, but it was Doré who brought it to life. Doré’s interpretations were based upon what he saw as, “the enigma of death and the hallucination of an inconsolable soul.” A year later, in early 1883, Doré died just as he was finishing “The Raven” engravings. He was only 51 years old and unfortunately never had the pleasure of seeing his beautiful images published with the poem.

Some of you will be very familiar with “The Raven”, and perhaps others have never read it before. But here it is, in all its glory, complete with Doré’s exquisite engravings. A collaboration of Poe and Doré, two of my greatest inspirations… what could be better? And as an extra treat, you can listen to a wonderful rendition here, read by the incomparable Vincent Price. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

– 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 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 my sad 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 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 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 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

Advertisements