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The emotional battles that people from all walks of life indulge in are explored in “The Raven,” especially the struggle to overcome the emotions of mourning and sadness, which is a battle that cannot be avoided. Even though these confrontations are not physical, they still cause damage and suffering. With this poem, Edgar Allan Poe has created a great piece of poetry that speaks to the emotions and experiences of every individual who encounters it.
About The Poet
American author, poet, editor, and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe was also a critic of literature. Poe is best renowned for his short stories and poems, especially his macabre and mystery-themed works. He is largely considered as a key representative of American Romanticism and American literature.
Theme Of The Poem
The poem “The Raven” has several facets and many themes. This poem explores a variety of topics including loss and memory, death and resurrection, logic and irrationality, the supernatural, and the subconscious.
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.”
The scene begins with a “weak and weary” man and a “dreary” or monotonous nighttime. The poet claims to be considering and “pondering” things. A knocking sound wakes him up as he is reading and about to fall asleep. Someone seems to be “gently” knocking on his “chamber door,” so to speak. He murmurs to himself, “It’s got to be a visitor, what else could it be?”
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.
This scenario was occurring in the “bleak” month of December, when “dying” fire embers were casting “ghost-like” shadows on the ground. In an effort to distract himself from the sadness of losing Lenore and make the night go by more quickly, he was absorbed in his books.
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.”
Even the way the curtains move make him “sad” and “uncertain.” His gloomy and contemplative mood was being replaced by a feeling of worry and fear as he saw the curtains ruffle and heard the knocking. He kept telling himself that it was only a visitor who had stopped by at these late hours and “nothing more” to slow down his racing heartbeat. He felt both excitement and fear as he considered opening the door.
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.
As he approaches the door to check if anyone would come to see him at such an hour, the narrator starts to gain confidence. He speaks out “Sir” or “Madame,” apologizing, explaining that he had been dozing off and that at first he wasn’t even sure there was a knock at the door because the “tapping” was so faint. As he finishes, he opens the door to discover only the night’s darkness inside. He cries out that he didn’t bother opening the door since he wasn’t sure if anything was inside, and when he did, he discovered nothing.
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.
He is surprised when he opens the door and discovers nothing. His mind and heart are racing as he stands there looking into the darkness. How could he have heard the loud, persistent knocking on the door yet not see anything? He immediately thinks of Lenore because he had been yearning for her, and when he says her name into the dark night, an echo replies, “Lenore!”
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!”
Finally turning away from the empty door, the narrator wonders whether he is crazy. He had just heard her name whispered back to him. All of this, was it real? Soon again, he hears knocking; this time it’s stronger than before and sounds like it might have come through the window. As he approaches the window in an effort to “explore” this enigma, his heart begins to beat faster once more. He tells himself “nothing more” than that it must be the wind.
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.
When he attempts to push open the window, a raven enters amid some bustle. The raven, according to the narrator, appeared to be from a bygone era and had a rather majestic appearance. The raven enters with airs of a nobleman and settles on the statue of “Pallas” above the chamber door without even noticing the speaker. It simply stands there after that doing “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.”
The narrator truly beams as this raven comes into view. Despite the fact that the bird was completely out of place in his room, it “wore” a serious expression as it sat there. The speaker then asks the raven his name in a very dramatic way, treating him like a noble creature. The raven merely responds, “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.”
The fact that the raven actually speaks as if it were natural for him astounds the narrator. He doesn’t grasp how “nevermore” responds to the question. Therefore, he asserts that neither the living nor the dead had ever seen what was in front of him: a raven perched atop a Pallas statue called “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.”
The raven only said that one word and then remained silent. He was silent and still as he sat there on the statue. The narrator returns to his gloomy state and whispers about past relationships with friends that left him feeling neglected, just as this bird will probably make him feel the same way. The bird responds once more by saying: “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’.”
The raven’s abrupt response surprised the narrator. The raven only knows this one word, which it acquired from “some unhappy master,” he believes. He assumes that the owner of this raven must have endured a significant deal of hardship, and as a result, he likely constantly repeated the word “nevermore,” from which he thinks the bird learned it.
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.”
The speaker acknowledges that he is captivated by this raven. In essence, he arranges his chair such that he is directly in front of the bird, gazing at it closely. He begins to repeat the term “nevermore,” concentrating his thoughts on the raven and what it might be implying.
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!
Without really saying out loud, he sits there forming explanations in his head to reason for the raven’s actions. Its “fiery eyes” seemed to be able to see right through him and into his soul. He sits on a plush velvet cushion in the room’s central focus as he continues to think. He is then struck by the heart-breaking realization that Lenore will never again have the opportunity to touch the pillow because of her departure as he notices the cushion shimmering in the lamplight.
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.”
The narrator appears to start hallucinating at this point; perhaps he is caught up in his own thoughts. He begins to notice that a perfume is infusing in the air strongly around him. He believes that angels are bringing him this perfume there. He refers to himself as a loser and says that he believes this is God telling him to forget Lenore; he compares the scent to “nepenthe,” an imaginary antidote for grief from Greek mythology. He literally yells at himself to take this medicine and get over his sorrow about losing Lenore. The raven declares: “Nevermore,” again!
“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.”
He now begins to yell at the bird, referring to it as a prophet and an evil entity. He is unsure about what to make of the bird; did Satan send it his way, or was it pushed by a storm? He continues by stating that the raven remains unaffected by his yelling, despite the fact that it is alone in his presence. He describes his home as a desolate land that is haunted and filled with horrors. He asks the raven if there is any possibility of goodness or peace in the future, and the raven replies, “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.”
He screams at the bird once more, calling it a prophet and a devil. He then asks the raven if he would ever be able to get a hold of Lenore again, and as expected, the raven replies, “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.”
The storyteller, who is stricken with sorrow, loses it when the raven responds. He yells at the raven to get out of his chamber, return to the storm it came from, and not even leave a sign that it had been there. He doesn’t want to face the truth of his melancholy; he just wants to live in it. The answers the bird gave him are not something he wants to deal with. He keeps screaming for the bird to leave and
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!
The raven is still there, the speaker says, perched on the statue of Pallas, its eyes gleaming almost devilish in appearance. The raven is illuminated by the lamp, which casts a shadow on the ground that imprisons his soul and prevents it from ever being released.