Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' was Published Today in 1845

Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' was Published Today in 1845

Wednesday, 29 January, 2020

On this date in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven was published. For 175 years, this poem has enthralled readers with its nearly-hypnotic repetitive rhythm and its black-winged messenger. An elegiac poem of devotion and longing — and madness — it makes a desperate plea of the name Lenore.

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The poem might not have been quite so affecting if Poe had gone with his first choice for the talking bird: a parrot. But his gloomier instincts prevailed, noting that the raven, ‘the bird of ill-omen,’ was ‘infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone.’

Graham’s Magazine initially rejected the poem but gave the destitute Poe a charity payment of $13. It was eventually printed in The American Review under a pseudonym before it was published on 29 January 1845 in The New York Mirror with Poe’s name attached. The poem was wildly popular and was immediately reprinted, reviewed, and parodied. Abraham Lincoln enjoyed one of the spoof poems so much, he looked up the original and committed it to memory.

These 108 carefully crafted lines made Poe internationally famous; he gave public lectures during which he performed dramatic recitations of his works for upwards of two hours. But he remained poor, buttoning his jacket all the way to the top to hide his ragged shirt. His wife Virginia, about whom the poem is most likely written, died of tuberculosis in 1847. Poe followed her to the other side two years later — a lamentable end to a lifetime of strife.

In honor of this mournful masterwork, we recommend you listen to English actor Basil Rathbone recite the poem while you read along. He is the very embodiment of its desolation and gloom, performing it with troubled whispers, agitated anguish, and then… nothing more.

The Raven — 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 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 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.”
  • 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 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 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!

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The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems are enriched with detail and atmosphere that give them a strong sense of place. Sure, most of those places are the destinations of nightmares, but really, doesn’t that make them sort of irresistible? This collection of Poe’s works was edited by filmmaker and horror aficionado Guillermo del Toro, and it includes all of the iconic tales: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Mask of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, and The Fall of the House of Usher, as well as eerie and desperately melancholy poems, including Annabel Lee, The Raven, and Lenore. {more}

This anthology (352 pages) was published in October of 2013 by Penguin Horror. The book takes you to the deranged imagination of Poe. Melissa read The Raven and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

The Raven: Tales and Poems

 

Top image courtesy of VBatkovich.

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We love this sweet poem that perfectly captures the magic of getting lost in a great book. If you think you don't 'get' poetry, give this one a try.
In honor of what would have been American artist Edward Gorey's 95th birthday, we invite you to creep into his gleefully macabre world of Victorian manor houses, elegant characters, with plenty of murder and mayhem.

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