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The Raven- Read by James Earl Jones (Edgar Allan Poe)
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A perverse conflict between desire to forget and desire to remember... the madness of 'nevermore'.

Read this novel online here.

You can legally download this e-book from Project Gutenberg (txt, epub and kindle formats).

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 and 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 with 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 by 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 lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from some 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!

"The Raven" is the most famous of Poe's poems, notable for its melodic and dramatic qualities. The meter of the poem is mostly trochaic octameter, with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per lines. Combined with the predominating ABCBBB end rhyme scheme and the frequent use of internal rhyme, the trochaic octameter and the refrain of "nothing more" and "nevermore" give the poem a musical lilt when read aloud. Poe also emphasizes the "O" sound in words such as "Lenore" and "nevermore" in order to underline the melancholy and lonely sound of the poem and to establish the overall atmosphere. Finally, the repetition of "nevermore" gives a circular sense to the poem and contributes to what Poe termed the unity of effect, where each word and line adds to the larger meaning of the poem.

The unnamed narrator appears in a typically Gothic setting with a lonely apartment, a dying fire, and a "bleak December" night while wearily studying his books in an attempt to distract himself from his troubles. He thinks occasionally of Lenore but is generally able to control his emotions, although the effort required to do so tires him and makes his words equally slow and outwardly pacified. However, over the course of the narrative, the protagonist becomes more and more agitated both in mind and in action, a progression that he demonstrates through his rationalizations and eventually through his increasingly exclamation-ridden monologue. In every stanza near the end, however, his exclamations are punctuated by the calm desolation of the sentence "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore,'" reflecting the despair of his soul.

"The Raven" refers to an agonized protagonist's memories of a deceased woman. Through poetry, Lenore's premature death is implicitly made aesthetic, and the narrator is unable to free himself of his reliance upon her memory. He asks the raven if there is "balm in Gilead" and therefore spiritual salvation, or if Lenore truly exists in the afterlife, but the raven confirms his worst suspicions by rejecting his supplications. The fear of death or of oblivion informs much of Poe's writing, and "The Raven" is one of his bleakest publications because it provides such a definitively negative answer. By contrast, when Poe uses the name Lenore in a similar situation in the poem "Lenore," the protagonist Guy de Vere concludes that he need not cry in his mourning because he is confident that he will meet Lenore in heaven.

Poe's choice of a raven as the bearer of ill news is appropriate for a number of reasons. Originally, Poe sought only a dumb beast that was capable of producing human-like sounds without understanding the words' meaning, and he claimed that earlier conceptions of "The Raven" included the use of a parrot. In this sense, the raven is important because it allows the narrator to be both the deliverer and interpreter of the sinister message, without the existence of a blatantly supernatural intervention. At the same time, the raven's black feather have traditionally been considered a magical sign of ill omen, and Poe may also be referring to Norse mythology, where the god Odin had two ravens named Hugin and Munin, which respectively meant "thought" and "memory." The narrator is a student and thus follows Hugin, but Munin continually interrupts his thoughts and in this case takes a physical form by landing on the bust of Pallas, which alludes to Athena, the Greek goddess of learning.

Due to the late hour of the poem's setting and to the narrator's mental turmoil, the poem calls the narrator's reliability into question. At first the narrator attempts to give his experiences a rational explanation, but by the end of the poem, he has ceased to give the raven any interpretation beyond that which he invents in his own head. The raven thus serves as a fragment of his soul and as the animal equivalent of Psyche in the poem "Ulalume." Each figure represents its respective character's subconscious that instinctively understands his need to obsess and to mourn. As in "Ulalume," the protagonist is unable to avoid the recollection of his beloved, but whereas Psyche of "Ulalume" sought to prevent the unearthing of painful memories, the raven actively stimulates his thoughts of Lenore, and he effectively causes his own fate through the medium of a non-sentient animal.


http://www.gradesaver.com/poes-poetry/study-guide/summary-the-raven

 
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