21 August 2014

Poetry Thursday - The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Portrait (and raven) by Schin Loong (available on Etsy)
The 108-line poem starts as it means to go on, rhythmic and alliterative, with many internal rhymes -

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 famous "Nevermore" appears in the 9th verse, after the bird is sitting comfortably on a bust of Pallas [goddess of wisdom] that is positioned over the chamber door -

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 next nine verses end in "Nevermore", until the poem ends -

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! 

Read the entire "Raven" here. It's brought "to chilling life" in this video (though you have to suffer a 30-second advert first). The setting is greatly inspired by German expressionist cinema; the video is about 11 minutes long. Or, have it read to you: in this video, the reader isChristopher Lee - it's all about the listening; the words on screen are a distraction.

The poem is set in context, and dissected, here - and elsewhere. Manet and Gustave Dore are among its illustrators, during its long life - it was first published in 1845.

As for Poe (1809-1849), writer of mystery and horror ... he "was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career." That comes from Wikipedia, where you can pick up the rest of the story of his life. "The cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents."

The "Allan" in his name was not given to him at birth, but by the family in Richmond, Virginia, who fostered him after his father skedaddled in 1810 and his mother died a year later of tuberculosis.

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