Sunday, October 3, 2010

Edgar Allen Poe

Welcome to Famous Writers week at OPOD. We kicked things off yesterday with the Mystery Person being Walt Whitman. I guess that was a pretty easy one, as old Walt had a pretty distinctive beard and face. Today we feature Edgar Allen Poe, who was a poet of the early 1800's. I will share one his famous poems, The Raven. I am going to come right out and admit to you . . . I don't get it. Maybe someone can explain.

The Raven

horizontal spaceOnce 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 named 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 darkness 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 above 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 further 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 sad soul 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 has 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 named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named 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!


  1. Ahem.

    Domestic update, please?

    How are the chickies and the peacocks?

    Any interesting stories about your classes?


  2. I did some research on Poe and his poem several years ago that you may find interesting:

  3. Where is your domistic update?
    I realize that typing in that long poem took a lot of time, but we need to know about your tractor, chickies, hydo garden.
    Any before and after photos of the brush clearing that you did with your new tractor?
    Any action photos of you or Mrs PJM on the tractor?

  4. Could arsenic explain such a strange poem?

  5. I think Poe is grieving over the death of a mistress. Not an uncommon theme for Poe. The raven, I believe, is not a tangible being, but an apparition in his mind, a reminder of his lost Lenore. The poem is really more simple than it first appears, and the imagery fantastic, one reason it has become so legendary. I read it aloud, thanks for posting. Yay writers week!

  6. what Christina said... :)

  7. Perhaps that my being a Massachusetts born and educated guy I can explain what I remember. The English teachers of my youth seemed to be obsessed with Poe, Longfellow, and other New England poets and writers.
    Poe was grieving his loss of his "Lenore" his wife Virginia who was also his cousin. She died just days after his birthday. The raven represents death, the pallas is wisdom.
    Hope this helps, In my head I can almost hear an old teacher saying "that's not quite right, you're not listening". As students it's lucky we were even awake during some of these classes.

  8. In grade school we had a program where many paperbacks were made available for purchase. I don't remember the reason, but I chose one filled with Poe's works, including Raven. While it was little more than 'scary story' stuff to my young eyes, I kept that book for many years in a nightstand by my bed and read it frequently.

    Of all those books, that one and another about space travel were the only ones that 'stuck.'

    I never bothered to analyze the backstory so Debbie Adams' link was delightful. Thank you!

  9. That looks more like a re-touched image of Poe or even a stylized image of him rather than one of his extremely hang-dog face.

  10. I agree with Christina:). Thanks for posting this-I really enjoyed reading it. I have always liked Poe's works. My father used to tell the 'Tell Tale Heart' at my slumber parties since we all wanted ghost stories. We were entertained and educated at the same time!

    Love your blog-I look forward to visiting again!



  11. Virgil StubblefieldOctober 4, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    I recalled that Richard Feynman said that poets do not write to be understood. Then searched and found
    "A poet once said, 'The whole universe is in a glass of wine.' We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood."

    From the website

    I see that Feynman also wrote some poetry himself!

  12. Where is PJM this morning, Monday?

  13. Well . .. as an English Lit major way back in college, it looks like this is going to be one of my favorite weeks!

    I love Edgar Allen Poe, he was always one of my favorites. I was always fascinated with the dark details of his troubled life. After the death of his young wife (who was his cousine), he lived ere in Providence, Rhode Island for a short while.

    My mother loved his works too; and I remember her telling me that “The Telltale Heart” was the most frightening story she ever read. She said that she read it in the library all alone and then ran home in the dark and didn’t sleep for weeks!! “The Fall of the House of Usher” was always my favorite.

    Poe died an alcoholic at the age of 40 in October of 1849 (and under somewhat mysterious circumstances).

    He is buried in Baltimore; and each year on his birthday (Jan. 19), a mysterious individual in a mask and cape leaves three red roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave in the middle of the night. No-one has been able to catch him (or her). This year, the visitor did not appear on what would have been the 201st anniversary of Poe’s birth. The mystery deepens!!

  14. I copyedit for a living and have noticed that this misspelling of Poe's name has become very commonplace; a rerun of Law & Order last night featured a Poe-themed bar and his name was misspelled!
    Edgar Allan Poe is the correct spelling.
    (Please forgive me--I can't help myself!)

  15. I read once that the nurse who attended the death of Poe vowed to never attend the death of an atheist again.I have no proof of that.

    No need to publish this comment.

  16. This photo doesn't look exactly like a photo. What kind of photo is it?