The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)

"The Raven" is a narrative poem by Edgar Allan Poe. It was published for the first time on January 29, 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror. In overwrought language and images, it tells of the mysterious visit of a raven to a distraught lover. It is perhaps the most well-known American poem.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Interpretation
3 Derived Works
4 Trivia
5 Quotation
6 External link


Its use of language, alliteration, internal rhymes, and archaic vocabulary, enhances the Gothic tenor of the piece and has led to numerous parodies. It is best remembered for its varied and repeated key line, "Quoth the Raven: 'Nevermore.'" It has a metrical construction that is mesmeric in quality, as shown in its famous opening lines:

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."

All 18 verses have the same form, as the narrator's night terrors increase.


The poem, like many other works by Poe, such as The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart, is a study of guilt. The narrators in those stories are both murderers. An earlier poem, "Lenore" (1831), is also about the death of a young woman. All we are told in "The Raven" is that the narrator has lost his love, Lenore. His reaction to the loss has been colored by mysticism, and we know he is filled with fear at receiving a visitor, before he even sees the mysterious raven, with its single word of judgement, "Nevermore."

Why or how Lenore was lost, we do not know, but the narrator is torn between the desire to forget and the desire to remember. In the end, the narrator clings to the memory, for that is all he has left. What the raven has taken from him so cruelly is his loneliness. The raven will stay.

Although the bird seems a hallucination, it is an uncomely real one, with real black feathers and a real croaking of the single word, "Nevermore."

Derived Works

The poem has been frequently parodied, a noteworthy example being the reworking of the poem in a Halloween edition of The Simpsons. (In fact, the Simpsons version is more or less true to the text of the poem except that the Raven, played by Bart Simpson, says "Eat my shorts!" instead of his original utterance. Indeed, Poe is actually credited as a writer on the episode!) "The Raven" has also been the subject of constrained writing.

A song based on "The Raven", but with only two verses, appears on the Alan Parsons Project album Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976, remixed 1987).


Ravens can be taught to speak. Poe's raven is thought to have been inspired by the raven Grip in Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Dickens' bird has many words and comic turns, including the popping of a champagne cork, but Poe felt that Dickens did not make enough of the bird's dramatic qualities.


Here comes Poe with his Raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
Three fifths of him genius, two fifths sheer fudge.
James Russell Lowell, "A Fable for Critics"

External link

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