“The Raven” is one of the most famous and cited poems written by Edgar Allan Poe. Everyone instantly recognizes the image of a grim raven saying “Nevermore” that became one of the symbol of despair and darkness.
The poem was published for the first time on January 29, 1845 in the “Evening mirror”. The work became extremely popular amongst the English speakers due to its eloquence, refinement and incredible choice of words. “The Raven” was reprinted eighteen times by English and American editors and several times more after the author’s death. There are lots of translations of the poem but few of them can compare with the sophisticated tongue of the original.
According to Edgar Allan Poe’s interview, this work took more than ten years to be completed. However there are no evidences of such a long work. “The Raven” was mentioned for the first time by Martha Susanna Brennan, who saw the hand-written drafts on the floor on her farm where the poet lived in 1844.
In his essay “Philosophy of creativity” (1846) Edgar Allen Poe describes the methods that allowed him to create such a masterpiece. In his opinion, the main principle of working on a poem is strict sequence and accuracy. He denies any randomness in word choosing, polishing the verses up to the perfection. The main goal of the writer was to create a poem that would satisfy both the common reading public and demanding literary critics.
The main theme of the poem is suffering and grief caused by death of a beloved woman. The reasons Poe chose this motive might be personal - he also lost his mother and first wife - or just the way he saw the poetry. He wrote that the topic evoking the strongest emotions is death and death connected with love is the motive most worthy writing about.
The emotional tone of “The raven” is mystical and melancholic but also very sensual in the descriptions of Lenore and some surrounding elements such as crimson velvet cushions. The writer chose refrain as the main artistic effect (the only word raven knows serves as it), but, to avoid dullness and monotony, he slightly changes it every time it is used.
The image of raven utilizes folklore and mythical representation of this bird. The raven symbolizes wisdom and prophecy, but it is also connected with death and darkness and can be considered a bad omen. The place of action supports these feelings through grim and mysterious elements such as old books, a fireplace, a bust of Pallas, goddess of wisdom. The colors mentioned in the poem are also red, black and white - the classic gothic triade. The weather outside serves as a frame to this, creating a whole, integrated image: stormy December midnight is a darkest time of the darkest month of the year.
In a dark December night a tired man sits in his house trying to concentrate and study the old books he has. But his thoughts are occupied by grief and sorrow caused by death of his beloved Lenore. Suddenly the man hears knocking and he decides that someone came to visit him. He doesn’t open the door, struggling with the feelings inside, deciding whether to go to the door or not. He begins to apologize and ask who can come to him so late, in the middle of the stormy night.
The man finally decides to open the door, but there is no one behind it, only darkness. He returns to his studies, but the knocking repeats and it seems the sound goes from behind the window. The man opens it and a big black raven flies inside and sits on a white bust of Pallas.
The man asks a raven, what brought him here and whether he has a name. The raven answers only "Nevermore." The man is very surprised that the raven knows this word and starts to think who could have taught him. He even connects these events with the death of his beloved. After a while, the man turns his armchair to the raven and conducts a conversation with him, but raven always answers only “Nevermore”.
The man asks the bird if he can meet with his Lenore in the afterlife and the raven repeats "Nevermore". The man starts to think aloud and asks the raven for a response, not realizing that it’s only a bird. He continues to ask if he ever will be able to see his Lenore and be with her, but the raven can’t answer anything except the only word it knows.
The man gets angry and tries to shoo the raven away, but the bird continues to sit still in front of the lamp. The man interprets its shadow as the darkness into which his soul fell. The man says that he will never be happy again and will not experience love anymore.