Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven” [Text-16], Richmond Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849, col. 4-5


[Top of column 4:]

MR. EDGAR A. POE lectured again last night on the “Poetic Principle,” and concluded his lecture, as before, with his now celebrated poem of the Raven. As the attention of many in this city is now directed to this singular performance, and as Mr. Poe’s poems, from which only is it to be obtained in the bookstores, have long been out of print, we furnish our readers, to-day, with the only correct copy ever published — which we are enabled to do by the courtesy of Mr Poe himself.

The “Raven” has taken rank over the whole world of literature, as the very first poem yet produced on the American continent. There is indeed but one other — the “Humble Bee” of Ralph Waldo Emerson, which can be ranked near it. The latter is superior to it, as a work of construction and design, while the former is superior to the latter as a work of pure art. — They hold the same relation the one to the other that a masterpiece of painting holds to a splendid piece of mosaic. But while this poem maintains a rank so high among all persons of catholic and generally cultivated taste, we can conceive the wrath of many who will read it for the first time in the columns of this newspaper. Those who have formed their taste in the Pope and Dryden school, whose earliest poetical acquaintance is Milton, and whose latest Hammond and Cowper — with a small sprinking of Moore and Byron — will not be apt to relish on first sight a poem tinged so deeply with the dyes of the nineteenth century. The poem will make an impression on them which they will not be able to explain — but that will irritate them — Criticism and explanation are useless with such. Criticism cannot reason people into an attachment. In spite of our pleas, such will talk of the gaudiness of Keats and the craziness of Shelley, until they see deep enough into their claims to forget or be ashamed to talk so. Such will angrily pronounce the Raven [[sic]] flat nonsense. Another class will be disgusted therewith, because they can see no purpose, no allegory, no “meaning,” as they express it, in the poem. These people — and they constitute the majority of our practical race — are possessed with a false theory. — They hold that every poem and poet should have some moral notion or other, which it is his “mission” to expound. That theory is all false. To build theories, principles, religions, &c., is the business of the argumentative, not of the poetic faculty. The business of poetry is to minister to the sense of the beautiful in human minds. — That sense is a simple element in our nature — simple, not compound; and therefore the art which ministers to it may safely be said to have an ultimate end in so ministering. This the “Raven” does in an eminent degree. It has no allegory in it, no purpose — or a very slight one — but it is a “thing of beauty,” and will be a “joy forever,” for that and no further reason. In the last stanza is an image of settled despair and despondency, which throws a gleam of meaning and allegory over the entire poem — making it all a personification of that passion — but that stanza is evidently an afterthought, and unconnected with the original poem. The “Raven” itself is a mere narrative of simple events. A bird which had been taught to speak by some former master, is lost in a stormy night, is attracted by the light of a student’s window, flies to it and flutters against it. Then against the door. The student fancies it a visitor, opens the door, and the chance word uttered by the bird suggests to him memories and fancies connected with his own situation and the dead sweetheart or wife. Such is the poem. — The last stanza is an afterthought. The worth of the Raven [[sic]] is not in any “moral,” nor is its charm in the construction of its story. Its great and wonderful merits consist in the strange, beautiful and fantastic imagery and colors with which the simple subject is clothed — the grave and supernatural tone with which it rolls on the ear — the extraordinary vividness of the word painting, — and the powerful but altogether indefinable appeal which is made throughout to the organs of ideality and marvellousness. Added to these is a versification indescribably sweet and wonderfully difficult — winding and convoluted about like the mazes of some complicated overture by Beethoven. To all who have a strong perception, of tune there is a music in it which haunts the ear long after reading. These are great merits, and the Raven [[sic]] is a gem of art. It is stamped with the image of true genius — and genius in its happiest hour. It is one of those things an author never does but once.


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 visiter,” 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 visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door —

Some late visiter 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. [column 5:]

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 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 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 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 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 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 introductory note is by John Moncure Daniel. In the original, the narrow width of the columns means that the long lines wrap to a second line, indented to show continuation. This feature has not been repeated here, with the lines instead being allowed to stretch out to the appropriate length. In printing line 3, Mabbott changes the ending period to an em-dash, with no comment.

The present text agrees exactly with Poe’s corrections made in his own copy of The Raven and Other Poems, with one exception. In line 67, both words of “sad soul” have been marked for deletion, but Poe apparently directed the typesetter to delete only “soul,” so that the new phrase is “sad fancy” rather than simply “fancy.” (The phrase “sad fancy” first appears in one of the lines as quoted in Poe’s essay “The Philosophy of Composition, in Graham’s Magazine, April 1846.) It might also be argued that Poe’s replacement word of “seraphim” for “angels” in line 80 should be capitalized, based on how the word is written. Again, Poe may have directed the typesetter to use lower case, which is more in keeping with other similar references.


[S:1 - RWE, 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Raven [Text-16]