As I pondered weep and weary.<quoted text>
Once upon a midnight dreary...
"The Raven" follows an unnamed narrator on a night in December who sits reading "forgotten lore" as a way to forget the loss of his love, Lenore. A "rapping at [his] chamber door" reveals nothing, but excites his soul to "burning". A similar rapping, slightly louder, is heard at his window. When he goes to investigate, a raven steps into his chamber. Paying no attention to the man, the raven perches on a bust of Pallas above the door.
Amused by the raven's comically serious disposition, the man asks that the bird tell him its name. The raven's only answer is "Nevermore". The narrator is surprised that the raven can talk, though at this point it has said nothing further. The narrator remarks to himself that his "friend" the raven will soon fly out of his life, just as "other friends have flown before" along with his previous hopes. As if answering, the raven responds again with "Nevermore". The narrator reasons that the bird learned the word "Nevermore" from some "unhappy master" and that it is the only word it knows.
Even so, the narrator pulls his chair directly in front of the raven, determined to learn more about it. He thinks for a moment in silence, and his mind wanders back to his lost Lenore. He thinks the air grows denser and feels the presence of angels, and wonders if God is sending him a sign that he is to forget Lenore. The bird again replies in the negative, suggesting that he can never be free of his memories. The narrator becomes angry, calling the raven a "thing of evil" and a "prophet". Finally, he asks the raven whether he will be reunited with Lenore in Heaven. When the raven responds with its typical "Nevermore", he is enraged, and, calling it a liar, commands the bird to return to the "Plutonian shore",- but it does not move. Presumably at the time of the poem's recitation by the narrator, the raven "still is sitting" on the bust of Pallas. The narrator's final admission is that his soul is trapped beneath the raven's shadow and shall be lifted "Nevermore".
Poe wrote the poem as a narrative, without intentionally creating an allegory or falling into didacticism. The main theme of the poem is one of undying devotion. The narrator experiences a perverse conflict between desire to forget and desire to remember. He seems to get some pleasure from focusing on loss. The narrator assumes that the word "Nevermore" is the raven's "only stock and store", and, yet, he continues to ask it questions, knowing what the answer will be. His questions, then, are purposely self-deprecating and further incite his feelings of loss. Poe leaves it unclear if the raven actually knows what it is saying or if it really intends to cause a reaction in the poem's narrator. The narrator begins as "weak and weary," becomes regretful and grief-stricken, before passing into a frenzy and, finally, madness. Christopher F. S. Maligec suggests the poem is a type of elegiac paraclausithyron, an ancient Greek and Roman poetic form consisting of the lament of an excluded, locked-out lover at the sealed door of his beloved.
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