One bleak midnight dark and dreary,
as I sat there weak and weary,
pondering over my library of dusty books; forgotten lore,
I was nodding off, nearly napping, when I suddenly heard knocking –
a gentle tapping at my bedroom’s door.
“It must be a visitor, rapping at my chamber door,” I said to myself. “That’s all – nothing more.”
I remember it clearly
it was a bleak December, with each fading ember casting a ghostly glow on my bedroom floor.
Eagerly I wished for morning to come;
I had tried in vain to forget my sorrow – sorrow for my lost Lenore
for that rare and radiant young woman whom the angels called Lenore,
but who would remain nameless and lost forevermore.
The soft, sad, rustling sound of the purple curtains thrilled me –
filled me with fantastic fears like I’d never felt before.
To calm my pounding heart, I stood repeating:
It’s just a visitor requesting entrance at my bedroom door –
Some late visitor begging entrance at my room’s door.
“That’s all there is – nothing more.”
Soon I felt bolder.
Sir or Madam, I beg your pardon.
You see, I was napping, so when you gently came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
I wasn’t sure I heard you, here now let me open my door,
Then I opened the door wide,
But darkness was there, and nothing more.
I stared into the perfect darkness, standing there wondering, fearing,
dreaming dreams like no one had dared dream before.
But the silence was unbroken – the stillness gave no sign,
The only word spoken was when I whispered “Lenore?”
The echo whispered back to me “Lenore!”
That was it – nothing more.
Turning back into my room, with my soul burning
soon I heard another tapping, slightly louder than before.
“Surely that’s something at my window,” I said.
“Let me see what’s there and explore,”
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore
“It’s just the wind and nothing more!”
I flung open the shutter,
and in with a flutter stepped a noble Raven,
He did not bow or pause for even a moment.
But with the air of a lord or lady, he perched above my chamber door.
He perched, then sat, did nothing more.
For a moment this black bird made me smile,
distracting me from my sadness,
Oh what a serious face it wore.
“You’re no coward, even with your crest shorn and shaven.
Ghastly grim ancient Raven, wandering from the nightly shore – tell me your noble name?
I do implore”.
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
I marveled that this awkward bird could talk so clearly,
though its answer felt so dreary,
no living person was ever blessed with seeing such a bird above his chamber door,
A bird or beast upon the carved bust above his chamber door,
With a name like “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, perched alone on the calm bust, only spoke
That one word, as if in that one word he poured out his soul.
He said nothing more – he didn’t flutter one feather,
Until I muttered:
Other friends have flown here before,
Tomorrow he’ll desert me, as my hopes have flown before,
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
This Raven enchanted all my thoughts to intrigue,
And promptly I wheeled a chair closer to the bird, the bust and door,
Then, sinking into the plush cushion, I immersed myself in weaving
One notion to another, contemplating the intentions of this fateful bird
What this grim, ungraceful, ghostly, haggard, fateful fowl of past
Had mean in croaking, “Nevermore.”
Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing,
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now scorched into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat unraveling, with my head at leisure resting
On the cushion of the chair that the lamplight bore,
Then, I thought, the air grew denser,
As if angels walked lightly on the plush floor.
“Wretch!” I exclaimed, “Your God has granted you—through these angels he has dispatched
A reprieve—a reprieve and a soothing elixir from your memories of Lenore;
Drink, oh drink this gentle elixir and let go of the memory of lost Lenore!”
The Raven replied, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” I exclaimed, “thing of evil!—prophet still, be you bird or devil!—
Upon this dwelling by Dread haunted—tell me honestly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—inform me—inform me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” I shouted, “thing of evil!—prophet still, be you bird or devil!
By that Heaven that arches above us—by that God we both revere—
Inform my soul, with sorrow laden, if within the distant eden,
It shall embrace a saintly damsel whom the angels call Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant damsel whom the angels call Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Be that phrase our cue for parting, bird or fiend!” I cried, uprising,
Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s lonely 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 fleeing, still is perching, still is perching,
On the shelf just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamplight over him beaming, casts his silhouette down to the floor;
And my soul from out that silhouette that lies drifting on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
What it Represents?
*The raven represents grief, loss, and ominous despair. Its dark presence evokes a foreboding mood, and its repetitious refrain of “Nevermore” emphasizes the finality and hopelessness of the narrator’s sorrow. The raven is a physical embodiment of the grief that haunts the narrator.
Lenore symbolizes an idealized, romanticized memory of the narrator’s deceased lover. Her name links her to concepts of loss and mortality. She represents the narrator’s inability to let go of his painful past and the constant reminder of death. The narrator is tortured by the memory of the now unattainable Lenore.
So in essence, the raven and Lenore work together as reflections of the narrator’s all-consuming grief, sorrow, and obsession with lost love and the inevitability of death. Poe uses these symbols to explore deep themes of longing, anguish, and the persistence of memory. The raven and Lenore are vehicles through which Poe expresses the terrifying hold that grief can have over the human psyche.
What is meant by the line “Is there no balm of Gilead”?
In the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament, the term “balm of Gilead” refers to a rare and valuable resinous substance extracted from certain trees or shrubs, often believed to have medicinal or healing properties. It is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, in the context of a lamentation over the destruction of Israel:
“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jeremiah 8:22, KJV)
In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” the phrase “Balm of Gilead” is used metaphorically to refer to a soothing or healing remedy for the narrator’s sorrow and grief. In the context of the poem, the Raven’s repeated response of “Nevermore” implies that such solace and healing are unattainable, intensifying the narrator’s despair.