Sunday, September 29, 2013

Poe - Poetry

The latest poem is a familiar one, Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'.  The small description before the poem says that it is 'macabre' ('disturbing and horrifying because of involvement with or depiction of death and injury').  'Macabre' is the perfect word for it.  The full length is too long for this post, but do read the full thing here.  Read it aloud if you can.

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 someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door:
"Tis some visitor;" 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 who the angels name Lenore,
Nameless here forevermore.

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 visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.
This is it, and nothing more."

My God, that rhyme scheme is brilliant!  It's so utterly compelling, urging you forward every step even with the heavy feel of dread.  The word choice doesn't feel forced or unnatural.  It must be one of the finest poems in the English language.  Heck, it's so strong that it has an NFL team named after it!
Does the macabre feel to it add or subtract?  Most of the other top poems deal with things like love and beauty.  'The Raven' deals with loss and wild, uncontrolled nature.  This isn't something you'd learn to impress college girls at the bar, this is something that you'd bring out around the campfire to make people feel uneasy.  Not scared, mind you.  That isn't the aim.  Uneasy and uncertain.  Sad.
I've talked about how great poems have that one great line that becomes quoted and quoted until it's a part of the cultural fabric.  'Quoth the raven, "Nevermore"', certainly qualifies.  I've read some of Poe's short stories but this is the only poem of his that I know.  I wonder if the rest is as good?

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