Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"Poe's symbol of "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance," as treated in the world-famous poem, and Poe's "The Philosophy of Composition."
- By Christoffer Hallqvist
Christoffer Hallqvist, also known as Qrisse, is a computer scientist from Sweden. His reason for dedicating his spare time to Edgar Allan Poe is simply the love and respect he feels towards the author and his work. Qrisse's Edgar Allan Poe pages, the former host of the Poe Decoder, has been available on the Internet since late 1995, and was one of the first pages available on-line to provide factual information on Poe's life. The pages worked, and to some extent still work, as a gathering point for Poe enthusiasts on the Internet, and was Christoffer's way into the Poe community.
The illustration and this text is copyright ©1998, Christoffer Hallqvist. Publishing rights are exclusive to the Poe Decoder. The text may not be published, on the Internet, or elsewhere, without the author's permission.
SummaryA lonely man tries to ease his "sorrow for the lost Lenore," by distracting his mind with old books of "forgotten lore." He is interrupted while he is "nearly napping," by a "tapping on [his] chamber door." As he opens up the door, he finds "darkness there and nothing more." Into the darkness he whispers, "Lenore," hoping his lost love had come back, but all that could be heard was "an echo [that] murmured back the word 'Lenore!'"
SymbolsIn this poem, one of the most famous American poems ever, Poe uses several symbols to take the poem to a higher level. The most obvious symbol is, of course, the raven itself. When Poe had decided to use a refrain that repeated the word "nevermore," he found that it would be most effective if he used a non-reasoning creature to utter the word. It would make little sense to use a human, since the human could reason to answer the questions (Poe, 1850). In "The Raven" it is important that the answers to the questions are already known, to illustrate the self-torture to which the narrator exposes himself. This way of interpreting signs that do not bear a real meaning, is "one of the most profound impulses of human nature" (Quinn, 1998:441).
WordsPoe had an extensive vocabulary, which is obvious to the readers of both his poetry as well as his fiction. Sometimes this meant introducing words that were not commonly used. In "The Raven," the use of ancient and poetic language seems appropriate, since the poem is about a man spending most of his time with books of "forgotten lore."
The Philosphy of CompositionEdgar Allan Poe wrote an essay on the creation of "The Raven," entitled "The Philosophy of Composition." In that essay Poe describes the work of composing the poem as if it were a mathematical problem, and derides the poets that claim that they compose "by a species of fine frenzy - an ecstatic intuition - and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes." Whether Poe was as calculating as he claims when he wrote "The Raven" or not is a question that cannot be answered; it is, however, unlikely that he created it exactly like he described in his essay. The thoughts occurring in the essay might well have occurred to Poe while he was composing it.
Qrisse's Edgar Allan Poe Pages