Posted by: Sally Ingraham | September 14, 2010

R.I.P. V: The Raven

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;…

I read this out loud to CP and my cats last night. It begs to be read out loud – the rocking rhythm of the poem pounds through the throat, makes the heart bang inside the chest, and catches the breath in the beat. It’s quite exciting! I am thrilled by Poe’s use of alliteration – both for it’s dramatic impact, and for the tickle of pleasure that lines like this give me:

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore…

Is it wrong that in the midst of the doom and despair of The Raven, I can’t help grinning at Poe’s wordage? And also the narrator cracks me up – he has already established that the damn bird says nothing but “Nevermore” and yet he is still devastated by that being the answer to whether or not his lost Lenore is in heaven? The wretchedness of his situation is not lost on me, and depending on my mood the poem is more or less grim, but last night it struck me as especially funny in a dark and twisted sense. Ah well…

raven's eyeWhile Poe’s poem didn’t make me tremble much, I was tormented by shivers aplenty – each ghastly swallow of Eel River Brewing Company’s Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout sent chills running the length of my spine. I’m a huge fan of dark beers, although high alcohol content in a dark beer can be a scary thing. The brew had Imperial written right on it, so I was forewarned. In the mouth the brew was sweet and nutty, and going down the throat it had a pleasant hint of coffee, but on the swallow a bizarre sourness flooded out all other flavors and turned the experience into something of an ordeal…! Plenty of perilous imbibing there – and I must say that I’ll take an interesting beer experience over an uninteresting one, even if the boring beer goes down easier, any day! πŸ™‚

I’ve got a few book reviews to hack together, and a few movies to rant about. For the moment though, I’m going to make myself a pumpkin latte and watch the torrential downpour and listen to the astonishingly insistent thunderstorm that is crashing outside the shop where I work. Just lovely.


  1. Taking the Readers Imbibing Peril quite literally, eh? I like it.

    I’ve not read the poem in a while. Perhaps I should. “The Bells” has always been my favorite Poe poem.

    • I’ll definitely be checking out ‘The Bells’. If the rest of Poe’s poetry is as fun as ‘The Raven’, I’m surely in for a good time!

  2. A pumpkin latte sounds like a great idea!

    • It usually is. πŸ™‚

  3. OK Sarah, this is what a geek I am. I memorized all of Poe’s poetry when I was a kid but this was my favorite. Great dramatic possibilities! One tends to get some raised eyebrows in school though when the other kids had memorized “The Swing” or something, and I was going on about the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore. πŸ™‚

    • I LOVE it! That’s brilliant. No wonder you’ve turned into such a fabulous Book Temptress – you started young. πŸ™‚

  4. Haha, I can imagine the Fox announcer’s voice: “When BEERS go BAD…..tonight at 7/6 Central.”

    Like Frances, I had a great fondness for this poem as a young’un. This, and Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman.” I would recite them under the covers on dark & stormy nights. πŸ™‚

    • Ooo, ‘The Highwayman”! I had that memorized for a long time, set to the music of Loreena McKennit I believe. What a great ballad – I wonder if anyone has novelized it effectively? I’m a sucker for such things… Why waste my time looking though when I could just read the poem again – off to do so.

  5. Actually, I’ve long been convinced that Poe did not intend “The Raven” to be taken all that seriously. (I believe that’s the case with a lot of his writings, now that I think of it.)

    Have you read his essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” where he claims to “explain” the poem? It’s quite funny, in a subtly mocking way. He was obviously having a laugh on all those people who saw “Raven” as some sort of personal soul-baring of his.

    • Darn, that piece isn’t in my “Portable Poe”. I’ll have to track it down – seems like a very suitable companion read. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Sweet! Thanks Undine, I’ll check it out.

  7. The Raven is great, isn’t it? There is a dark sense of humor, a dark irony, running throughout. The conclusion is foregone given the raven’s one-word vocabulary and yet that doesn’t take away from the sense of despair and the inevitability of it all. One of my all time favorite poems and one that begs to be read aloud. I’m sorry to hear that the beer wasn’t as smooth as the poem. πŸ™‚

    • No worries, there are many more great beers out there for me. Maybe that Raven’s Eye addled my brain though, because I’ve been obsessively thinking about what kind of nut would have trained a raven to say “Nevermore” and then cackling to myself over the gloomy hilarity of the idea…!

  8. Belately, I want to recommend Raven Beer, one local to me:

    I’m loving your RIP posts–and I’m a Poe Freak. (I even named my spinning wheel Annabel Lee.)

    • Ooo, thanks for the link. I love that Poe pint glass! I haven’t seen this at my local beer stores, but I can ask around. Thanks for the tip.

      I’ll check back at your blog come January – your reading endeavor should be fun!

  9. […] Stories/Poems: Poe, Hawthorne, and Gorey The Raven […]

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