I had gone so far as the conception of a Raven—the bird of ill omen—monotonously repeating the one word, "Nevermore," at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself— "Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?" Death—was the obvious reply. "And when," I said, "is the most melancholy of topics most poetical?" From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious— "When it most closely allies itself to beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world—and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover.

From Edgar Allan Poe's The Philosophy of Composition
First published in Graham's Magazine, April edition, 1846

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (American poet, 1809—1849)
First published in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845

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 some one 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 whom the angels name Lenore—
         Nameless here for evermore.

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 it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"— here I opened wide the door;—
         Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
         Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
         'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
         Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
         Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
         With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered— not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
         Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
         Of 'Never— nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
         Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
         She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee— by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite— respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
         Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!— prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by horror haunted— tell me truly, I implore—
Is there— is there balm in Gilead?— tell me— tell me, I implore!"
         Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil— prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us— by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
         Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian 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 flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
         Shall be lifted— nevermore!

Edgar Allan Poe composed The Raven in 1844. The first publication date was February of 1845 in his Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe and it is still as satisfying and entertaining to read today as it must have been 157 years ago. That's probably the most important thing about this poem and why it had stood the test of time.

However, one scholar relates that Poe was completely misunderstood. What Mr. Poe meant to focus on was the sadness of the lover, while almost everyone else was caught up in his terror. Even though he intended as to get across as grief and its symptoms, readers became embroiled in Poe's bizarre and unearthly ideas. He went on to explain himself in his The Philosophy of Composition. Mr Bob Blair at The Poet's Corner relates his opinion about Poe and his Philosophy of Composition:

    Poe became famous with the publication of The Raven and later claimed it was all intentional. In 1846 he published an essay, The Philosophy of Composition which details the supposed care with which he crafted a poem that was bound to succeed. I don't believe him. The Raven is just as likely -- I would say much more likely -- to have been the serendipitous result of the right poet, in the right mood, writing for what chanced to be the right audience.
I thought it might make for better enjoyment of reading The Raven so here are some passages. In his Composition Poe writes:
    I select 'The Raven' as most generally known. It is my design to render it manifest that no one point in its composition is referable either to accident or intuition- that the work proceeded step by step, to its completion, with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem...

    The sound of the refrain being thus determined, it became necessary to select a word embodying this sound, and at the same time in the fullest possible keeping with that melancholy which I had pre-determined as the tone of the poem. In such a search it would have been absolutely impossible to overlook the word "Nevermore." In fact it was the very first which presented itself....

    Of course I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or metre of the "Raven." The former is trochaic- the latter is octametre acatalectic, alternating with heptametre catalectic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrametre catalectic. Less pedantically the feet employed throughout (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a short, the first line of the stanza consists of eight of these feet, the second of seven and a half (in effect two-thirds), the third of eight, the fourth of seven and a half, the fifth the same, the sixth three and a half. Now, each of these lines taken individually has been employed before, and what originality the "Raven" has, is in their combination into stanza; nothing even remotely approaching this has ever been attempted. The effect of this originality of combination is aided by other unusual and some altogether novel effects, arising from an extension of the application of the principles of rhyme and alliteration...

    I had now to combine the two ideas of a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a Raven continuously repeating the word "Nevermore." I had to combine these, bearing in mind my design of varying at every turn the application of the word repeated, but the only intelligible mode of such combination is that of imagining the Raven employing the word in answer to the queries of the lover. And here it was that I saw at once the opportunity afforded for the effect on which I had been depending, that is to say, the effect of the variation of application. I saw that I could make the first query propounded by the lover- the first query to which the Raven should reply "Nevermore"- that I could make this first query a commonplace one, the second less so, the third still less, and so on, until at length the lover, startled from his original nonchalance by the melancholy character of the word itself, by its frequent repetition, and by a consideration of the ominous reputation of the fowl that uttered it, is at length excited to superstition, and wildly propounds queries of a far different character- queries whose solution he has passionately at heart- propounds them half in superstition and half in that species of despair which delights in self-torture- propounds them not altogether because he believes in the prophetic or demoniac character of the bird (which reason assures him is merely repeating a lesson learned by rote), but because he experiences a frenzied pleasure in so modelling his questions as to receive from the expected "Nevermore" the most delicious because the most intolerable of sorrows.

He goes to on account what many thought as to whom Poe's "the lost Lenore" was. Blair believes that Poe was referring to the impending death of his wife Virginia who was terminally ill with tuberculosis at the time, she died three years later in 1847. While others mention that Lenore is 'not based on a person but linked to literary heroines by their shared name. Poe's "Lenore" is a lament for the same woman.' Taking a closer look at the imagery behind many of the words Poe used there is evidence along that line of thought as well. Here are a few explanations and definitions for comparison of some of the lines and words used in panamaus's writeup:
  • flirt: quick movement.
  • mien: manner.
  • Pallas: Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
  • Plutonian: that region belonging to the Greek god of the underworld
  • gloated o'er: possibly "reflecting" as well as the more common meaning.
  • tufted: carpeted with a fluffy soft threaded material
  • nepenthe: a drink made by the gods to relieve human grief.
  • is there balm in Gilead?: "Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. 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 8.19-22).
  • Aidenn: Biblical Eden, in which the garden paradise of Adam and Eve was found.
Scattered with frightful images yet, richly sensuous with musical phrases, the rhyme builds against the background of the increasingly distraught reactions of the narrator; scheme and metre along with the way the different line lengths are balanced are crafted from polysyllables that , rather than sounding pretentious work together astonishingly well. This lends the poem marvelously to parody, and several excellent ones have been written. You may want to read BaronCarlos's The Server for his adroit rendition of Poe's Raven, there is also Abort, Retry, Ignore and a few others have been collected on line at http://www.angelfire.com/al/10avs/ravenlike.html.

Poe's best known stories are of ratiocination, in particular The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter which initiated the modern detective story. Poe influenced such authors of distinction as Algernon Charles Swinburne, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Conan Doyle, and the French symbolists. He admired Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Yet much of the influence of his work has been attributed to the influence of the occult on Romanticism along with the mergence of his own fevered dreams. By creating the plausible out of the implausible with an atmosphere of unrestrained objectivity his work became a uinque combination of his own detailed style and phantasy. Being such a dramatic storyteller it created a wide audience that Poe enjoyed during his lifetime.

    The outstanding fact in Poe's character is a strange duality. The wide divergence of contemporary judgments on the man seems almost to point to the coexistence of two persons in him. With those he loved he was gentle and devoted. Others, who were the butt of his sharp criticism, found him irritable and self-centred and went so far as to accuse him of lack of principle. Was it, it has been asked, a double of the man rising from harrowing nightmares or from the haggard inner vision of dark crimes or from appalling graveyard fantasies that loomed in Poe's unstable being?

    The Wondering Minstrels

So much of his work deals with sadness and terror in the ordinary life settings, many found him to be a great man of letters, as well as a pleasant friend with an enjoyable sense of humor. Poe had a keen wit and frequently commented on the art of writing among his contemporaries. He even apologized to visitors for not keeping a pet raven. Very revealing is the duality of his nature and his infamous ability to present an environment by focusing on the minutest details, it overshadows many of his other works. He was just as capable of writing angelic poetry with suggestions of sumptuous beauty on the one hand, while on the other he could put to paper scenes of unrelenting morbidity or compose a problem of gruesome psychology in a hard and dry style. Undoubtedly, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven numbers among the best known poems in the American literature.


Selected Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849):

Blair, Bob:

Public Domain text of the poem taken from the Poet’s Corner:

Public Domain text for Poe’s Philosophy of Composition taken from : http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/enam315/texts2/eapcomp.html

The Wondering Minstrels:

CST Approved.

A poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The full title is "The Raven: A Christmas Tale Told by A Schoolboy to His Little Brothers and Sisters." (The irony of the title will become apparent upon reading.)

Underneath an old oak tree
There was of swine a huge company,
That grunted as they crunched the mast:
For that was ripe, and fell full fast.
Then they trotted away, for the wind grew high:
One acorn they left, and no more might you spy.
Next came a Raven, that liked not such folly:
He belonged, they did say, to the witch Melancholy!
Blacker was he than blackest jet,
Flew low in the rain, and his feathers not wet.
He picked up the acorn and buried it straight
By the side of a river both deep and great.
Where then did the Raven go?
He went high and low,
Over hill, over dale, did the black Raven go.
Many Autumns, many Springs
Traveled he with wandering wings:
Many Summers, many Winters -
I can't tell half his adventures.

At length he came back, and with him a She,
And the acorn was grown to a tall oak tree.
They built them a nest in the topmost bough,
And young ones they had, and were happy enow.
But soon came a Woodman in leathern guise,
His brow, like a pent-house, hung over his eyes.
He'd an axe in his hand, not a word he spoke,
But with many a hem! and a sturdy stroke,
At length he brought down the poor Raven's own oak.
His young ones were killed; for they could not depart,
And their mother did die of a broken heart.
The boughs from the trunk the Woodman did sever;
And they floated it down on the course of the river.
They sawed it in planks, and its bark they did strip,
And with this tree and others they made a good ship.
The ship, it was launched; but in sight of the land
Such a storm there did rise as no ship could withstand.
It bulged on a rock, and the waves rush'd in fast:
Round and round flew the raven, and cawed to the blast.
He heard the last shriek of the perishing souls -
See! see! o'er the topmast the mad water rolls!
And death riding home on a cloud he did meet,
And he thank’d him again and again for this treat,
For they had taken his all and REVENGE, IT WAS SWEET!

CST Approved<--Added 20 Feb 2004 by gom -->

A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

There was once upon a time a queen who had a little daughter who was still so young that she had to be carried. One day the child was naughty, and the mother might say what she liked, but the child would not be quiet. Then she became impatient, and as the ravens were flying about the palace, she opened the window and said, "I wish you were a raven and would fly away, and then I should have some rest." Scarcely had she spoken the words, before the child was changed into a raven, and flew from her arms out of the window. It flew into a dark forest, and stayed in it a long time, and the parents heard nothing of their child.

Then one day a man was on his way through this forest and heard the raven crying, and followed the voice, and when he came nearer, the bird said, "I am a king's daughter by birth, and am bewitched, but you can set me free."
" What am I to do?" asked he.
She said, "Go further into the forest, and you will find a house, wherein sits an aged woman, who will offer you meat and drink, but you must accept nothing, for if you eat and drink anything, you will fall into a sleep, and then you will not be able to set me free. In the garden behind the house there is a great heap of tan, and on this you will stand and wait for me. For three days I shall come every afternoon at two o'clock in a carriage. On the first day four white horses will be harnessed to it, then four chestnut horses, and lastly four black ones, but if you are not awake, but sleeping, I shall not be set free." The man promised to do everything that she desired, but the raven said, "Alas, I know already that you will not set me free; you will accept something from the woman." Then the man once more promised that he would certainly not touch anything either to eat or to drink.

But when he entered the house the old woman came to him and said, "Poor man, how faint you are, come and refresh yourself, eat and drink."
"No," said the man, "I shall not eat or drink." She, however, let him have no peace, and said, "If you will not eat, take one drink out of the glass, one is nothing." Then he let himself be persuaded, and drank. Shortly before two o'clock in the afternoon he went into the garden to the tan heap to wait for the raven. As he was standing there, his weariness all at once became so great that he could not struggle against it, and lay down for a short time, but he was determined not to go to sleep. Hardly, however, had he lain down, than his eyes closed of their own accord, and he fell asleep and slept so soundly that nothing in the world could have aroused him.

At two o'clock the raven came driving up with four white horses, but she was already in deep grief and said, I know he is asleep. And when she came into the garden, he was indeed lying there asleep on the heap of tan. She alighted from the carriage, went to him, shook him, and called him, but he did not awake. Next day about noon, the old woman came again and brought him food and drink, but he would not take any of it. But she let him have no rest and persuaded him until at length he again took one drink out of the glass. Towards two o'clock he went into the garden to the tan heap to wait for the raven, but all at once felt such a great weariness that his limbs would no longer support him. He could not help himself, and was forced to lie down, and fell into a heavy sleep.

When the raven drove up with four brown horses, she was already full of grief, and said, "I know he is asleep." She went to him, but there he lay sleeping, and there was no wakening him. Next day the old woman asked what the meaning of this was. He was neither eating nor drinking anything, did he want to die? He replied, "I am not allowed to eat or drink, and shall not do so." But she set a dish with food, and a glass with wine before him, and when he smelt it he could not resist, and swallowed a deep draught. When the time came, he went out into the garden to the heap of tan, and waited for the king's daughter, but he became still more weary than on the day before, and lay down and slept as soundly as if he had been a stone. At two o'clock the raven came with four black horses, and the coachman and everything else was black. She was already in the deepest grief, and said, "I know that he is asleep and cannot set me free."

When she came to him, there he was lying fast asleep. She shook him and called him, but she could not awaken him. Then she laid a loaf beside him, and after that a piece of meat, and thirdly a bottle of wine, and he might consume as much of all of them as he liked, but they would never grow less. After this she took a gold ring from her finger, and put it on his, and her name was engraved on it. Lastly, she laid a letter beside him wherein was written what she had given him, and that none of the things would ever grow less, and in it was also written, "I see right well that here you will never be able to set me free, but if you are still willing to do so, come to the golden castle of Stromberg; it lies in your power, of that I am certain." And when she had given him all these things, she seated herself in her carriage, and drove to the golden castle of Stromberg.

When the man awoke and saw that he had slept, he was sad at heart, and said, "She has certainly driven by, and I have not set her free." Then he perceived the things which were lying beside him, and read the letter wherein was written how everything had happened. So he arose and went away, intending to go to the golden castle of Stromberg, but he did not know where it was. After he had walked about the world for a long time, he entered into a dark forest, and walked for fourteen days, and still could not find his way out. Then it was once more evening, and he was so tired that he lay down in a thicket and fell asleep. Next day he went onwards, and in the evening, as he was again about to lie down beneath some bushes, he heard such a howling and crying that he could not go to sleep. And at the time when people light the candles, he saw one glimmering, and arose and went towards it.

Then he came to a house which seemed very small, for in front of it a great giant was standing. He thought to himself, "If I go in, and the giant sees me, it will very likely cost me my life." At length he ventured it and went in. When the giant saw him, he said, "It is well that you come, for it is long since I have eaten, I shall at once devour you for my supper."
"I'd rather you did not," said the man, "I do not like to be eaten, but if you have any desire to eat, I have quite enough here to satisfy you."
"If that be true," said the giant, "you may be easy, I was only going to devour you because I had nothing else."

Then they went, and sat down to the table, and the man took out the bread, wine, and meat which would never come to an end. "This pleases me well," said the giant, and ate to his heart's content. Then the man said to him, "Can you tell me where the golden castle of Stromberg is?"
The giant said, "I shall look at my map, all the towns, and villages, and houses are to be found on it."

He brought out the map which he had in the room and looked for the castle, but it was not to be found on it. "It's no matter," said he, "I have some still larger maps in my cupboard upstairs, and we shall look at them." But there, too, it was in vain. The man now wanted to set out again, but the giant begged him to wait a few days longer until his brother, who had gone out to bring some provisions, came home. When the brother came home they inquired about the golden castle of Stromberg. He replied, "When I have eaten and have had enough, I will look at the map."

Then he went with them up to his chamber, and they searched on his map, but could not find it. Then he brought out still older maps, and they never rested until they found the golden castle of Stromberg, but it was many thousands of miles away. "How am I to get there?" asked the man. The giant said, "I have two hours, time, during which I shall carry you into the neighbourhood, but after that I must be at home to suckle the child that we have." So the giant carried the man to about a hundred leagues from the castle, and said, "You can very well walk the rest of the way alone." And he turned back, but the man went onwards day and night, until at length he came to the golden castle of Stromberg.

It stood on a glass mountain, and the bewitched maiden was driving in her carriage round the castle, and then went inside it. He rejoiced when he saw her and wanted to climb up to her, but when he began to do so he always slipped down the glass again. And when he saw that he could not reach her, he was very worried, and said to himself, "I shall stay down here below, and wait for her." So he built himself a hut and stayed in it for a whole year, and every day saw the king's daughter driving about above, but never could reach her.

Then one day he saw from his hut three robbers who were beating each other, and cried to them, "God be with you." They stopped when they heard the cry, but as they saw no one, they once more began to beat each other, and that too most dangerously. So he again cried, "God be with you." Again they stopped, looked round about, but as they saw no one they went on beating each other. Then he cried for the third time, "God be with you," and thought, "I must see what these three are about," and went thither and asked why they were beating each other so furiously. One of them said that he had found a stick, and that when he struck a door with it, that door would spring open. The next said that he had found a mantle, and that whenever he put it on, he was invisible, but the third said he had found a horse on which a man could ride everywhere, even up the glass mountain. And now they did not know whether they ought to have these things in common, or whether they ought to divide them.

Then the man said, "I shall give you something in exchange for these three things. Money indeed have I not, but I have other things of more value, but first I must make an experiment to see if you have told the truth." Then they put him on the horse, threw the mantle round him, and gave him the stick in his hand, and when he had all these things they were no longer able to see him. So he gave them some vigorous blows and cried, "Now, vagabonds, you have got what you deserve, are you satisfied?" And he rode up the glass mountain, but when he came to front of the castle at the top, it was shut.

Then he struck the door with his stick, and it sprang open immediately. He went in and ascended the stairs until he came to the hall where the maiden was sitting with a golden globlet of wine before her. She, however, could not see him because he had the mantle on. And when he came up to her, he drew from his finger the ring which she had given him, and threw it into the goblet so that it rang. Then she cried, "That is my ring, so the man who is to set me free must be here."

They searched the whole castle and did not find him, but he had gone out, and had seated himself on the horse and thrown off the mantle. When they came to the door, they saw him and cried aloud in their delight. Then he alighted and took the king's daughter in his arms, but she kissed him and said, "Now have you set me free, and to-morrow we will celebrate our wedding."

Horror movie directed by Lew Landers and starring Bela Lugosi as Dr. Richard Vollin, Boris Karloff (then credited as just as Karloff) as Edmond Bateman, Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher, Samuel Hinds as Judge Thatcher, and Lester Matthews as Dr. Jerry Halden.

Spoilers to follow

The Raven was released in 1935 and tells the story of Dr. Richard Vollin, a surgeon with a penchant for Poe and way too much time on his hands. A leader in his field, Vollin is called on by Judge Thatcher to save the life of his daughter Jean when she is involved in a car wreck which put her in a coma and crippled her. Vollin originally refuses until he learns that other doctors have said that only he has the skill to save her, feeding his already enormous ego. Vollin, it seems, believes that he is a god who is prevented from greatness by his human emotions.

In the months following the surgery, Jean and Vollin begin to develope feelings for one another. During Jean's performance of an interpretive dance based upon Vollin's favorite poem The Raven, the burdgeoning love that the two feel becomes apparent to Judge Thatcher, who forbids Jean from seeing Vollin and confronts Vollin, telling him that he must break off the relationship with Jean. Judge Thatcher defends his position by reminding Vollin that Jean is engaged to his fellow doctor Jerry Halden.. Vollin grows angry and vows vengence against all who he feels who have wronged him.

Vollin is soon approached by criminal Edmond Bateman, who wants Vollin to surgically change his appearance. Vollin tells Bateman that he will do so, but only if Bateman will help him get his revenge. Bateman is seeking to reform and wishes to change his appearance for the better, thinking that since he is unattractive, he does bad things, so if he is attractive he will not be as evil. For this reason, Bateman is hesitant, but Vollin convinces him that he will help him by changing his appearance so that the police will not recognize him. Vollin performs surgery, but the results are anything but positive for Bateman. Vollin has disfigured him, causing the right side of his face to droop, looking similar to those who have suffered a paralyzing stroke. Vollin tells Bateman that only if he helps with the doctor's revenge will he return him to normal. So trapped, Bateman accepts, though reluctantly.

Vollin invites the Thatchers, Dr. Halden, and two other couples to his home for a dinner party and to stay the weekend. Bateman frightens Jean, but she later apologizes, showing real compassion for his plight. After everyone retires for the evening, Bateman grabs the judge and takes him through a hidden door into the dungeon that Vollin had constructed under his home. There the judge is strapped to a device similar to that in Poe's poem The Pit and the Pendulum. In a rather contrived plot twist, Vollin also had constructed his home with a number of optional extras, including steel shutters to trap his guests inside, an room that lowered like an elevator, which happens to be the room that our heroine Jean is staying in, and a room that has the wall close in, in which Vollin traps Halden and Jean. Bateman saves Jean and Halden and puts Vollin in the crushing room before succumbing to a gun shot wound. Vollin is crushed by his own device and Jean and Halden are able to save the judge and escape.

The Raven is one of a number of films that Universal Studios put out pairing Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The films did very well and although this is not one of the better of the films, The Raven does have all of the classic elements of those films: Lugosi overacting in a way that is actually menacing, the masterful make-up work of Karloff, and wooden acting bymany of the supporting cast.

A short, spoiler-ridden and possibly inaccurate synopsis and short review of The Raven (2012 film), a mainstream multiplex movie, a period film, murder mystery pitting Edgar Allan Poe as the protagonist enlisted by Detective Emmett Fields (not a Poe invention) of the Maryland police department to catch a serial killer who models his crimes on Poe's horror stories including: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and "The Mask of the Red Death", and "A Casque of Amantillado".

* * *

At the start of the story, Poe is broke, cannot afford a drink nor trade on his fame as a writer for one. He is furious with the local newspaper editor who has opted to publish a poem by Longfellow rather than Poe's own work. The editor encourages him to write another gory horror story.

Despite a stagnant career due to writer's block and unchecked alcoholism Poe hopes to marry Emily, a young, beautiful devotee. Captain Hamilton, Emily's father, strenously objects to their coupling. Poe and Fields investigate the scenes of a sequence of Poe-inspired murders but are unable to trace the killer, who leaves clues specifically for Poe. He is apparently an obsessed fan. Fields and Poe expect the killer to strike again at a ball hosted by Hamilton, but instead he kidnaps Emily.

The killer takes another victim in a murder modeled after "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" leaving a message that Poe must write a new story based on Emily's real abduction to be published the next day in the newspaper. The desperate situation seems to eliminate his writer's block. Poe has no difficultly completing the story as horror is his forté, and the editor is delighted to publish it immediately. Emily's life is spared but the killer demands another installment be published. In this installment, Poe communicates to the killer that he will trade his own life for Emily's.

Enough clues are given to us to realize the killer is one of the characters already introduced, and we can eliminate several characters as suspects. Poe meets with the killer in the newspaper office, thus revealing his or her identity. The killer gives him a poison to drink and a clue to Emily's location, then makes his escape. Poe deduces that Emily is under the newspaper office. He discovers a trap door, climbs down and digs her out of a shallow grave, till alive. Fields and the police arrive and take care of Emily while Poe retires from the scene to take his final moments alone on a park bench. Just before he dies, he gives the killer's name to a passing stranger and tells him to tell Fields. Cut to the near future, the killer boarding a carriage somewhere in France (where Poe was very popular in his day); Fields is waiting for him. The killer moves to attack Fields, but Fields shoots and kills him. Rock music plays over the credits ("Burn My Shadow" by Unkle).

* * *

The film tries to pay tribute to the poet and at the same time follows many conventional moviemaking techniques to appeal to a general audience. The sets and costumes are perfectly convincing; the film is visually and aurally appealing. The dialogue sounds forced at times as do certain plot points; indeed the two problems are often conjoined such as when we are told (rather than shown) by the newspaper editor that "every woman he loved died in his arms" even though we never see Poe remembering his past loves, grieving for them. There are some lovely readings of Poe's poetry, "Annabel Lee" read by Emily(Alice Eve) and "The Raven" read by Poe (John Cusack). Aside from these moments, you could replace Poe with Longfellow and Cusack with Johnny Depp and you'd have something like the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.