It’s been 169 years since the reading public was introduced to what would eventually be one of the greatest poems ever written.
The Raven first appeared under Edgar Allan Poe’s name in the New York Evening Post on this day in 1845. It was also published in The American Review under the pen name Quarles the following month, and this is said to be the accepted first text “as it was set in type from the manuscript”. The Raven is a narrative poem – that is, a type of poetry that tells a story – and is remembered for the style it was written and its supernatural air.
In a nutshell, The Raven is told from the first person point of view, by an unnamed young scholar supposedly according to Poe himself as mentioned in The Philosophy of Composition. It tells how, one night, a talking raven mysteriously paid a visit inside the room of said young man who was at the time lamenting the loss of his beloved.
Much like the other works that Poe has been known for, The Raven carries a macabre vibe owing to the allusions made in the poem. For one, the raven is usually associated by many cultures around the world as a symbol of death, mystery, magic, and the like. In addition, there have also been insinuations that the raven is allegedly a messenger from the afterlife (“the Night’s Plutonian shore”).
As for Poe’s intentions, he was said to have used the raven, which in part was inspired by Grip the raven in Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty’ to symbolize “mournful and never-ending remembrance.” He also picked it to become the central symbol reportedly because “he wanted a ‘non-reasoning’ creature capable of speech” and it supposedly “matched the intended tone of the poem,” according to Wikipedia.
In any case, The Raven reportedly was a success from the get-go that it was reprinted more than 10 times within a month of its publication. Warmly received by both the public and critics alike, the poem subsequently appeared in other publications throughout the year like the New York Tribune, Broadway Journal, and the Literary Emporium, and in anthologies like Poets and Poetry of America edited by Wilmot Griswold.
The Raven is, without a doubt, a literary classic. Today it is recognized as one of the best poems ever written. From the time it was published, the poem not only spawned comic parodies such as The Black Cat, The Owl, and The Turkey, but also influenced some of today’s modern classics like Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. The Raven also went beyond the confines of the literary world as it has been continuously referenced in pop culture in the last century. Just a few of the many examples include two eponymous films (1915 and 1935); and references in Stephen King’s novels Insomnia and Black House, in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and The Sandman, on TV shows “The Simpsons” and “Night Gallery,” in songs by Grateful Dead and Thirty Seconds to Mars, and a whole lot more. This is solid enough proof that The Raven truly is one of Poe’s invaluable contributions to literature and culture.
All information in this article were sourced from The Raven on Wikipedia, The Raven in popular culture on Wikipedia, History, the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, and Nevermore: The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane.
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