Little Bits of History

“Nevermore!”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe

January 29, 1845: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe reaches print for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe was a poet, a short story writer who dabbled in science fiction and virtually created the detective and crime fiction genres, an editor, and a critic of other’s work. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1809, his father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died of tuberculosis in 1811. John Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Virginia, took Poe in.

The Raven is a beautifully worded, musically cadenced, narrative poem told in an eerie and dark manor. The narrator, a man who has lost his love, Lenore, is visited by the black bird that sits above the door speaking only one word – nevermore. The bird watches and exacerbates the man’s slow and irrevocable descent into madness.

Many of Poe’s poems are a study in guilt or “perverseness.” This is not the guilt associated with law or morals. It isn’t based on right or wrong. It is the guilt that, in Poe’s words, speaks to “the human thirst for self-torture.” The narrator continually asks the bird questions that would best be served by a positive answer while knowing full well that the only response is the negative, “Nevermore!” The poem illustrates the man’s physical terror and describes the psychological torture of the doomed.

In his essay “Philosophy of Composition” Poe explains that self-destruction and self-induced anguish already exist in the heart of his protagonists. The death of beautiful women, left unexplained as to cause, is the most poetic of all topics, according to Poe. In this poem, as in many others, we are not told the cause of Lenore’s death because to Poe it made no difference. Beauty has died. The torture remains. The man must choose between the pain of remembrance and the pain of forgetting. When will the anguish end? Nevermore.

“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.’” – from the poem, The Raven

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

“Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.” – all from Edgar Allan Poe

Also on this day:
Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Victoria Cross – In 1856, Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross.

 

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