what inspired E A Poe to write the raven

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what inspired E A Poe to write raven

-- Anonymous, January 18, 2005


Obviously a lot of myth builds up around a subject like this. Not helping matters any for this biggest hit of all American poetry, is that Poe's own description in "The Philosophy of Composition" is a bit tongue in cheek, possibly deceptive, and mainly a matter of idea and technique rather than the the true emotional roots and experience. The essay is about the art, not what we today automatically expect to see as the meaningful inspiration.

To hear Poe boast that he intended to make a popular, innovative work of idealized poetry and set about it thus and thus is rather deflating. The essay and all others may be found at www.eapoe.org. Some precursors to "The Raven" as far as the talking bird device goes would be the parrot mentioned in Poe's own "Romance" and "Ver-vert"(1734) by Gresset quoted in "The Fall of the House of Usher. Poe had been working and discussing the poem for some time, adding to the witness accounts. The idea of an owl(those eyes and Athena imagery) surfaced but it had been done and the Raven had the better vocabulary to rhyme with the lost Lenore, the purported focus of the poem. So the raven in Barnaby Rudge(Dickens) mentioned in articles and correspondance by Poe. The stanza and rhythm seem influenced by another poet poe reviewed, Elizabeth barrett "Lady Geraldine's Courtship".

Anyway, the core source of both the emotion and the meaning behind the poem are perefectly consistent with Poe's whole opus. His wife, though alive was getting very ill and the fear of losing her as he had lost(then artistically idealized) other important women in his life probably added a note of increasing despair to this abstract way of coping with past mourning. Memory "To Helen" mourning "A Paean" or "Lenore", contact and resolution with the deceased "Eleanora"(a tale) and even the name Lenore with its mournful and idealized(Helen of Troy) connotations are the center.

The important element is not the memory though. It is the effect upon the poet, or rather his own internal grappling that is the self-contained real center of the poem. At the end Lenore is invisible but morbidly nver absent as the burden of a haunting and a bond that cannot be broken . It is desired but abhorred("Ligeia") and the duality, repulsion/attraction, memory/forgetting, salvation/destruction cause the self inflicted dialog of self-defeat that is the conversation with the unchanging bird of omen.

After the Raven Poe will take this relationship with the ideal another step in "Annabel Lee"(defiance in the midst of this prostrate trap) and "Ulalume" where he almost forgets but is led right back to the tomb of his lost beloved, her name now only a chant of unnending mourning.

-- Anonymous, January 18, 2005

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