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graduate, as regards seriousness and importance, the preceding queries of the lover; and, secondly, that I might definitely settle the rhythm, the meter, and the length and general arrangement of the stanza, -as well as graduate the stanzas which were to precede, so that none of them might surpass this in rhythmical effect. Had I been able, in the subsequent composition, to construct more vigorous stanzas, I should without scruple have purposely enfeebled them, so as not to interfere with the climacteric effect.

And here I may as well say a few words of the versification. My first object (as usual) was originality. The extent to which this has been neglected, in versification, is one of the most unaccountable things in the world. Admitting that there is little possibility of variety in mere rhythm, it is still clear that the possible varieties of meter and stanza are absolutely infinite. And yet, for centuries, no man, in verse, has ever done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an original thing. The fact is, that originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and, although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.

Of course I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or meter of “The Raven.” 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 combination 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,

The next point to be considered was the mode of bringing together the lover and the raven; and the first branch of this consideration was the locale. For this the most natural suggestion might seem to be a forest, or the fields; but it has always appeared to me that a close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident: it has the force of a frame to a picture. It has an indisputable moral power in keeping concentrated the attention, and, of course, must not be confounded with mere unity of place.

I determined, then, to place the lover in his chamber, - in a chamber rendered sacred to him by memories of her who had frequented it. The room is represented as richly furnished; this in mere pursuance of the ideas I have already explained on the subject of beauty, as the sole true poetical thesis.

The locale being thus determined, I had now to introduce the bird ; and the thought of introducing him through the window was inevitable. The idea of making the lover suppose, in the first instance, that the flapping of the wings of the bird against the shutter is a “tapping” at the door, originated in a wish to

increase by prolonging the reader's curiosity, and in a desire to admit the incidental effect arising from the lover's throwing open the door, finding all dark, and thence adopting the half-fancy that it was the spirit of his mistress that knocked.

I made the night tempestuous, first, to account for the raven's seeking admission, and secondly for the effect of contrast with the (physical) serenity within the chamber.

I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also for the effect of contrast between the marble and the plumage, it being understood that the bust was absolutely suggested by the bird ; the bust of Pallas being chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship of the lover, and secondly, for the sonorousness of the word Pallas itself.

About the middle of the poem, also, I have availed myself of the force of contrast, with a view of deepening the ultimate impression. For example, an air of the fantastic, approaching as nearly to the ludicrous as was admissible, is given to the raven's entrance. He comes in

with
many

flirt and flutter."

a

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.

In the two stanzas which follow, the design is more obviously carried out:

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 marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we can not help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber-door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber-door,

With such name as Nevermore!"

The effect of the dénoûment being thus provided for, I immediately drop the fantastic for a tone of the most profound seriousness; this tone commencing in the stanza directly following the one last quoted, with the line,

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only,

etc.

From this epoch the lover no longer jests, no longer sees any thing even of the fantastic in the raven's demeanor. He speaks of him as a “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore,” and feels the “fiery eyes” burning into his “bosom's core.” This revolution of thought, or fancy, on the lover's part, is intended to induce a similar one on the part of the reader, — to bring the mind into a proper frame for the dénoûment, which is now brought about as rapidly and as directly as possible.

With the dénoûment proper, — with the raven's reply, “Nevermore,” to the lover's final demand if he shall meet his mistress in another world, — the poem in its obvious phase, that of a simple narrative, may be said to have its completion. So far, every thing is within the limits of the accountable, — of the real. A raven, having learned by rote the single word “Nevermore," and having escaped from the custody of its owner, is driven at midnight, through the violence of a storm, to seek admission at a window from which a light still gleams,—the chamber-window of a student, occupied half in poring over a volume, half in dreaming of a beloved mistress deceased. The casement being thrown open at the fluttering of the bird's wings, the bird itself perches on the most convenient seat out of the immediate reach of the student, who, amused by the incident and the oddity of the visitor's demeanor, demands of it, in jest and without looking for a reply, its name. The raven addressed, answers with its customary word, “Nevermore," — a word which finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the student, who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughts suggested by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl's repetition of “Nevermore.” The student now guesses the state of the case, but is impelled, as I have before explained, by the human thirst for self-torture, and in part by superstition, to propound such queries to the bird as will bring him, the lover, the most of the luxury of sorrow, through the anticipated answer, “Nevermore.” With the indulgence, to the extreme, of this self-torture, the narration, in what I have termed its first or

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