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Hank Green reads a quintessential Halloween poem, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Hank Green:
https://www.hankgreen.com/
https://twitter.com/hankgreen

Poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48860/the-raven

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Hello I'm Hank Green.  Um, it's Halloween time, so of course you've got to go to the creepy standards, and I've chosen a poem that I love, even though it's the obvious choice. It's The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, because it's a super creepy poem, right?

Except it's not creepy at all. It turns out hiding right below the creepiness, it's not about the supernatural, it's not about, like, what's hiding unseen in the shadows. It's just about grief and about that feeling that you will never be out from under the grief, and maybe that that's a real feeling and that's not creepy, it's just it's scary and it's very sad and it's almost like he built this creepy exterior to maybe make the sadness even more palatable.

The Raven

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 someone 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 angers
      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 is it and nothing more."


Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating
    then no longer, 
"Sir," I said, "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 mortal 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 stainly
   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, though"
    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 blessed with seeing bird above
    his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculpted 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
    did he outpour.
Nothing farther 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 lamp-light
    gloated o-er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light
    gloating o'er,
                           She shall press, ah, nevermore!


Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed
    from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls 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 temptest 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 of parting, bird or fiend!"
   I shriek, 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
    that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light 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!