Gary Rinsem

The Raven
by Gary Rinsem
Begun in 1973
Put down in 1978
Continued in 1983
Written in 1990
Enjoyed 30 years more
Edited in 2020
Part of my life

“this sentence is big and scary enough to terrorize Tokyo"
Ode to an english teacher

My first real English teacher walked through the door and my libido played hacky sack with my mind. She was very young for a high school teacher and was definitely my type, even tho I was only fourteen years old. It was still the first week of my high school experience and already a teacher had made her impression on me. I hope she didn't know. I was severely disappointed a couple months later when she left the school, never again to be lusted after. That morning she tried her best to make an impression, on at least one student. My mind was wide open to ANY suggestion from her. She succeeded with me... and others I hope.

Hurried and speaking quickly she passed out copies of Edgar Allen Poe's poem, The Raven. It must've taken much time in 1973, today it would be easy, but she managed to make a legible single page handout of the long poem. Clearly a work of love by her. Standing at the blackboard for several minutes, she gave an impassioned speech to convey what the poem meant to her. Rapidly detailing numerous benefits of appreciating poetry, her point was finally taken. For my entire four year high school odyssey I carried that poem at all times, folded between the pages of an English book. Bored in classes I read it a hundred times. With no Cliff Notes and no internet and nobody else with an interest to discuss it, The Raven was a only a dark and scary jumble of words to me. It was mostly forgotten when high school ended. The precious worn piece of paper left me without notice, some time soon after high school. Six years passed before my relationship with The Raven was reignited, in 1983. One evening in Beverly Hills with the two women I loved, enjoying a most unusual experience in a unique gourmet restaurant, an elderly woman walked on stage. Decrepit, wrinkled and saggy with Phyllis Diller hair, she stood under a spotlight and began reading. In an instant I recognized Poe's work. Both hands gently holding several pages close to her face, she spoke the words I'd only read before. Her performance was polished, well rehearsed and melodic. The words I'd only imagined as slowly spoken and barely rhyming, were suddenly a beautiful a cappella masterpiece flowing from her mind like the song of a very unusual bird. The women in my life hadn't understood my attachment to The Raven, that night they did. In the following weeks we were united in our desire to understand it. The three of us unrelentingly pushed the poem as a topic of discussion, among a large group of friends. Converts came slowly, but soon enough all were excited and possessing their own copy. We had to investigate every possible thought Poe could have intended. We debated for hours the smallest details. It took months and many sessions with a big dictionary, but together we cracked Poe's code of The Raven. It's not at all dark and scary, just sad and depressing... Around the year 2000 it took only five minutes on the internet to solve the puzzle, through someone else's determination and willingness to share. Twenty years later, the first google search instantly provides many canned choices for rudimentary comprehension. I don't know if it's a good thing or bad. Good or bad, it's sad to miss out on the exploration, and sharing it with dear friends. It will never rise to a place of importance without a deep exploration. My first English teacher understood. I remember her and thank her for it. Thank you for reading my version of that English teacher's 1973 speech at the blackboard. It would be wonderful if I could pass her gift to someone... maybe you.

Never again will anyone hear a recitation of The Raven as we heard that night in 1983.

I auditioned 20 or more recordings and only found one that didn't make Poe roll over in his grave.

I've done what I can to make it a fun and easy introduction, or reintroduction.

Try This...

Start the audio and read the poem below as the recording plays. Crank the volume until you FEEL the poem! Each stanza has a pause button and it's own custom play button to start the recitation at that position. Also... many words and the title and footer banners... all have hyperlinks to enjoy. Uhm... seems I'm trying to surpass my English teacher's effort to share the poem. 😊

And still... more advice... Turn your phone sideways so it won't have to word wrap. It's a much better read if the text formatting isn't messed up by word wrap. Last, fall in love, it's beautiful in many ways on many levels. Scroll the page back to here and do it again, several times until it elicits an emotional reaction... Come back a week later... and do it again! Most of all, share it with someone special to you.

  • Enjoy a Recitation of 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 some one 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 angels 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 it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, “Sir,” said I, “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 saintly 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, 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 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 sculptured 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 he did 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 tempest 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 shrieked, 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’s 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!

"Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe"
I Am The Walrus

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