Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) has become the symbol of the American Romanticism that came to replace the Enlightenment Era and to reveal new potencies of art. The Romanticists went much deeper into the soul of a human being with all its vices and hidden dark sides. Feelings and senses became the most important motions, and impressive colors were used to depict both the world around and the inner, frightening world of a personality. Mysterious, supernatural, denunciative were the main ideals of the themes touched by the Romanticists with Edgar Allan Poe not on the last place.
The Raven was written in 1845. This is a narrative poem, noted for its gothic atmosphere, stylized language referring to the old folk songs and its overall musicality. The scene is set at a cold December night, in a dark study room where the protagonist is sitting all alone and trying to make out some ancient reading (“my books surcease of sorrow”ť). All his thoughts are filled with depressive memories about his lost beloved Lenore, “the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”ť The action begins when someone comes knocking on the student’s door, “As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door”ť. The atmosphere is getting intense and sinister while “each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor”ť, the young man is afraid to see his dead beloved, and other dreadful pictures are drawn by his imagination “with fantastic terrors never felt before”ť.
The moment of uncertainty and absence of reply is one of the hardest: “But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token.”ť The hero is all alone in the absurd night. A strong feeling of nothingness and emptiness is intensifying, he comes to understand that “Darkness there and nothing more.”ť
Finally the reader comes to see who the night guest was. It is a big black raven “of the saintly days of yore”ť, “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird”ť, the symbol of death and grief, coming through the window into the room. He endlessly repeats the word “Nevermore”ť and turns the young man mad. He comes to understand that his love will never come back, and that this solitude will never end; relief will never come and he is desperate in search of content.
Each stanza is devouring the reader with this impression of desperation, melancholy and cold shiver; life seems to be vast, and death seems to be inevitable and impregnable as the Raven is; love seems to be gone without return and woe is here to stay forever, as “my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted ”“ nevermore!”ť
In this way, the Raven becomes an embodiment of evil forces as well as prophetic wisdom. And the subject brought to life by the inflamed mind of a young sufferer is an eloquent metaphor for existential loneliness and being lost in the dark world of instability, “mournful and never-ending remembrance”ť (Silvermann 171), uncertainty and constant fear.
Further, the impression is even intensified by the conflict between the wish to forger and thus to get rid of pain on the one side and at the same time the wish to remember forever in order to stay faithful to love and safe the image of beloved at least inside his tortured heart. No one can help to resolve it, and thus the whole world is his enemy.