The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe / Arcadia by Stoppard

In my younger days, I really loved this poem and even wrote a childish reply to it with a close friend for a secondary school assignment. It has one of the best refrains of all time – Nevermore! I am currently re-reading Poe on a sudden desire for the macabre and this extends to The Pit and the Pendulum and some criticism on his works. It is absolutely delicious the way he describes voices and inserts all these scientific terms on mesmerizing trances. Perhaps his writing is so easy to love for the public as he adorns his work with deliberative and intellectual tropes and images, and his voice is calm and reflective, alike the voice of a laboratory record exploited for the New York papers, you read off the sensationalist stories with a queer sense that something like this has happened before. Horror seldom impresses me nowadays, but Poe still disturbs my senses – I feel too, like I am in front of a giant campfire, seeing his eyes through the fire, with Arabic figures rendering smoky grotesque tales.

Of course, I also recently grew curious about his love life, and learnt from an article that Poe had married the 13 year old ward of an aunt, and she died from a very young age from tuberculosis, the same disease which his mother had fallen prey to. The effect was immediate and catastrophic, he has written that for several weeks he was deprived of the power of thought or action. Soon after the death of his wife, Poe sought for female protection and companionship and pursued several suitable ladies with expressions of undying love, only to retreat when they came close to him.

I am not sure if any further works were written during this time, but The Bells was written during this time, which has came close to the description of being ‘as close as possible to the status of pure sound poetry without any definite or discernible meaning’.

I would think The Raven would be a delightful (in the HG sense of the word) poem to memorize over train journeys.

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 has 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 named Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named 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!

Another I have started on on my Xiaodi’s recommendation is Stoppard’s Arcadia. I think I would love very much to see Stoppard done well, and Xiaodi mentioned a play in Carleton which he watched which had been stupefyingly brilliant. Nicely, he says it reads even better than it plays, in his opinion. I haven’t been reading any plays lately, but the local library currently has this ongoing promotion which allows me to borrow up to double my limit -32 books! I will probably not be able to read so much, but its always the most wonderful feeling walking home with adventures in your luggage and a story to read at bedtime. I am not sure if you ever read and liked Stoppard, Irving? But regardless the best friend is in the thick of the examinations and requires his own hot chocolate and warm scones.

A talented ensemble delivers an unforgettable performance of Stoppard’s classic. The play set at Sidley Park, an English country house features dual plot lines and shifts between the early 19th and the present: in 1809, we follow the adventures of tutor Septimus Hodge (Douglas Weston) as he attempts to educate the young Thomasina Croom (Jennifer Dundas) while engaging in an illicit affair with a guest and warding off her poetcum would-be duelist husband. In modern times, popular author Hanna Jarvis (Kate Burton) and university professor and Lord Byron devotee Bernard Nightingale (Gregory Itzin) converge at Sidley Park as they work to unravel the truth about the mysterious events of 1809 and its ramifications for literary history. Featuring brilliant performances from Itzin, Burton and Weston, this audio brims with humor and spirit as it delves into the nature of truth, the validity of history, and the relationship between past and present; truly a standout and a real treat for listeners. –Publishers Weekly

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