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Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive ("The Raven")

4 minutes

(male narrator) 1845 proves to be the year of Edgar Allan Poe.

(Describer) In a re-enactment, he writes.

In January, less than a year after arriving in New York, he publishes the poem that will make him internationally famous.

(Describer) Chuck Caruso:

(man) "The Raven" is his breakthrough. It's the poem that puts him on the literary map in a way that he had never been before.

(Describer) In an illustration, two dogs fight in a cobblestone city street.

(woman) I would imagine that Poe felt like he finally made it when he was part of Anne Charlotte Lynch's literary events every Saturday.

(Describer) An hourglass stands in a parlour.

Because everybody who was anybody came.

[people talking quietly]

(Describer) Lynn Cullen, Novelist, Mrs. Poe:

They would turn the lights down. He had to read "The Raven" over and over. Everybody wanted to hear him read "The Raven."

[murmuring, applause]

(Describer) A crystal ball stands nearby as Poe holds a candle.

(Cullen) And he spoke in a very dramatic voice.

(Describer) He bows.

It ran in his blood. He was quite the entertainer. 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."

(Describer) Some of the words are shown handwritten.

(man) It was a poem about the common plight of people, where half of all children died before they reached maturity, and everyone understood what it means to grieve.

(Describer) In an illustration, a man holds a hand over his head as a woman comforts another behind him.

(Poe) Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

(Describer) Marilynne Robinson:

(woman) "The silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me"-- You know, that there's just a lusciousness about the sonorities and so on in a line like that that had a great impact on me. It really did. 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!

(Describer) Poe blows out the candle. Then lowers it in shadow, a stuffed raven on a mantle behind him.

[murmuring, applause]

(Describer) Cullen:

He wanted fame, and, boy, did he get it with "The Raven." He couldn't even walk down the street without kids following behind flapping their wings and people calling out, "There's the raven!"

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Nevermore, Lenore! Learn about the story behind Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.”Through an analysis of mood, alliteration, diction, and imagery, students unpack the meaning of Poe’s poem and learn more about one of the most elusive writers in American literature. This short segment is from the "American Masters" series from PBS. Please note this title contains mature themes.

Media Details

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