Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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!
- He sits and thinks, and sits and thinks, in silence, "not one syllable expressing" (73).
- He imagines the "fiery eyes" of the bird burning through into his "bosom's core" (74).
- We think it's safe to say that our narrator is a melodramatic kind of guy. So he does some more thinking and guessing (or "divining" as he rather pompously calls it).
- Poe gives us some details of the room here and, as always, they are rich and luxurious (like the velvet cushion and a little scary (even the lamp-light seems to "gloat") (76).
- For some reason, the light and the cushion push him back to his old obsession. He remembers that Lenore will never sit on this cushion again (78), and that she's really gone forever.
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."
- Now things start to get a little weird. In his grief, our speaker imagines the air filling with perfume from an invisible censer (a globe that holds burning incense).
- To top that off, he imagines angels ("seraphim") swinging that censer. He even hears their footsteps on the carpet (80).
- Now that he's gone around the bend, he starts to yell at himself, calling himself a "wretch."
- He tells himself that this imaginary perfume thickening the air was sent from God to help him forget Lenore. He compares this perfume to nepenthe, a mythological drink that was supposed to comfort grieving people.
- He tells himself to "quaff" (that just means drink) this potion and forget Lenore.
- Just as we start to really wonder what he's raving about, the raven cuts him off by saying "Nevermore" (84).