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The Raven

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Stanzas XV & XVI Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 85-90

"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."

  • Now the speaker starts to get seriously worked up and starts full-out yelling at the bird, calling him a "Prophet" and a "thing of evil" (85).
  • Well, actually he backs off on the evil thing a little, moving back and forth between assuming that this bird has come straight from Satan (the "Tempter") or that it has just been blown in at random by a storm (86).
  • The next line emphasizes the strangeness of the bird, who is all alone, but seems unshaken ("desolate yet all undaunted").
  • It also reminds us of how completely miserable our speaker is, stuck in a "desert land enchanted" alone in a "home by Horror haunted" (88). All he really wants is a little bit of hope, some possibility of comfort.
  • So he asks the bird a typically pompous, bookwormish question: "Is there balm in Gilead?" (89) It's a Biblical reference, basically meaning, is there hope in my future, a possibility of comfort, peace, etc?
  • Predictably, the bird shoots him down with "Nevermore."

Lines 91-96

"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."

  • Our speaker seems to be pretty slow to catch on, or maybe he's starting to enjoy the torture the bird is inflicting on him. In any case, he keeps pumping this dry well, asking the bird another question, this one a little more to the point.
  • He asks, in the name of God, if he will one day get to embrace his beloved Lenore again, in "the distant Aidenn" (i.e., Eden, or Heaven).
  • The bird says, of course, "Nevermore."

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