Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" –
Merely this and nothing more.
- For a while, then, he's almost hypnotized by the darkness.
- He stares out into it, "peering […] fearing" (having fun with the rhymes yet?).
- Now might be about the time that you realize that our narrator isn't in great shape.
- He could close the door and go back to his book or his nap like a normal person, but he's clearly looking for something else. His mind is filled with strange ideas and terrible dreams (26). More than anything, though, he's obsessed with one idea, or, we should say, with one person.
- Suddenly, out of the total dark and quiet, we hear her name, "Lenore."
- Just that name, appearing in an eerie whisper out of nowhere (28). Or at least it seems like it comes from nowhere.
- In the next line, we find out that it is the speaker who has whispered her name, and just an echo that has "murmured back" the word "Lenore."
- For our depressed, grief-stricken narrator, the whole world seems bleak and terrifying, and everything, even the darkness, reminds him of his lost love.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"
- Finally, he turns away from the darkness, but it's clear that he isn't comforted at all; in fact, he's feeling worse than ever: "all my soul within me burning" (31).
- This is a story about a guy in a room, but also about the mind: what it can do to us when it's off-kilter and all the feelings and ideas it can create.
- Our speaker, with his burning soul, is going through some rough times here.
- Then he hears the tapping again.
- Like anyone who is near the edge, he tries to get a grip, to come up with a rational explanation. He decides the sound is coming from the window, and he forces himself to go take a look.
- He tells himself to calm down again: "let my heart be still a moment" (35).
- In a final effort to make things seem normal, he tells himself it's just the wind (36).