Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

Festeggiamo la Giornata della Poesia con la famosa poesia del poeta americano precursore del genere horror, in lingua originale e con il vocabolario spiegato, in stile Speak Up.

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Rachel Roberts

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Alex Warner

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giornata mondiale della poesia Il Corvo

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Il Corvo di Edgar Allan Poe è una delle grandi opere della poesia americana. La capacità dell'autore di trasmettere l'angoscia dei suoi personaggi e di creare atmosfere soffocanti ha fatto sì che questa poesia entrasse nell'Olimpo della cultura popolare. I Simpson le hanno anche dedicato un episodio. Per commemorare la Giornata della Poesia, vi spieghiamo questi drammatici versi in lingua originale.

The raven

Nineteenth-century American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is a major figure in world literature for his critical theories, his ingenious short stories and his poems. He had a brilliant command of language and technique and his unusual themes made him the forerunner of several literary genres.

The psychological intensity of his work foreshadowed Dostoyevsky and the school of psychological realism. He is also considered the father of the modern horror story, influencing the work of later writers such as Ambrose Bierce and H.P. Lovecraft. His fascination with emerging science and technology led him to produce speculative and fantastic narratives which anticipate the science fiction and detective stories of the 20th century.


THE RAVEN illustrator

While Poe is most often remembered for his short fiction, his first love as a writer was poetry, and The Raven is undoubtedly his most famous poem. As with many of his works, The Raven explores death, its effects on the living, and whether we will ever be reunited with our loved ones in the afterlife.

A gothically gloomy atmosphere is quickly established at the beginning of the poem. Alone in his house on a bleak December evening, an unnamed narrator is reading in order to forget the loss of his beloved Lenore, who has recently died. Suddenly he hears a quiet knock at his door. Unnerved, he tries to convince himself that there is nothing there:

“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.”

“Una triste mezzanotte. Mi attardavo, stanco, esausto
sulle pagine bizzarre di un sapere ormai scordato...
La mia testa tentennava, quando udii un lieve bussare,
quasi un tocco, e un tocco ancora risuonasse alla mia porta.
“C’è qualcuno,” mormorai. “Sta bussando alla mia porta. Solo questo e niente più.”


Driven by curiosity, the narrator opens the door, whispering Lenore’s name into the darkness and perhaps hoping to see her ghost. He then hears tapping at his window and, when he opens it, a raven flies into his room and perches on a bust of Pallas above his door. As the Greek goddess Pallas Athena, also known as simply Athena, is associated with wisdom, this could be a sign that the narrator’s own wisdom is now compromised.

Jokingly the narrator asks the Raven’s name and is amazed when it responds “Nevermore.” He comments that the Raven will probably leave him just as his friends and loved ones have done, and once again the Raven replies “Nevermore.” Fascinated, he grabs a velvet chair and sits down to interrogate the bird.

“Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat

in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking,

I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy,

thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt,

and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.” 

“[...] mi sedetti lì, di fronte al Corvo, al busto e alla porta
su una sedia di velluto, e mi diedi a immaginare,
a cercar di indovinare cosa il vecchio e infausto uccello - 
questo bieco, goffo, oscuro, scarno, vecchio e infausto uccello -
intendesse con “Mai più”.



Throughout the rest of the poem, the narrator questions the Raven with increasing intensity: Will he be able to forget his love?  Will he see her again in the afterlife? The response is always: ‘Nevermore.’ Desperate, the narrator jumps to his feet and shrieks at the Raven to leave:

“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.”

“Torna fuori, alla tempesta e alle sponde della notte!
Non lasciare piume nere né ricordi di menzogne!
Lascia la mia solitudine ed il busto sulla porta!
Togli il becco dal mio cuore, e sparisci dai miei occhi!”.
Disse il Corvo: “Mai più”.


Naturally, the Raven gives his usual answer.

In his introduction to the French translation, Charles Baudelaire wrote: “It is indeed the poem of the sleeplessness of despair” and in fact the relentless nature of the narrator’s questions shows how he has been pushed into near-madness. In his desire to receive some hope of being reunited with Lenore one day, he forgets that the bird’s words might be nonsense. Furthermore, the Raven’s refusal to leave suggests that the narrator will never be free of his grief and obsessive thoughts. Even the rhyme becomes obsessively repetitive at this point:

“And the Raven, never flitting,

still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas

just above my chamber door.”

“Ed il Corvo via non vola, sta posato, ancora, e sempre,
sopra il busto di Minerva che sovrasta la mia porta”.

oppressive rhythm

The metre of the poem is unusual in English-language verse and is called ‘trochaic octameter’ — ‘octameter’ because there are eight metrical feet per line, and ‘trochaic’ because the first syllable of each foot is stressed. The effect of this, when The Raven is read aloud, is to give the poem a relentless, slightly oppressive rhythm, which Poe exaggerates by including internal rhymes in each stanza, suggesting the obsessive thoughts going round and round in the narrator’s head. Poe earned some respect as a gifted fiction writer, poet, and man of letters during his lifetime, but after the appearance of The Raven he achieved more popular success.  

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