The North American Review (vol. 224)
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PROTOTYPE OF " THE RAVEN " 699
less; the few irregularities only served to heighten the unique
metric, rhythmic, and rhymic effects. The theme was highly,
genuinely poetic. Presently, however, the weirdly melancholy,
pessimistic soul of Poe saw one great fault with the poem. Here
were everlasting life, joy, friendship and love promised to all hu
man beings weary of their earthly struggles ; here was everlasting
hope for all despairing souls. Why eternal hope and bliss?
Why not eternal despair and suffering? The antithesis could not
be avoided or ignored. And all of a sudden the word " never
more " stood in letters of fire before his mind ' s eye. He added
the letter " n, " and " evermore " became " nevermore. " The
rest was comparatively easy. And to me it seems very natural
to think that Evermore was printed in one of those old volumes
Poe mentions in The Raven 9 s opening stanza:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
It would be only a waste of time and energy to speculate upon
the question where Poe got the idea of the speaking raven.
Prof. H. E. Shepard says regarding this problem:
The Legend of the Raven, related by Roger De Hoveden, and referring to the
era of the Latin conquest of Constantinople, nor the Legend of Herod and
Agrippa, cited by De Quincey in his celebrated essay on Modern Superstition,
furnishes an adequate foundation for the text of Poe ' s masterpiece. The
raven has constituted a prominent character in English poetry for many
ages. In Hamlet, in Macbeth, in Sir David Lindsay, in Tickell ' s exquisite
ballad of Collin and Lucy, the appearance of this ominous bird of yore will
readily suggest itself to all lovers of our dramatic and lyric poetry. But
none of these can be considered as the precursor of Poe ' s Raven. The nearest
approach to any distinctive feature of The Raven is to be found, I suspect, in
the dramas of Shakespeare, those unfailing sources of intellectual nutriment.
The one word " Mortimer " of Henry Percy ' s starling, presents a marked
phonetic resemblance to the " Nevermore " of The Raven, whose melancholy
refrain seems almost the echo of the starling ' s unvarying note.
Or did Poe, as Markham thinks, borrow the idea from Dick
ens ' s Barnaby Rudge? In his review of that novel Poe writes:
The raven, too, intensely amusing as it is, might have been made, more than
we now see it, a portion of the conception of the fantastic Barnaby. Its
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