the raven

5 Facts About Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’

Once upon a midnight dreary, Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Raven, a poem about a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover slowly descending into madness. Today is the poem’s 176th anniversary, and to celebrate its publication, here are 5 facts about one of the greatest poetic works in American literature.



Image via Poe Museum

5. poe’s wife was deathly ill as he was writing it

As Edgar Allan Poe was writing The Raven, his wife Virginia Clemm was suffering from tuberculosis. As I mention in my article on fun facts about the aforementioned poet to celebrate his birthday (found here), Virginia was his first cousin, who he married while she was only thirteen-years-old. Regardless whether or not anything insidious took place between the two, there’s no doubt that Poe loved her dearly, and having lost his biological mother, his foster mother and his brother to tuberculosis in the past, he was understandably quite worried. The Raven, is a poem about a man who had lost a loved one and is unable to move on in his life, and this historical context allows us to see the inspiration.



Image via Petbarn

4. the raven was almost a parrot

Poe wanted the central symbol of the story to be a “non-reasoning” creature capable of speech, and because of this he almost decided on a parrot. He changed it to a raven, a creature he considered “equally capable of speech”, because it more matched the tone of the poem. He was also inspired by Grip, the raven in Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty, specifically the scene where Grip makes a noise and somebody asks “What was that – him tapping at the door?” Poe had written a review of Barnaby Rudge, in which he claims that Grip should have served more of a symbolic function. The similarities would be very difficult to go unnoticed.


Image via Goodreads

3. poe capitalized on the success of ‘the raven’

After the success of The Raven, Poe published an essay titled The Philosophy of Composition, in which he detailed the poem’s creation. In it, he explains how every creative decision in the process of writing The Raven was based on logic: from the raven entering the narrator’s chamber to avoid the storm to it perching itself on a marble bust to create stark visual contrast. Even the term “nevermore”, he claimed, was a deliberate decision because of the emotional effect created by long vowel sounds. While the historical consensus is that much of the essay’s writing is exaggerated, it still provides us with a valuable insight into Poe’s creative process.



Image via SchoolTube

2. ‘The Raven’ immediately made poe a household name

While the poem, unfortunately, made Poe little money, it catapulted him into national renown, so much so that people started nicknaming him “The Raven”. Not only that, but parodies based on the poem began circulating throughout Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, including The Craven, The Gazelle, The Whippoorwill, The Turkey, even The Pole-Cat, which reached Abraham Lincoln, who, while finding the parody quite funny, hadn’t yet read the original.


Image via Patch

1. ‘the Raven’ is the only poem with a sport’s team

The football team the Baltimore Ravens is actually named after the titular character in Poe’s poem, as Baltimore is the city where he died. The name was chosen in a fan contest, where 33,288 voters wished to honor the lost past poet, yet they also liked, according to The Baltimore Sun, “the tie-in with the other birds in town, the Orioles, and found it easy to visualize a tough, menacing black bird.”.



5 Poe-etic Raven Memes

The raven is a poem with a lot to unpack. I definitely remember an english teacher insisting that the purple curtains were overt symbolism. They’re MOOD you philistine. Anyway. It’s relateable to anyone who’s been tormented by a bird after everyone they love dies of consumption. So maybe just Poe.


I Just Wanted a Nap

Image via Make a Meme

This is the most relatable part of the poem to me. This guy is just trying to take a nice depression nap because his lover died, and now there’s this whole bird situation he has to deal with. Even if it wasn’t talking, a bird inside the house is a whole mess. It’s like all those videos of people trying to chase owls out of their houses. Never mind that this one’s basically dragging him. Can’t a guy get a break? I mean, it’s not like he killed her, there’s no need to rub it in.


Finely Aged Memes

Image via iFunny

Sure, the Netflix and chill meme is deader than Lenore (Netflix has even made jokes about it – yikes), but this actually sounds like a great date. Take me to your wine cellar! I kid. I’d rather watch mortar dry. The nap thing though, that’s a gem of an idea. I’m taking notes. Who doesn’t want to sleep? Plus, it’s cost effective. Perfect for students, really. Poe was ahead of his time. What a relatable man.


Misery Hates Company

Image via Reddit

Sure, it sucks to be alone when you’re sad, but maybe not as much as it sucks to be yelled at by some guy. *New York voice* I’m moping here! But really, you could at least be like… sorry bro. Sucks. Or just say nothing. Was nothing maybe the right thing to say? Just repeating yourself without explanation would be annoying enough at the best of times, but when someone’s mourning it’s just kind of a dick move. What’s your goal, bird?


A Sensible Reaction

Image via Tumblr

Have you seen those SNL skits where people are professing their love and the object of their affection is just like… ok. This has a very similar energy. Also this CLASSIC tweet, when the word limit was expanded. I mean, if a raven came into my house and started shouting I’d either befriend it or chase it out, there’s no need to lose your mind over it, as this Twitter denizen proves. Again, and maybe this says more about me than about Poe, but if some bird was yelling at me in my own house I’d yell right back. Get outa here.


Questionable Practices

Image via Memedroid

Okay, great shot, but I do hope they then took the cigarette. The last thing a person needs is to be harassed by a bird with a nicotine addiction. I also think that’s a crow, not a raven, though. Still, semantics – ultimately they’re both harbingers of death or whatever. Fun fact – I’m sure everyone knows it’s a murder of crows, but the term for a group of ravens is an unkindness. The titular raven really represents that spirit, too. I don’t exactly approve, but still, what an icon.

Featured image via Psychedelic Quirky Moose