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"darkness there, and nothing more"

Thanks to all of you who took part in my "scariest book" poll. The Amityville Horror won as the scariest book my friends had ever read, with The Exorcist and The Haunting of Hill House tying for second place.

Since we are now at the end of our countdown of frightening poems, it's time for a new poll:

What is the scariest poem you've ever read?

According to the Edmonton Journal, the scariest poem of all time is "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe (1845):

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 some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals 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.

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."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
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."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"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."

"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."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"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."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)
The best version of The Raven was adapted on the very first Halloween episode of The Simpsons.
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
Hee! Very true.
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
I'll agree to this, too! Good call. :)
Oct. 10th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
For the record, "The Raven" is, like, my favorite poem ever ever ever. :) It never scared me, though-- pretty funny that even at the tender age of ten, madness was something with which I readily identified! :lol:

My scariest poem of all time, ever, is the following cinquain by Adelaide Crapsey:


Just now,
Out of the strange
Still dusk…as strange, as still…
A white moth flew. Why am I grown
So cold?

This poem engendered such a profound sense of dread in me that at nights, whenever some small noise or brush of wind would remind me of it, I'd just hide my head under the covers and not sleep for hours.

My (2) and (3) nominations are, respectively, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and fragment "Christabel." They both scared the crap out of me when I first read them.

You are, I hope, acquainted with the "Lenore" comic book by Roman Dirge? It's appalling yet hilarious.
Oct. 10th, 2006 04:03 pm (UTC)
I already voted for 'The Raven', but I definitely agree that 'The Warning' is hang-onto-a-big-damn-teddy-bear SCARY.
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC)
Oh geez. You're so right - that's terrifying. Brilliant, but terrifying. *whimpers*

I'm sad to say I don't know "Lenore." "Appalling yet hilarious" sounds like a great recommendation, though. Is it still around for the finding? I'll go look... Thanks for the suggestion!
Oct. 10th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
Irk! Some people clearly have too much time on their hands.
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:50 am (UTC)
Whoa! This is new to me. Thanks so much for the link...
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC)
While the Simpsons do the most entertaining version of The Raven, I have to say Christopher Lee's is the most chilling. Gosh, have you ever heard him reading Poe? He's magnificent!
Oct. 11th, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
Ohh, "The Raven". I love that poem so much, never found it scary though, just beautiful.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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