Gustave Doré’s Illustrated Poe

Grandfather of the American Gothic, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), is perhaps most well-known for his melancholic and musical ‘The Raven’ (1845). Many artists have and continue to illustrate the works of Poe, and this particular poem is an unsurprisingly popular choice. Having already brought the works of some of Europe’s finest authors to life, French artist Gustave Doré (1832–1883) illustrated ‘The Raven’ in what would be his final work, published posthumously in 1884.

Now available in the public domain, I am delighted to share Poe’s mesmerising words accompanied by Doré’s haunting imagery for your reading pleasure this National (American) Poetry Month.

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.”

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”
“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

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.

“Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore.”
“Sorrow for the lost Lenore.”
“For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.”
““’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.”

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.

“Here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.”
“Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

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.

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!”

“‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.”
“Open here I flung the shutter.”

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.

…”A stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he.”
“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.”

“Wandering from the Nightly shore.”

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 blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

“Till I scarcely more than muttered, ‘Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'”

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 farther 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.”

“Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy.”
” But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, 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 lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls 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.”

“’Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore.'”
“On this home by Horror haunted.”

“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.”

…”Tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
“Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

“Be that word our sign of 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.”

“’Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting.”
“‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!'”
“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—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 lamp-light 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!

‘THE RAVEN’
by Edgar Allan Poe
with illustrations by Gustave Doré
1884.

For more on Poe, check out Dissecting ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and A Brief & Tragic Biography
A Separate World is the platform for original works of generally gothic art in all forms. Check out the latest poetic offering, ‘Woolf at Sea’, or submit your own creations.
[All images via Wiki Commons]

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