“The Raven” is perhaps one of the single most well know poems in American literature. Even people who did not study it in high school or ever read it all the way through know of it and it’s eternal promise of “nevermore.” It was first published back in 1845, and still it captivates everyone who reads it or has it read to them by a storyteller with a flair for the dramatic.

I am not a student of American literature, or any literature for that matter so I never sat down and dissected the poem, line by line to unravel its magic. Until now.

I had been hired to write an article about “The Raven,” explaining how and why it has become an iconic classic. It had been a long time since I had sat down and actually read the poem, and when I did, I did so aloud, as God and Poe intended his poetry to be. As I did, I have to admit that I stumbled a few times over the more archaic words (surcease and mien), and had to look up one to see what they meant (lattice, Plutonian, and nepenthe), a thing I never would have done back in high school when I first read it. It was then an idea had struck me, maybe I could do a kindness for this generation of high school sophomores, and “translate,” if you will, the poem with more modern language.

To be honest, what follows is not perfect, but it keeps with the pentameter and line by line synopsis. So it is with deepest, heartfelt, bent knee apologies to Edgar Allen Poe I give you “A Modern Translation of ‘The Raven.’

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

On a night so dark and stormy, I was thinking while forlorn-ey

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

With some weird old books I got at a second-hand store,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

Almost asleep or already sleeping, I heard some feeble sounding knocking

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Like someone was gently knocking, knocking upon my front door.

`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -

“Aw, it’s just some guy” I murmured, “knocking at my front door-

Only this, and nothing more.’

“That all it is, nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

Let me see if I remember, what happened back this past December

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

The fire it was quickly ending making creepy shadows on the floor

Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow

Why cannot it be tomorrow, where worries yet I had to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore -

I could read and forget my sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenor-

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -

A sweet and beautiful woman that the angles named Lenore-

Nameless here for evermore.

And I’m not saying her name again. Never, no more.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

The silky, sad purple curtains made a quiet sound, like hurtin’

Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

Scared me- filled me with fear like I never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

And now, completely and totally wigged out, I stood repeating

`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -

“It’s just somebody wanting to come in through my front door-

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -

Some drunken buddy of mine trying to open up the door-

This it is, and nothing more,’
 

That’s all it is, and nothing more.”)
 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

(I manned up and growing stronger, and not thinking any longer

`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

“Yo, I said, “or whatever, really, I’m so sorry to my core

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

But in truth I was napping when you started with the rapping”

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

And so quiet was your rapping, rapping upon my front door

That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; -

I barely heard you”- and here I opened up the door-

Darkness there, and nothing more.

And saw abso-freaking-lutely nothing. That’s the score!

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

I looked into the nighttime peering, long time I stood there, thinking fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before

Trying to remember if I was tripping today or was that day before

But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,

The silence it remained unbroken, and I’m totally not joking

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’

But there was a word heard spoken, whispered was the word, “Lenore!”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’

It was me who whispered it, and it echoed back to me once more, “Lenore!”

Merely this and nothing more.

And that was basically it, nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Back into my house I turned, my soul afire, up it burned

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

Again that knocking started up this time louder than before.

`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;

“Oh crap,” I said “it’s got to be something at the window I’ll see;

Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -

Let’s me see then, at that place, and look into it some more

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -

If I can stop having a heart attack long enough to figure it, or more

‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

It bet it’s the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

I opened up the window shutter and like a wildcat off its nutter

In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.

In walked a big old raven, like in the movies we watch galore

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

Without even nodding to me, not even stirring or staying did he

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -

But looking like who the heck he is, went and sat over the door

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -

Sat on a statue of Pallas over the front door

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Sat and sat, not a damn thing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

Then the raven, black and charming, had my sad self set to smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

‘Cause the look upon it its own face was so serious and all,

`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.

“You may be all that raven” I said, “and a bag of chips worth craving.

Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -

You big old grim and nasty raven out flying in from the night out by the shore

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’

What’s your handle? How’s it hangings down here at the shore?”

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Quoting the raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

I thought it neat that the mangy bird could talk so good and plainly,

Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;

Though its answer was stupid and a little bit of a bore

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Cause we must be agreeing that not a living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -

Ever had a bird fly into their house and sit on a statue over a door-

Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

Bird or bogie sitting up on a statue placed over a god dammed door,

With such name as `Nevermore.

A bird absurdly named “Nevermore.”

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,

But the bird, all up there lonely, said that simple one word only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

That one word, as if it was the answer to everything and more

Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered -

Nothing else then did it utter, or move-a bit and then it fluttered

Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -

Then I hardly more than mumbled “I’ve had birds fly in my house before-

On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’

He’ll leave in the morning, and I’ll be sad, just like before.”

Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

And then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

Startled by its sudden spoken, making up the silence broken

`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,

“Common,” I said, “That’s probably the only word it can say,

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster

Caught by some old crazy fella’ living out of someone’s cellar

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -

Who spoke of doom and of disaster till the bird learned it- night and day

Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore

And the old crazy was sad every single moment of the day

Of “Never-nevermore.”

Saying only “Never-nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

But the raven, still neat and charming, got me happy, up to smiling

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;

Right away I moved a comfy chair over by the bird, bust and door

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Sat down and I got to thinking, in my mind I started linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -

Plots of paranoia, thinking about that old raven by the door-

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

That stern, unsightly, grisly, , and menacing bird by the door

Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

What it mean by “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

Here I sat and started guessing, but no luck, this is sucking

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

The birds eyes burned into my chest and struck me to the very core

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

I thought lots ’bout crazy of things, my emo head finally resting

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

On the chair’s cooshy lining where the lamp light fell on me the more

But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er

But the chair with cooshy lining and the lamp light  shining more

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

She won’t walk by, not nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Then the air in the room grew denser, and I smelled an unseen incenser

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

The kind like they use in churches swinging on a chain galore.

`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee

“Wretch,” I cried, “God sent you to me, sent here by angels to me

Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!

Gimmie a break, and drugs to remove my memories Lenore!

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’

Drink, I need an anti-depressant to forget the dead Lenore!”

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

And to quote the raven “Nevermore.”

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! -

“Smartass!” I said “thing of evil! Smartass be a bird or devil!-

Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Sent by Satan or sent by a storm that pushed you here ashore

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -

Solitary, not yet discouraged, to this desert land enchanted

On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore -

To my home they say is haunted- tell me the truth, I beg of you-

Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’

Is there – is there a healing compound – tell me, I beg of you!”

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Quoting the raven “Nevermore.”

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!

“Smartass!” I said “thing of evil! Smartass be a bird or devil!-

By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore -

By Heaven that is above us – by the God we both adore

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

Tell sad sack me if you’re able, if in some far off distant Eden

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -

It took in a beautiful woman whom the angles named Lenore -

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’

A very beautiful woman, whom the angels named Lenore?”

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Quoting the raven here “Nevermore.”

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting -

“Say that word again and you’re out of here,” I screamed standing

`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Get back into the storm that sent you to this god-forsaken shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

And don’t leave even so much as one of your dirt black feathers here either!

Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!

Leave me alone, I have spoken! – Get off my statue over the door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’

Looking at you breaks my heart, move away and out my door!”

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Quoting the raven here “Nevermore.”

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

The raven never moved, just sat there, is still sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

On the whitish statue of Pallas just above my old front door

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And his eyes look like a scheming evil monster or a demon

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And the lamp over him makes seemingly throws his shadow ‘cross the floor

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

And my soul like that shadow that lies bloating on the floor

Shall be lifted – nevermore!

Shall be listed – nevermore!


Comments

27 Comments so far

  1. Emily Posthaste on March 1, 2010 8:44 am

    Loved the updated Poe. Now could you find the right beat and make it into a Rap classic.

  2. kailon on October 8, 2010 3:26 am

    the po was amazinit was tence with all the stong words it was a amazin

  3. Shoobe Loobe on February 17, 2011 8:29 am

    too long.

  4. Dillion on May 6, 2011 8:51 am

    In the 12th row it says its translated into:
    “And I’m not saying her name again. Never, no more.”

    Shouldn’t it be: “Lifeless here for evermore”?
    I thought that she died?!

  5. Victor on July 31, 2011 8:34 am

    Loved the updated Poe. Now could you find the right beat and make it into a Rap classic. [2]

  6. Breanne on January 13, 2012 11:59 am

    Wow, and I thought Poe was weird…

  7. Christian on January 18, 2012 5:45 pm

    Wow! Very nice translation. Helped me out a lot in my Edgar Allan Poe Project. Got an A!! :)

  8. Alanna on January 30, 2012 3:44 pm

    Like Christian said. WOW. You helped me so much on my poetry prject! Thank you so much
    :-*

  9. Theresa Bane on February 2, 2012 7:38 am

    Thank you! If you have any questions or need another poem simplified, modernized, and made scene of, just drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do for you!

  10. Theresa Bane on February 2, 2012 7:38 am

    Thank you! I am glad that I was able to lend a hand to you and your project! If ever I can be of further assistance, just drop a line.

  11. Madeline on May 4, 2012 7:06 pm

    Sorry, but to be honest I like Poe’s better, I think though that if you had just given it a more modern approach (i.e, updating languae and whatnot)rather than adding all the slang it would probably have been very interesting…

  12. guy on November 4, 2012 2:00 pm

    NICE

  13. Lenore on November 10, 2012 9:35 pm

    I couldn’t stop laughing. My parents thought I was crazy. Slightly inaccurate (like he’s in his bedroom) but otherwise terrific.

  14. Nevermore on December 21, 2012 11:25 am

    How ridiculous!
    You could have actually translated it and not completely BUTCHERED it.
    My twelve year old sister can translate it better than you.

  15. lovelise on October 21, 2013 3:48 pm

    thank you it helped so much with my school

  16. Mary on December 11, 2013 3:44 pm

    i didn’t think this needed swearing, you turned something beautiful into and up to date rap… if you would have left out the swearing i would have liked it more…

  17. I'm not saying my name on December 17, 2013 2:42 pm

    Thank you!! This was so helpful! I could not under stand a line for my life and then I read this and I understood! (Don’t worry, I didn’t plagiarize)

  18. Caitlin on January 7, 2014 11:24 am

    Thankyouuu!!! Doing Poe for my AS english and this helped so much :))

  19. christa Nichols on January 12, 2014 10:28 pm

    Awesome helped me out a lot

  20. azeez on February 5, 2014 2:43 pm

    Did he die

  21. nick on March 29, 2014 8:42 am

    good job i really liked the translation. i wish i could have you do all of the poems i have to read like this LOL!

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  25. Roxxy Sweets on August 23, 2014 7:56 am

    Wow…this seems like good intentions, and a TERRIBLE outcome. I just wanted to see if someone had modernized the poem, but this is butchery! This was supposed to be horror back then, and you make it seem like a paranoid trip…

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