Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 01:13:25 EST


Subject: The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is perhaps the most celebrated American

poem. It's long been known that Poe "copied" or "borrowed" from other works.

I've identified two previously unknown pre-Poe "Raven" ravens. I found the

second, more important one today.

A different poem called "The Raven" appeared in the February 1839 (I may

have the month wrong) CORSAIR. Poe probably read the CORSAIR, because the

editor was his friend, N. P. Willis. Willis later edited the New York Mirror,

where Poe's "The Raven" was printed on 29 January 1845.

I think Poe's vasted overrated now (a "language maven" titled a book after

the poem, and there's even a football team called the Baltimore Ravens!), but

I've been to Poe homes in Richmond, Baltimore (where he's buried), and the

Bronx. A few years ago, I sent the CORSAIR "Raven" to Bronx Community College

Poe scholar Burton Pollin. He hadn't heard of the poem before, but he didn't

think that the vastly different "Raven" had much influence.

I was going through the Public Ledger of Philadelphia today when--just a

minute, something just flew in.

THE RAVEN: Nevermore!

POPIK: You crap on my bust of Pallas Athena and I'll break your bones!

This is from the Public Ledger, 28 February 1843, pg. 2, col. 3:

_The Black Raven_, as produced now at the Walnut street Theatre, is a

decided improvement upon the former performances. Russell is a very nimble

fellow, a good dancer, and plays his part well. Miss Wallace, as Columbine,

does excellently, and her dancing is much admired. Davenport plays the part

of the Old Roue with much credit; and Barnes, the clown, grows more comical in

his tricks at every performance. It draws well, and is worth seeing.

THE RAVEN: Nevermore!

POPIK: Don't you say anything else?

THE RAVEN: Butter!

POPIK: Butter?

THE RAVEN: Parkay!

POPIK: Parkay is margarine!

THE RAVEN: Omnipoint! Omnipoint!

In 1839, Poe became coeditor of Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine in

Philadelphia. In 1843, his story "The Gold Bug" won a prize of $100 from the

Philadelphia DOLLAR NEWSPAPER. I'm reading this from a book (which I bought

in Richmond) edited by Roscoe Brown Fisher, THE JAMES CARLING ILLUSTRATIONS OF

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S "THE RAVEN" (1982). Poe left Philadelphia for New York City

in April 1843. Had Poe seen _The Black Raven_ at the Walnut Street Theatre?

What was that production about, anyway? I'll have to do some more

checking--just a minute! I hear a gentle rapping, rapping, as if some visitor

was tapping, tapping at my chamber door.

LENORE: Hello, my name's Lenore, and I was looking for my--there he is!!

THE RAVEN: Nevermore!

I gotta stick to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems.