Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An Early Draft of "The Raven"

(This is a bit I wrote for a recent comedy show, and a good cheap way to get a new blog entry in. And by the way, please note that all written material in this blog is © John M Donovan.)

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it'd be nice to take a moment and pay tribute to a great American writer and a true master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe was a tortured genius, a man haunted by lost love, possessed by drugs and drink, yet talented enough to leave us an abundance of stories and poems with the power to chill the marrow in our bones. He also wrote a mean limerick and liked to go to bars dressed as a woman named Susan, but that's another story.

In any event, during my research into the life of this brilliant writer, I accidentally happened upon a dusty old volume of poetry tucked into a corner in a local antique store. Great Poems of the Year 1826 contained very few great poems, and in fact looked to be something of a vanity effort, where would-be poets could pay a few dollars to see their work and name in print. But on page 65, I made the literary find of the century: an early draft, probably the first draft, of Poe's classic poem, "The Raven"--a full 19 years before the version we know and love today was first published.

The first two lines are the same as in the classic version, but after that the meter is different and the subject matter quite surprising (the diction even more so). But that's enough build-up. I'll let the poem speak for itself. So now, as a Halloween treat, please enjoy what might well be the first draft of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
At my front door came a tapping, a rather loud and raucous rapping
And my buddies yelled “Hey, Edgar, open up the freakin door!”

I knew that I was right in thinking
xxx that they’d been out all night drinking
And now were looking for a place to crash upon the floor
But no, my guess was simply wrong--they invited me along
To hit the bars and help me forget my long lost love, Lenore

Oh Lenore, how much I missed her,
xxx missed the last time that I kissed her
As we walked in twilight rays along the ocean’s sandy shore
Oh Lenore, who could resist her? (I also bopped her little sister)
But my parents disapproved and called her nothing but a whore

And soon there came the fateful day

xxx when she caught a cold and passed away
Which happened rather often back in 1824
I found no solace in her sister, who said “You are a weirdo, Mister”
And ran away to join a commune down in Baltimore

But still for my lost love I pined, and so my buddies wined and dined
Me as they tried to help me close the book on my Lenore
We hit each tavern and saloon, and got so drunk we even mooned
The mayor, two policemen, and a startled monsignor

We went to every bar in town and finally shut the last one down
And then they took me home and let me stumble in the door
And there I saw the strangest sight—

xxx a bird with feathers black as night
A raven! Who looked up at me and whispered “Nevermore”

He stood there in my old recliner,

xxx like some thing that rhymes with iner
And gazed at me with eyes as cold as some Antarctic shore
I’d never seen a bird so crafty; then he said “It’s kind of drafty—
Maybe you could be a pal and shut the freakin door”

Was I awake or was I dreaming of this bird with eyes a-gleaming?
Then the raven fluffed his feathers and again said “Nevermore”
And as he stood there preening I said “Fiend, what is thy meaning?”
And the raven said “Well, duh. Hello? I am a metaphor.”

A metaphor! It hit me then; he’d come to drive me mad again
A constant sad reminder of my long lost love Lenore
“Bird!” I cried, “you think you’re clever—

xxx I know Lenore is gone forever!”
Then he took flight—and pooped upon my kitchen floor

Now my tale has been recounted

xxx and the raven’s stuffed and mounted
He doesn’t speak, for he’s as dead as my Lenore
He rues the day that he was hatched,

xxx for the raven proved to be no match
For a poet—and a handy two-by-four

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