Knowing Poe: The Literature, Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe... In Baltimore and Beyond

Maryland Public Television
2005 Webby Award Winner!
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Annotated Poe
Random Raven
Annotated Poe
Annotated Poe
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Edgar Allan Poe's most popular poem, "The Raven," tells the story of a man who gets a late-night visit from a mysterious bird that speaks only one word: "Nevermore."

Sounds like a pretty simple story, right?

Guess again! Like any good poem, there is much more going on under its feathered exterior than meets the eye. Over the years, everyone from Nobel Prize-winning literary critics to students like you have tried to dig deeper into the world of the poem, from its lingering rhythms to its haunting themes. If you're wondering what part of the poem means, or if you want to learn more about how Poe created it the way he did, you've come to the right place!

To help you navigate through Poe's maze, we've highlighted difficult or interesting parts of the text with comments and explanations, a process called annotation. You can use the annotations to help clear up things that confuse you and to explore different ways of looking at the poem. You might want to start by clicking here to learn more about The Raven's unique rhyme schemes.

To use these annotations, begin by reading the unmarked copy of The Raven. Then click on the tabs above the poem to access observations and notes from different perspectives. The annotations are broken into four sections:

  • The Raven — Click on this tab to see an unmarked copy of The Raven as it was published in 1849, just before Poe's death.
  • What does that mean? — Not quite sure what "nepenthe" means? Never seen a bust of Pallas? Click on this tab to learn about the unusual words and phrases in the poem.
  • How did he do that? — Poe was a masterful poet. Click on this tab to look into Poe's poetic bag of tricks and see how great poets use things like rhyme scheme and personification.
  • Where is he coming from? — What was going on in Poe's life when he wrote "The Raven?" Did he ever make any changes? And what have other readers like you thought about the poem since it was written over 150 years ago? Click on this tab to explore some of history and critical questions attached to "The Raven" through the years.

Click the highlighted text of the poem with your mouse. Notes will appear that explain words and phrases, reveal background information, or help you look more closely at that part of the poem.