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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write in the voice of a minor entity in some myth or fairy tale. It’s not exactly a myth, but I chose the bust of Pallas, a.k.a. Athena, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and took the message in a different direction. It may not have much bearing on the film, but it let me experiment with one of my favorite classic meters.)


As I waited, stern and stonely, with my master, looking lonely,
Watching as he excavated stacks of books he rarely read,
Never had I seen him sadder since he placed me with a ladder
Up above his chamber door, a bust of Pallas’ pious head.

Since his lover had descended down where all Earth’s tales are ended,
He had dwelt in constant sorrow for his loveliest Lenore.
Being just a statue modest of a lesser-known Greek goddess,
I could offer little comfort perched above his chamber door.
Rather poor was our rapport.

Feeling life was but a blooper, there he sat within his stupor,
Only moaning now and then to prove he wasn’t lifeless yet.
Suddenly, a sound’s ascension, almost too minute to mention,
Brought both his and my attention to the latest cause to fret.

First, the door decreed a knocking, as if someone there were stalking,
But he only found a shocking emptiness no guest would fill.
Then again we heard the slightest tap, and Master, not the brightest,
Opened up the window widest to investigate the sill,
Letting in more than a chill.

From the darkness of the window (I would not have let him in, though)
Flew a fateful sable raven, harbinger of darkest dread,
And my master, undecided if this bird by fate was guided,
Let the impudent intruder perch upon my marble head.

Though he was a learned scholar, he did not have many callers,
And this visitor perhaps had made him giddier than before.
Thus, he started conversation with this bird in desperation,
And to Master’s consternation, it replied with “Nevermore,”
Just the one word “Nevermore.”

This shock made him rather edgy, and as if he took a pledge, he
Started questioning the raven, asking it about Lenore.
The same response it kept dispatching, while my forehead it kept scratching,
And the Master grew more vexed with each retort of “Nevermore.”
That’s not easy to ignore.

When he even started yelling at the raven so compelling,
I considered maybe telling Master he should not accost it.
How I coveted to curb him, but I wished not to disturb him.
Hearing bird and statue speak, he’d surely think that he had lost it.

When he’d tried his guest to banish and it did not seem to vanish,
Master seemed to then accept its pilfered place above his door,
But the levelheaded raven, solid in its stolen haven,
Then proceeded to reproach in words exceeding “Nevermore.”
This is what the raven swore:

“Forces far beyond my ken have bid me speak like mortal men
In enigmatic utterances open to interpretation,
But the sight of your rebelling from my simple fortune-telling,
Even here within your dwelling, makes me sure of your stagnation.

Here I see a wealthy scholar wallowing in inner squalor,
With his grief a clenching collar, all because of lost Lenore.
In this bitterness you’re tasting, you are palely, daily wasting
Life and love and all the blessings thou art foolish to ignore.
Once they’re gone, they’re nevermore.”

Well impressed at this debating raven once so irritating,
I was now anticipating how my master would reply.
Slowly, he arose from sitting, set his jaw to keep from spitting,
And with venom not unwitting bade the raven quickly fly.

“If I wish to sit in mourning, keep your useless words of warning.
Even your persistent perching, I will manage to ignore.”
Still, I rest here, sick and saddened at my seeing Master maddened;
Still he sits, more scared of life than of the Raven’s “Nevermore.”
Closed below me is the door.

MPAA rating: G

Not to be confused with the 2012 thriller of the same name, this film version of The Raven is actually a 1963 B movie, one of director Roger Corman’s eight adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe works. It starts off in familiar territory, with Vincent Price as Dr. Craven, the unnamed griever of the poem who in this version is a reclusive magician. In contrast to his famous villainous roles, Price is a kind and unassuming figure, not nearly as obsessive as the character in Poe’s poem or mine, and when the titular raven enters his chamber, he earnestly asks if he shall ever see his lost Lenore again. The raven replies, in Peter Lorre’s voice, “How the hell should I know?” before explaining that he is a cursed sorcerer in need of a potion to turn him back into a human. What follows is a rather amusing and fun fantasy, with a quest to stop the evil magician Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff).

Price, Karloff, and particularly the easily irascible Lorre are all game players in a film that any of them might have considered beneath them. Accompanied by a jaw-droppingly young Jack Nicholson, the three magicians partake in a twisty game of cat-and-mouse and wizard duels to see who comes out on top. Interspersed with the B movie melodrama and macabre moments are clever little scenes of comedy, such as the characters removing and carefully folding a coffin cover only to toss it on the ground over their shoulder. The Raven departs widely from its source material and can hardly be called fine cinema, but it’s an unscary, good-natured horror-comedy on the level of the original Scooby-Doo, with a surprisingly worthwhile moral.

Best line: (Dr. Craven) “Instead of facing life, I turned my back on it. I know now why my father resisted Dr. Scarabus. Because he knew that one cannot fight evil by hiding from it. Men like Scarabus thrive on the apathy of others. He thrived on mine, and that offends me. By avoiding contact with the Brotherhood, I’ve given him freedom to commit his atrocities, unopposed.”


Rank: Honorable Mention


© 2016 S. G. Liput

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