Bob's Byway


1809 - 1849


 * This poem provides multiple examples of the use of a repetend.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
        The leaves they were crispèd and sere--
        The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
        Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
        In the misty mid region of Weir--
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
        In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
        Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul--
        Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
        As the scoriac rivers that roll--
        As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
        In the ultimate climes of the Pole--
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
        In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
        But our thoughts they were palsied and sere--
        Our memories were treacherous and sere--
For we knew not the month was October,
        And we marked not the night of the year--
        (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber--
        (Though once we had journeyed down here)--
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
        Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
        And star-dials pointed to morn--
        As the star-dials hinted of morn--
At the end of our path a liquescent
        And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
        Arose with a duplicate horn--
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
        Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said-- "She is warmer than Dian:
        She rolls through an ether of sighs--
        She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
        These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
        To point us the path to the skies--
        To the Lethean peace of the skies--
        To shine on us with her bright eyes--
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
        With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
        Said-- "Sadly this star I mistrust--
        Her pallor I strangely mistrust:--
Oh, hasten!-- oh, let us not linger!
        Oh, fly!-- let us fly!-- for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
        Wings till they trailed in the dust--
In agony sobbed; letting sink her
        Plumes till they trailed in the dust--
        Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied-- "This is nothing but dreaming:
        Let us on by this tremulous light!
        Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybillic splendor is beaming
        With Hope and in Beauty to-night:--
        See!-- it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
        And be sure it will lead us aright--
We safely may trust to a gleaming
        That cannot but guide us aright,
        Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
        And tempted her out of her gloom--
        And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of a vista,
        But were stopped by the door of a tomb--
        By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said-- "What is written, sweet sister,
        On the door of this legended tomb?"
        She replied-- "Ulalume -- Ulalume! --
        'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
        As the leaves that were crispèd and sere--
        As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried--"It was surely October
        On this very night of last year
        That I journeyed-- I journeyed down here--
        That I brought a dread burden down here--
        On this night of all nights in the year,
        Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber--
        This misty mid region of Weir--
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber--
        This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

Said we, then-- the two, then -- "Ah, can it
        Have been that the woodlandish ghouls--
        The pitiful, the Merciful ghouls--
To bar up our way and to ban it
        From the secret that ties in these wolds--
        From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds--
To Repetend in the Glossary
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Have drawn up the spectre of a planet
        From the limbo of lunary souls,
This sinfully scintillant planet
        From the Hell of the planetary souls?"


 * This poem provides an example of trochaic octameter and the use of a refrain.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore --
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door --
            Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; -- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow -- sorrow for the lost Lenore --
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore --
            Nameless here for evermore.

 * The author's essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," provides fascinating details about the writing of this poem and on the process of versification in general.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me -- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating:
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door --
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;
            This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" -- here I opened wide the door;--
            Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
            Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore --
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore; --
            'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door --
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door --
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the nightly shore --
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore?"
            Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door --
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered --
Till I scarcely more than muttered: "Other friends have flown before --
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
            Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore --
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of 'Never -- nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore --
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
            She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite -- respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
            Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -- prophet still, if bird or devil! --
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted --
On this home by Horror haunted, -- tell me truly, I implore --
Is there -- is there balm in Gilead? -- tell me -- tell me, I implore!"
            Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us -- by that God we both adore,
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore --
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
            Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting --
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
            Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted -- nevermore!
To Octameter in the Glossary
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To Refrain in the Glossary
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To Trochee in the Glossary
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