Poe’s Raven

by JOSEPH BERT SMILEY (1864-1903)
A Parody of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

How distinctly I remember, late one evening last November,
I was sitting on a barrel that the moonlight gloated o’er —
‘Twas an empty cider barrel and was useful now no more —
Worthless, now, forevermore.

As a few lone stars were blinking I betook myself to thinking.
And I thought of that old raven Edgar Poe has told about —
That was quite a high old raven Mr. Poe has told about.
I kept thinking, thinking, thinking, as those stars kept blinking, blinking.
And the more I thought about it I was more and more in doubt;
Edgar’s logic knocked me out.

And I found no explanation to that curious situation —
Here’s the lamp upon the table and the raven on the door,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming threw his shadow on the floor.
Think of where the lamp was sitting and you cannot help admitting
‘Twas an awful crooked shadow to have ever reached the floor.
‘Twas a hump-backed, cross-eyed shadow
If it ever saw the floor.

So I thought a clear solution to that shadow’s dire confusion.
And my only strong conclusion was that Edgar had the snakes.
I am sure he had been drinking and he must have had the snakes.
So perhaps the raven sitting on the cornice, never flitting,
With its fiery eyes a-burning into Edgar’s bosom’s core
Was the whiskey he’d been drinking just before he fell to thinking
Of his lovely lost Lenore.
It was bug-juice, evermore.

Or perhaps the maiden, deeming such a fellow too demeaning,
Had preferred to share the fortunes of the friends who’d gone before,
And had perished broken-hearted, as fair maids have done before.
Maybe he disgraced and slighted till she felt her life was blighted,
And her lonely soul, benighted, wandered to a fairer shore.
Maybe Edgar’s drinking killed her, as it has killed girls before.
It was benzine, evermore.

Get ‘most anybody frisky on a quart or two of whisky,
And he’d think he saw some shadows, or some ravens, or some floors,
And the lamps would get befuddled, and the shadows awful muddled,
And he’d see some crazy raven perched on forty-‘leven doors.
And he wouldn’t know a shutter from a dozen lost Lenores.

It is my profound opinion that if Poe had kept dominion
O’er his brains and o’er his reason, as they used to be of yore —
That if he had been less frisky and had guzzled down less whisky
He’d have never seen that raven on the bust above the door.
Very likely that same evening he’d been on a bust before.
And got sober — Nevermore.

Joseph Bert Smiley

This poem was written at a time when all of Edgar Allan Poe’s troubles were thought to have stemmed from his abuse of alcohol. Joseph Bert Smiley published it in his first book of verse, “Meditations of Samwell Wilkins: A Collection of Original Poems, Opinions and Parodies,” in 1886, and lovingly dedicated the work “to the many people who will borrow my book instead of buying it.” Given his ironic sense of humor, he might have a hearty chuckle if he knew the book is now freely available on Google Books. Smiley’s poems, including this parody, are often misattributed or credited to “anonymous.” His most popular and most frequently anthologized poem was “St. Peter at the Gate”.

Joseph Bert Smiley Contemporaries
Thomas Thackeray Swinburne
Rudyard Kipling
Hilaire Belloc
Edwin Arlington Robinson

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