Happy birthday, Mr Poe!

edgar_allan_poeIt was on the 19th January 1809 that Edgar Allan Poe, arguably one of the most prominent of 19th century poets, was born. ‘The Raven’, written by Poe in 1845, is one of his most notable works, became a cultural phenomenon right away – but how far has this Gothic poem affected our popular culture today? Well, far more than offhand references at stuffy dinner parties; in fact, ‘The Raven’ has been referenced a multitude of times in almost every aspect of creative expression.

Of course, there are far too many to list, so here are a few of my favourites:

The Vile Village - Lemony Snicket
The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket

Print

  • A parody of ‘The Raven’ appears in Mad, a 50s magazine, reprinted in full with absurd illustrations by Will Elder. Another, in the same magazine, was titled ‘The Spaniel’, but instead of “Nevermore”, the author was barraged with famous commercial taglines!
  • Stephen King’s novel also include references to ‘The Raven’  – In Insomnia (1994), Ralph compares an omen to the raven of the poem whereas the Black House (2001) features a talking crow reminiscent of the raven in Poe’s poem. Part III of the novel is entitled “Night’s Plutonian Shore.”
  • The Vile Village, the seventh book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, contains a crow-covered tree in the centre of the village, called the Nevermore Tree.
The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror
The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror

Film and TV

  • In the 1989 film Batman, the Joker (played by Jack Nicholson) quotes “The Raven” to Kim Basinger’s Vicky Vale when he says, “Take thy beak from out my heart.”
  • The poem even finds itself in Dr Doolittle 2, the doc holds an unsuccessful meeting with all the animals, resulting in them walking away, in particular an irritated Raven, crowing “Nevermore!”.
  • The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror” features Homer as the protagonist and Bart the raven, his catchphrase, not nevermore, but “Eat my shorts”!
Darren Criss, a.k.a Blaine from Glee, references The Raven in 'High School Rockout'
Darren Criss, a.k.a Blaine from Glee, references The Raven in ‘High School Rockout’

Anywhere else?

  • In 1969, a band called The Glass Prism released an album entitled, ‘Poe through the Glass Prism’, where the entirety of the lyrics originated from a variety of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems.
  • Glee star, Darren Criss, included the lyrics  “And you think he might be waiting but behind him is your raven singing ‘Nevermore’ I’m laying him down” in his unreleased song ‘High School Rockout’.
  • Edgar Allan Poe has even influenced the sci-fi fans among us, with Virginia’s annual science fiction convention named RavenCon, in recognition of Poe’s roots.
  • References to this classic poem stretch as far as the http error message with the line “quoth the raven ‘never more’ replaced by “quoth the server, ‘404’”!

If these varied references are anything to go by, I think I can safely say, it’s good to know that a poem written in 1845, can still be quoted 167 years later.

 

To end, I’ll leave you with, I think, the most unique reference I’ve come across:

In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2001), Shadow, asks one of Odin’s ravens, “Hey, Hugin or Munin, or whoever you are. Say ‘Nevermore.'”

The raven responds, “Fuck you.”

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