brandon lee, christopher lee, christopher walken, dracula, edgar allan poe, eric draven, frankenstein, halloween, james earl jones, jekyll and hyde, john astin, peter ackroyd, poetry, the crow, the raven, vincent price
‘”While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
… You heard me rapping, right?’ – Eric Draven, ‘The Crow’
Even though I do not celebrate it, the Hallowe’en spirit is something that I am very fond of. I suppose it’s my love for Romantic Gothic literature that has me looking forward to it every year. It’s any old excuse really for classics like ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Dracula’ and the ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ to be pulled off the shelf and given a once over. This year however I have changed tack; instead of immersing myself in the epistolary accounts of Jonathan Harker and Victor Frankenstein I have decided to revisit Poe and his wonderfully morbid collection of short stories and poems. So since this is my first hallowe’en blog post I thought what better way to celebrate it than with the famous Gothic poem: ‘The Raven’.
This poem holds a very special place in my heart, as it evokes the true spirit of the Gothic: terror of the unknown and melancholic desire. Peter Ackroyd’s short biography ‘Poe: A Life Cut Short’ has also thrown some very interesting light on the popularity of the poem that I wish to share. In the chapter entitled ‘The Bird’ I discovered its origins and the reason why it has endured as one of the most popular ‘recited’ poems of all time. After it was published, ‘The Raven’ became one of those rarest of things; an overnight success. This intricate masterpiece of form and meter was the only real commercial fame Poe ever gained in his lifetime as he was suddenly being hailed in the street as the ‘raven’ (very apt as he always wore black) and the words ‘nevermore’ had quickly been adopted and immortalised by actors.
However, the thing that excited me most, was that Poe himself was frequently asked to read the poem out loud. Yet this all began when a famous actor and friend of Poe recited it for the first time in Poe’s office. From that moment ‘The Raven’ has remained as a famous narrative poem that has continued to be recited by famous actors throughout history. Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, James Earl Jones and John Astin are to name but a few who have lent their voices to it, but the version I love most is the one by Christopher Walken. So here it is, complete with scary sound effects that reminds me of that Tim Burton classic ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Enjoy!
Now, the question poses itself: Which famous actor would you like to hear recite the poem? My choice would be the late Brandon Lee who starred as Eric Draven in ‘The Crow’. In the film, he only recited a couple of lines (see caption of image), but it was absolutely fantastic.