Text: Thomas Lake Harris, “Spirit Poem on The Raven,” Spiritual Herald; A Record of Spiritual Manifestations (London and New York), vol I., no. 6, July 1856, pp. 195-197


[page 195:]




THE following Poem, claiming to emanate from the Spirit of the gifted and unfortunate Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe, was dictated through T. L. Harris while in an entranced condition, on Saturday evening, May 31st, S. B. Brittan, Esq., acting as amanuensis. Mr. H. was conversing with Mr. B., without any expectation of receiving a Spiritual visitant, when the author of “ The Raven “ appeared, another Spirit of the Elizabethian age being also present.

After dictating the closing lines of the Poem, its Spirit-author communicated the brief statement which prefaces it. The Medium submits it to the public without comment of his own, feeling assured that its interior character will vindicate its [page 196:] claim. He will simply add, that he had received no previous intimation of the Spirit’s desire to communicate.


My design, in this production, has been to embody, in Poetic drapery, the secret of my life. Being from my cradle a haunted man, conscious of more than human presence, and unable, from physiological and mental perversions, to analyze its essence, grew morbid and melancholy.

This influence was that of my good guardian. Supernal visions, elevating and inspiring, descended from him to me. These visions became distorted in their descent. I wrote under Spiritual inspiration. My mediatorial condition was imperfect. I misapprehended and misinterpreted the Spiritual truth; hence the gloomy, misanthropic character of my productions.

I left the body to recover sanity ; and then, in that mysterious, etherial, ideal world, discovered the pain-producing, vision-creating influence, operative in me in my earth-life, to have been, not demoniacal, but celestial.

Pity the man of genius. Madness itself, when accompanied with any degree of physical comfort, is Eden in comparison to the growth-pains of a mind, living in the unconscious violation of the Spirit’s Law; forced to the rack of mental exertion to purchase bread; unable to compete with men of the world; crushed by unfeeling avarice; inly, vainly striving through all despair to give birth to deathless inspirations. — I have but partially expressed myself.

E. A. P.

[column 1:]

Fires within my brain were burning;

Scorning life, despairing, yearning,

Hopeless, blinded in my anguish, through my body’s open door,

Came a Raven, foul and sable,

Like those evil birds of fable,

Downward swooping, where the drooping spectres haunt the Stygian shore.

— Not a bird, but something more.

Ghosts of agonies departed,

Festering wounds that long had smarted,

Broken vows, returnless mornings, griefs and miseries of yore,

By some art revived. — Undaunted

I gazed steadfast. — The enchanted,

Black, infernal Raven uttered a wild dirge-note evermore. —

Not a bird, but something more.

Gazing steady, gazing madly

On the bird, I spake, and sadly

Broken down too deep for scorning, sought for mercy to implore.

Turning to the bird I blessed it;

In my bosom I caressed it;

Still it pierced my heart and revelled in the palpitating gore; —

’Twas a bird, and something more.

I grew mad. The crowding fancies —

Black weeds they, not blooming pansies —

Made me think the bird a Spirit. —

“Bird,” I cried, “be bird no more. [column 2:]

Take a shape; be man; be devil;

Be a snake; — rise from thy revel;

From thy banquet rise; — be human; I have seen thee oft before;

Thou art bird and something more.

“Tapping, tapping, striking deeper,

Rousing Pain, my body’s keeper,

Thou hast oft erewhile sought entrance at the heart’s great palace door.

Take thy shape, O gloomy demon,

Fiend, or spirit most inhuman,

Strike me through, but first, unvailing, let me scan thee o’er and o’er:

Thou art bird, but something more.”

Still, with sable pinions flapping,

The great Raven, tapping, tapping,

Struck into my breast his talons; vast his wings outspread, and o’er

All my nature cast a pallor;

But I strove with dying valor,

With the poniard of repulsion striking through the form it wore;

Not a bird, but something more.

“O, thou huge, infernal Raven,

Image that Hell’s King hath graven,

Image growing more gigantic, nursed beyond the Stygian shore,

Leave me, leave me, I beseech thee,

I would not of wrong impeach thee,”

I cried madly. — Then earth opened with a brazen, earthquake roar

’Twas a bird, — a Demon more. [page 197:]

Downward, downward, circling, speeding,

Cries of anguish still unheeding,

Striking through me with his talons, — still that Raven shape he bore,

Unto Erebus we drifted;

His huge wings by thunders lifted,

Beat ‘gainst drifts of white flame-lightning, sprinkled red with human gore.

’Twas a bird, a Demon more.

“I’m no bird — an Angel, Brother,

A Bright Spirit and none other;

I have waited, blissful, tended thee for thirty years and o’er;

In thy wild, illusive madness,

In thy blight, disease and sadness,

I have sounded, tapping, tapping, at thy Spirit’s Eden door: —

Not a bird, an Angel more! —

“Shining down with light Elysian,

Through the pearly gates of vision,

On thy tranced, soul-lighted fancy, when, across thy chamber floor [column 2:]

Fell the Spirit-moonlight, laden

With soft dews from trees in Aidenn

Shaken downward — still nepenthe, drunk by dreaming bards of yore; —

Not a bird, an Angel more.

“In my Palmyrenian splendor,

In Zenobian regnance tender,

More than Roman, though Aurelian were the kingly name I bore,

I have left my angel-palace,

Dropping in thy sorrow’s chalice

Consolation. O, ‘twas blessed, sweet, thy pillow to bend o’er; —

Not a bird, an Angel more.

“Ended is life’s mocking fever;

Where, through citron groves, for ever

Blows the spice-wind and the love-birds tell their rapture o’er and o’er,

From earth’s hell by afrits haunted,

From its evil, disenchanted,

I have borne thee; gaze upon me; didst thou see me e’er before? —

Not a fiend, an Angel more.”


New York, May 31, 1856.



Thomas Lake Harris (1823-1906) was well known in Spiritualist circles.

Samuel Byron Brittan (1815-1883) was another active Spiritualist, best remembered as editor of the Spiritual Telegraph (published in New York City).

Later articles, beginning in 1871, reprinted the same poem, but incorrectly attributed it to R. Allston Lavender, Jr., noted as being “A maniac in the Lunatic Asylum, Raleigh, N. C.” (The correct name was apparently B. Alston Lavender, and he printed the poem again, crediting T. L. Harris, in a pamphlet called The Anatomy of Genius; An Inspirational Lecture, San Francisco, 1876.) These appeared in a variety of newspapers, including the Louisville Commercial (Louisville, Kentucky), or uncertain date (but about June 1871), and the Liberty Tribune (Liberty, Missouri) for June 23, 1871.


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