Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Raven

It’s been somewhat of a tradition, well for me anyway, to read or watch a ghost story on Christmas day. I don’t know how or why it started, it just did. For me the best Christmas ghost story is A Christmas Carol but that’s a bit long to put here. Si I’ve decided to put up my second favourite tale, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. Enjoy

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 named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
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 darkness 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 somewhat 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 above 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 further 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 has 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 named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named 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!

By the way, Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket...

I have come to the conclusion that Christmas shopping is, in fact, just another level of hell! I set off to work this morning for a staff meeting and a cuppa with my colleagues. We were only in for half a day and before we went our separate ways we checked that the building was secure and not likely to burst into flames over the next week and a bit. I was feeling a bit peckish by the time we left so I thought I’d nip into MacDonald’s for a bit of scoff only to discover that it was packed full of people who had exactly the same idea as me, they could have had it a bit later but never mind. I gave up on the thought and set off in search of gifts for the missus. Oh dear, the town was heaving! First stop was W H Smiths, not for Trudes but to pick up my monthly Astro mags. Then the real horror struck as I wandered in and out of various girly type shops looking for the ideal thing for a girl. It’s not that I don’t like shopping; it’s more a case that I’m a bit of a misanthrope. I don’t have much time for the type of people you generally encounter. When I shop I tend to go in, get what I need and get out again. Admittedly this doesn’t always go to plan as I have a tendency to be somewhat forgetful. So I know that when I enter the maze of consumerism that is a supermarket I will become more than a little fretful as I run through the list of things I need to get. My stress levels are not helped by doddering old dears who have just met in the middle of the dairy aisle and are taking the chance to catch up on not having seen each other for the last three months. Not so bad except for the fact that they’re standing between their trolleys and blocking the entire section. Of course they can hear a five pound note hit the floor from five miles away, but when you say “excuse me” they both become as deaf as posts and seem to take up more room than before. Then there are the people who stop you to ask if you know where the cheese is, do I look like a member of staff? Finally the shops conspire against you, they move things, one day you find the bread near the bakery section, naturally, the next day it’s with the breakfast cereal. Leave it be, it’s getting to the stage where I’ll need a blooming sat-nav to find the stuff I want.

I read somewhere that it is the season of goodwill, this being the case, why are people so flipping miserable? I have a perfectly good excuse, I’m a grumpy old man, and I make no effort to hide the fact that a vast majority of the human race annoys me, particularly anyone younger than me and considerably older. When I pay for my stuff there isn’t so much as a smile, the checkout operator just crams your stuff in a bag and sends you on your way. Considering the fact that I am such a cantankerous old git, I still manage to muster up a bit of joviality.

Anyway the shopping is done and I have purchased presents and picked up a couple of bits that were needed for Sunday, so I can now relax and forget work for the next eleven days and focus on making sure that my sweet girl has a jolly time with our friends.

It’s a mad world made even more mad by the festive season!