The Raven

The Raven

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by Lou Reed

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One of the most influential and innovative recording artists of the past three decades, Lou Reed has always offered a shrewd view of life in the big city in all its colors. It is no surprise, then, that he considers Edgar Allan Poe a spiritual forefather. In The Raven, Reed immerses himself in Poe's enigmatic world and sets out to reimagine his work to mesmerizing


One of the most influential and innovative recording artists of the past three decades, Lou Reed has always offered a shrewd view of life in the big city in all its colors. It is no surprise, then, that he considers Edgar Allan Poe a spiritual forefather. In The Raven, Reed immerses himself in Poe's enigmatic world and sets out to reimagine his work to mesmerizing effect. In 2001 Lou Reed, legendary theater director Robert Wilson, and an all-star cast presented the musical POEtry at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Reed's subsequent studio adaptation, The Raven, has been hailed as one of his more daring and challenging albums. Here, accompanied by photographs by the acclaimed artist and director Julian Schnabel, is the definitive text of the CD release. The Raven includes Reed's distinctive takes on Poe's most celebrated works, as well as song lyrics written for the musical. The Raven is a fascinating meeting between a dark chronicler of the twentieth century and his nineteenth-century counterpart; the work on one iconoclastic genius offering a haunting exploration of another.

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Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

The Raven

By Lou Reed

Grove Atlantic, Inc.

Copyright © 2003

Lou Reed
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8021-1756-2

Chapter One

The Conqueror Worm


Lo! It's a gala night.

A mystic throng bedecked

Sit in a theater to see

A play of hopes and fears

While the orchestra breathes fitfully

The music of the spheres.

Minds mutter and mumble low-

Mere puppets they, who come and go

Disguised as gods,

They shift the scenery to and fro

Inevitably trapped by invisible woe.

This motley drama-to be sure-

Will not be forgotten.

A phantom chased for evermore,

Never seized by the crowd

Though they circle-

Returning to the same spot-

Circle and return

To the selfsame spot

Always to the selfsame spot,

With much of madness and more of sin,

And horror and mimic rout

The soul of the plot.

Out-out are the lights-out all!

And over each dying form

The curtain, a funeral pall,

Comes with the rush of a storm.

The angels, haggard and wan,

Unveiling and uprising affirm

That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"

And its hero the conqueror worm.

Instrumental overture

Old Poe

Guitar melody

Old Poe

As I look back on my life-if I could have the glorious
Moment-the wondrous opportunity to comprehend-the
chance to see my younger self one time-to converse ... to
hear his thoughts....

Cello melody-continues throughout speech

Young Poe

In the science of the mind there is no point more thrilling than to
notice (which I never noticed in schools) that in our endeavors
to recall to memory something long-forgotten we often find
ourselves upon the very verge of remembrance without being in
the end able to remember. Under the intense scrutiny of Ligeia's
eyes, I have felt the full knowledge and force of their expression
and yet been unable to possess it and have felt it leave me as so
many other things have left-the letter half-read, the bottle
half-drunk-finding in the commonest objects of the universe a
circle of analogies, of metaphors for that expression which had
been willfully withheld from me, the access to the inner soul

Eyes blazed with a too-glorious effulgence, pale fingers
transparent, waxen, the hue of the grave. Blue veins upon the
lofty forehead swelled and sunk impetuously with the tides of
deep emotion and I saw that she must die, that she was wrestling
with the dark shadow. Her stern nature had impressed me with
the belief that, to her, death would come without its terrors-but
not so. I groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle. I would
have soothed. I would have reasoned. But she was amid the
most convulsive of writhings. Oh, pitiful soul. Her voice more
gentle, more low, and yet her words grew wilder of meaning. I
reeled, entranced, to a melody more than mortal.

She loved me, no doubt, and in her bosom love reigned as no
ordinary passion. But in death only was I impressed with the
intensity of her affection. Her more than passionate devotion
amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so blessed and
then so cursed with the removal of my beloved upon the hour of
her most delirious musings?

In her more than womanly abandonment to love, all unmerited
and unworthily bestowed, I came to realize the principle of her
longing. It was a yearning for life, an eager, intense desire for
life, which was now fleeing so rapidly away as she returned
solemnly to her bed of death. And I had no utterance capable of
expressing it, except to say, Man doth not yield to the angels,
nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his
feeble will.

I became wild with the excitement of an immoderate dose of
opium. I saw her raising wine to her lips or may have dreamed
that I saw fall within a goblet, as if from some invisible spring in
the atmosphere of the room, three or four large drops of a
brilliant and ruby-colored fluid. Falling. While Ligeia lay in her
bed of ebony-the bed of death-with mine eyes riveted upon
her body. Then came a moan, a sob low and gentle but once. I
listened in superstitious terror but heard it not again. I strained
vision to see any motion in the corpse, but there was not the
slightest perceptible. Yet I had heard the noise and my whole
soul was awakened within me. The red liquid fell and I thought,
Ligeia lives, and I felt my brain reel, my heart cease to beat, and
my limbs go rigid where I sat. In extremity of horror I heard a
vague sound issuing from the region of the bed. Rushing to her I
saw-I distinctly saw-a tremor upon her lips. I sprang to my
feet and chafed and bathed the temples and hands but in vain; all
color fled, all pulsation ceased. Her lips resumed the expression
of the dead, the icy hue, the sunken outline, and all the
loathsome peculiarities of that which for many days has been the
tenant of the tomb.

And again I sank into visions of Ligeia. And again I heard a low
sob. And as I looked she seemed to grow taller. What
inexpressible madness seized me with that thought? I ran to
touch her. Her head fell, and her clothing crumbled, and there
streamed forth huge masses of long disheveled hair.

It was blacker than the raven wings of midnight.


Excerpted from The Raven
by Lou Reed
Copyright © 2003 by Lou Reed.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lou Reed founded the Velvet Underground in 1965. The cult band had an immeasurable influence on the punk, new wave, and glam-rock movements that followed. Among Reed's twenty solo albums are the celebrated Transformer, Sally Can't Dance, Coney Island Baby, and New York. He previously collaborated with Robert Wilson on the opera Timerocker.

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The Raven 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago