Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Raven Vocabulary

dreary/bleak/desolate – depressing, giving no hope. Typical of a cold, wet, gray day, when all the leaves have fallen from the trees.

to ponder/divine – to wonder, or think about some mystery

weary - tired

lore – stories and legends

ember – a piece of wood or coal that’s burning in the fire

surcease (of sorrow) – and end (of sadness)

to entreat – to ask for or beg

to implore – to beg very strongly

a window lattice – a window decoration, made of wood or iron:

a flirt and flutter of wings – birds fly by flapping their wings.

days of yore – the past

obeisance – a sign of greeting, usually to bow.

a mien/bearing – an attitude, how someone feels at the moment, usually seen through body language.

to perch – to sit. We use this word mostly for birds.

a bust – a sculpture of a person’s head. In this poem it’s the head of Athena, goddess of wisdom:

a placid bust – a quiet and peaceful bust.

to beguile – to trick someone. The narrator is tricked into smiling.

a grave/grim/stern/ghastly countenance – strict, shocking, and horrible appearance.

the crest of a bird – the feathers on his head.

a craven – a coward, (zbabelec).

a fowl – a bird

a gaunt/ungainly fowl – a bird with ugly proportions, a bit fat.

discourse – speaking. The narrator is surprised the raven can speak.

sublunary – lunar means ‘of the moon’, so sublunary is anything ‘under the moon’ – earthly, mortal. ‘Sublunary being’ here means people.

to speak aptly – to speak well, skillfully.

your only stock and store – your only ability. The narrator thinks this bird has only learned one word. If you can only play one song on the guitar, that’s your only stock and store.

to adjure – to ask for, or advise. Here it means to ask for. The narrator thinks the previous owner of this raven must have had a sad life, asking for hope and getting only despair.

to link fancies – to think about a mystery, connecting the dots.

to croak – to make a sound like a frog. If you have a very dry mouth and try to speak, it might sound like a croak. The writer is making fun of the bird's voice. In slang, to croak means to die.

velvet – (zamat), a soft fabric used for clothing and furniture.

to gloat – to shine

a censer – (kadideľnica) a container for incense (kadidlo), burned in churches during mass (omša):

respite – peace and relaxation, to rest between hard work or suffering.

nepenthe – anesthetic, a drug that relieves pain.

to quaff – to drink

the Tempter – the devil, the one who tempts you.

a tempest – a storm

undaunted – resolved, determined, with no doubt or hesitation.

balm in Gilead – a balm is a medicine. This reference comes from the Old Testament: Jeremiah chapter 8 v. 22: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” Also, ‘There is balm in Gilead’ was a traditional folk song at the time.

to adore – to love

Aidenn – heaven, a different spelling of Eden, as in the Garden of Eden.

to clasp – to hold

to part/quit the bust – to leave or separate. “Be that word our sign in parting” means get the hell out.

a plume – a feather

a token – a souvenir

a beak – the mouth of a bird, (zobák)

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