In the poem "The Raven" when does the tapping occur?
To be clear, the tapping occurs in the past. The entire series of events in the poem occur in hindsight. The speaker is reflecting back on this bleak night and we know this by the opening phrase "Once upon a midnight dreary" - which is a darker version of "Once upon a time."
But as the speaker goes back to this night, the tapping first occurs in the first stanza, just as the speaker is about to fall asleep after reading a book:
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
The speaker responds to his supposed visitor and then opens the door to see if someone is there. He finds nothing, "Darkness there, and nothing more." He whispers the word "Lenore" (a lost love) into the darkness and retreats into his room. Then he hears the tapping again yet louder, and concludes that it is coming from the window. He opens the window and in flies the raven. The tapping clearly stops here and the remainder of the poem is the speaker trying to understand the meaning of the raven's single answer "nevermore."
The tapping occurs in the past because of the time setting of the poem established by the opening remarks “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.”
The tapping first occurs at the door. The narrator thinks there is a visitor at the door and hopes it is his lost love, Lenore. After a moment of hesitation, the narrator opens the door, but there is no one there. He whispers Lenore’s name into the darkness, but an echo is the only response he receives.
The narrator goes back to his room, but again, he hears a tapping sound coming from the window. He heads to the window and opens it. A raven flies in and perches atop a bust sculpture of the goddess Pallas. The narrator engages the bird in a conversation, but the bird’s only response is the word “Nevermore,” which further describes the sadness and loneliness of the narrator.