What verbs show what the narrator is doing in the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The verbs that are featured in the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven are written in bold below:

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 someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door- 
                Only this, and nothing more."

Out of all the action words (verbs) in stanza number 1, here are the three activities that he was actively doing, according to what the poem says:

1. Pondering over "a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore."  The word "pondering" entails meditating, reflecting and thinking about something. The "volume," or book, of forgotten stories can be the literal reading of a book of old stories, or his remembrance of the old times with Lenore.  

2. Nodding, nearly napping- This illustrates his physical movements at the time that tap is heard. He is falling asleep, "nearly napping" and, as such, his head is moving in a back and forth motion due to drowsiness, or feeling sleepy.

3. Muttering- This verb refers to saying something in a very low voice. The tap on the door takes the main character by surprise. Moreover, he seems not to be used to visitors. This is how he "reminds" himself that the tap may be a visitor. Yet, the fact that he has to reassure himself that "it is only this, and nothing more" may indicate some degree of fear or worry, perhaps given that he is isolated, and the weather is cold and unforgiving outside of this safe abode.

Moreover, he has been thinking a lot about Lenore. The tapping on the door may have awoken an unconscious desire to see her again. In his infinite grief, he may have even fantasized that the tap could have been Lenore herself paying him one last visit. 

In short, it is clear that the main character was part-reading, part-meditating, and part-sleeping at the time that he hears the tapping on the door. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial