In his poem “The Raven” Edgar Allen Poe weaves allusions to two major sources, the Bible and Greek mythology. Poe refers to Greek mythology by bringing up Pallas Athena and a Plutonian coast. He references to the Bible by naming seraphim and invoking the balm of Gilead.

In line 41 Poe cites Pallas Athena by noting that the raven perches on a bust of Pallas that he has hanging above his door. Pallas Athena is the ancient Greek goddess of knowledge. This allusion could be regarded humorously, knowing that the Raven seems to know only one word. It is also notable that other than Athena the other female the narrator mentions is his lost love Lenore. It is likely that he is comparing them and suggesting that they were both equally wise. It is also possible that referencing Athena signifies that he worships Lenore in the same manner that ancient Greeks adored Athena.

The other allusion that the narrator makes to Greek mythology in line 47 has to do with the Plutonian coast. Pluto is the Greek god of the underworld, and by naming him the storyteller conveys a sense of agony and darkness that has to do with the underworld. The shore may also refer to the river Styx, where Charon the ferryman piloted the souls of the dead across into the underworld. This parallels the narrator’s mental state, which is ruminating on death.

In line 80 the narrator cites the Bible by invoking Seraphim, six-foot tall winged beings whose job in biblical lore was to soar about God’s throne and adore him by chanting “Holy” over and over. These Seraphim are similar to ravens in that they can only utter a single syllable. In the context of the poem, these winged beings appear threatening rather than reassuring, which is an interesting observation.

In line 89, the narrator makes a final biblical reference to the balm of Gilead. The balm was both a tangible wound-healing balm and a spiritual remedy. By mentioning this balm, the narrator may be indicating his wish for a remedy for his overwhelming feelings.

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