Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Raven

by Lou Reed Photographs by Julian Schnabel

“Dreamlike . . . Reed delivers some of the most personal lyrics of his career. . . . Reed has once again stretched the boundaries of popular music and, in doing so, has honored Edgar Allan Poe’s illustrious legacy, along with his own.” –Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone

About The Book

An iconoclastic genius offers a haunting exploration of the work of Edgar Allan Poe

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.


“Dreamlike . . . Reed delivers some of the most personal lyrics of his career. . . . Reed has once again stretched the boundaries of popular music and, in doing so, has honored Edgar Allan Poe’s illustrious legacy, along with his own.” –Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone

“There’s just something endlessly fascinating about Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground founder and solo rocker whose lyrics always seem to have a nasty but thoughtful edge.” –John Mark Eberhart, Kansas City Star

“[Reed] strides fearlessly through and beyond his known territories. . . . He adds his own lines even to some of the best-known pieces, jolting the listener with an anachronism while adding a dimension of the here and now.” –Richard Williams, The Guardian (London)


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 denied.

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.

Copyright ” 2003 by Lou Reed. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.