[This was an experiment to see if Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" could be rewritten without using the letter R. Quite a challenge when you consider that the title character begins with an R! (The pseudonym Benjamin Arliss is an obvious play on that, and contains the only R to be found in the entire piece.) To create an additional challenge, I also constrained myself to maintaining the original's meter, rhyme scheme, and context. As you can see, it shone beautifully in some spots, and fell flat in others. But that's how it goes when you play with the classics.]

The Myna
by Benjamin Arliss

Once upon a midnight dismal, while I studied, weak, abysmal,
Paging many a quaint and quite unique volume of neglected ken,
While I nodded--nothing shocking--suddenly, out came a thocking,
As of someone gently knocking, knocking to get in my den.
"'Tis some company," I mumbled, "knocking to get in my den.
Only that, a citizen."

Ah, distinctly thoughts unfold of a month so bleak and cold
And each single dying coal cast a ghost out of its pen.
Anxiously I wished the daylight;--vainly I sought to expidite
With my books an end to this plight--this plight about the lost lass
The loving, luminous maiden whom the angels nickname Len--
Named in life not once again.

And the silken sad and ghostly bustling of the hangings mostly
Chilled me--filled me with fantastic shakes I hadn't felt till then.
So that now, to still the beating in my chest, I stood conceding
"'Tis some company who's pleading admission to this my den--
Some late company who's pleading admission to this my den;--
This it is, nothing else then."

In a bit my soul did toughen; hesitance I then did snuffen,
"Man," said I, "else Madam, honest apologies I do send,
But the fact is I was stopping, and so gently you came knocking,
And so faintly you came thocking, thocking just outside my den
That I almost didn't notice,"--then I opened up my den;--
Dim of night; no sign of them.

Deep into that dimness gazing, long I stood not moving, mazy,
Doubting, thinking thoughts no human had thought to think till then;
But the silence stayed quite open, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only sound then spoken was the quiet nickname "Len?"
This I had said and an echo mumbled back the nickname "Len"--
Only this, finis, amen.

Back into my small den going, all my soul within me glowing.
Soon again out came a knocking with a pitch of upswung bend.
"Factly," said I, "factly that is something at my window lattice,
Let me see, then, what this tap is, and enigmas thus examine--
Let my chest be calm a moment and enigmas thus examine;--
'Tis the wind that makes that din."

Open then I flung the window, when, with absence of adagio,
In then stepped a stately myna of the saintly days of when;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped else stayed
But, with mein of king and lady, landed just inside my den--
Landed on a bust of Pallas just within that place my den--
Landed, sat, just like a hen.

Then this ebony fowl beguiling my sad fancy into smiling
By the weighty look and feel of its countenance just then,
"Though thy head be bald like china, thou," I said, "ain't Aunt
Ghastly, gaunt, and ancient myna swooping off the nightly glen--
Tell me what thy kingly name is on the Night's Plutonian glen!"
Quoth the Myna, "Not again."

Much I fancied this ungainly fowl to see talk back so plainly,
Though its feedback little meaning--little insight gave to men;
'Cause we cannot help but seeing that no living human being
until then was blest with seeing fowl within his cozy den--
Fowl, not fawn, upon the well-made bust within his cozy den,
With such a name as "Not again."

But the myna, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one sound, as if his soul in that one sound he did expend.
Nothing else did he then bespeak--no twitch, no twinge of his cold
Till I little else than squeaked, "Bygone folk have flown since
On the daylight he will leave me, as my hopes have flown since
Then the fowl said "Not again."

Shaken at the stillness opened by comeback so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it voices is its only stock of ken,
Caught off some unhappy body whose good luck got old and shoddy,
Flowing fastly down the potty, till his songs one theme did send--
Till the hymnals of his hopes that melancholy theme did send
Of "Oh, not--not again."

But the myna still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
So I wheeled a cushioned seat next to fowl on bust in den;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous fowl not hen--
What this cold, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous fowl not hen
Meant in moaning "Not again."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable confessing
To the fowl whose flaming eyes could blaze away the souls of men;
This and like I sat divining, with my head at ease inclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight did illumen,
But whose velvet violet lining that the lamplight does illumen,
She shall dent, ah, not again!

Then methought the sky gained thickness, scented by a candle
Swung by ancient ghosts whose footfalls tinkled in the tufted den.
"Fiend," I called, "thy god hath lent thee--by these angels he hath
sent thee
A lapse--a lapse and nepenthe of thy mementos of my Len
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and dismiss this lost lass Len!"
Quoth the Myna, "Not again."

"Sibyl," said I, "thing of evil!--sibyl still if fowl as devil!--
If in tempting sent, and too if tempest-tossed upon this fen
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this loveless land enchanted--
On this home by demons haunted--tell me honest--I depend--
Is a--is a balm in Gilead?--tell me, tell me--I depend!"
Quoth the Myna, "Not again."

"Sibyl," said I, "thing of evil!--sibyl still if fowl as devil!--
By that heaven that bends above us, on that god we both depend
Tell this soul with sadness laden if, within the distant aiden,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels nickname Len.
Clasp a loving, luminous maiden whom the angels nickname Len.
Quoth the Myna, "Not again."

Let that sound signal an exit, fowl and fiend," I yelled, not
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian glen!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Let my loneliness stay oaken!--quit this bust within my den!
Take thy beak off of my chest, and take thy shape out of my den!
Quoth the Myna, "Not again."

And the Myna, without flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just inside of this, my den;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is scheming,
And the lamplight above him gleaming casts his shadow on my den;
And my soul out of that shadow that lies floating on my den
Shall be lifted--not again!

-- © 1991, W.A. Seaver.