This atmospheric and dreary poem, ‘The Haunted Palace’ was originally published in 1839, but eventually made its way into Poe’s masterpiece ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ as a read-aloud verse attributed to the fictional character of Roderick Usher.
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A wingèd odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute’s well-tunèd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh—but smile no more.
The story here is simple and not unusual for Poe: The glorious past has decayed. All things beautiful eventually fade. Porphyrogene was a Latin emperor of Constantinople who eventually fell to ruin. As is so often the case with Poe, past tragedies warn of the future, and this poem is a warning that life will eventually steal everything from us: disease, circumstances, any number of evils, weaken us, subvert us, destroy us. However, in the meantime, enjoy the lyrical beauty of this verse.
‘The Haunted Palace’ has enjoyed a lot of success on its own through the years, whether it was Roger Corman stealing the title for a Lovecraftian film adaptation that had nothing to do with Poe, or a European rock band translating it into Bulgarian for lyrics.
The image comes from a poster for the 1963 film of that name which, as we said above, had very little to do with Poe. It did star Vincent Price, who made many other Poe adaptations that actually had something do with the poet.