Poe Quote – Saturday 30 January 2016


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.

Friday Poe Quote – 25 September 2015


Poe’s morbid gothic romanticism slithers from the page in his gloriously dark and depressing ‘Conqueror Worm.’ Published in 1843, it presages his ultimate gothic gem, ‘The Raven’ penned just a couple of years later.   ‘The Conqueror Worm’ uses theatrical and stage imagery to paint a grim picture of the universe; both of Poe’s parents acted, and both died young.

Lo! ’t is a gala night

   Within the lonesome latter years!   

An angel throng, bewinged, bedight

   In veils, and drowned in tears,   

Sit in a theatre, to see

   A play of hopes and fears,

While the orchestra breathes fitfully   

   The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,   

   Mutter and mumble low,

And hither and thither fly—

   Mere puppets they, who come and go   

At bidding of vast formless things

   That shift the scenery to and fro,

Flapping from out their Condor wings

   Invisible Wo!

That motley drama—oh, be sure   

   It shall not be forgot!

With its Phantom chased for evermore   

   By a crowd that seize it not,

Through a circle that ever returneth in   

   To the self-same spot,

And much of Madness, and more of Sin,   

   And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout,

   A crawling shape intrude!

A blood-red thing that writhes from out   

   The scenic solitude!

It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs   

The mimes become its food,

And seraphs sob at vermin fangs

   In human gore imbued.

Out—out are the lights—out all!   

   And, over each quivering form,

The curtain, a funeral pall,

   Comes down with the rush of a storm,   

While the angels, all pallid and wan,   

   Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”   

   And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.

So what do we have here? The world is a stage (perhaps borrowing from Shakespeare), where pathetic humans–the mimes–live out the folly of their useless lives, witnessed only by angels. Every mortal is eventually devoured by a blood-red thing with vermin fangs that writhes and writhes. Life is a tragedy, and the evil thing that devours us–the Conqueror Worm–is our hero. I love this poem.

This verse, along with ‘The Raven’ and a select number of Poe’s most grotesque short stories, have done the most to cement Poe’s undying reputation as the Father of Modern Horror.   Go ahead, light some candles and read this aloud. And then go listen to some Goth Rock.

The image comes from the 1968 Vincent Price movie, which has virtually nothing to do with the poem at all. But it sure makes a great movie title.