‘Ligeia’ by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe, Edgar Allan 1845

Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845

The magic trick:

The beautiful poem Ligeia composes on her death bed

You want to talk about creepy? Poe published this story of dead wives and haunted memories in 1838. That’s a long time before his real-life wife died and left him repeating the plight of this story’s poor narrator.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful story. Funny, in parts. Sad. Hauntingly beautiful throughout.

I list the publication date above as 1845 because that is the year the version with the poem, “The Conqueror Worm” included. I really, really like the poem. Not is it a wonder to read on its own merits, it also adds to the story. It is the only element of the story that gives Ligeia voice. Everywhere else we have to rely on the narrator’s descriptions and assurances that she was a remarkable woman. The poem gets straight to the point and shows us. And that’s quite a trick on Poe’s part.

The selection:

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,

And the angels, all pallid and wan,

Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”

And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

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