Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Ligeia,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 305-334 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 305, continued:]

LIGEIA

“Ligeia” is a masterpiece of Poe’s elaborate early style, surpassing the longer narratives written earlier, and to be surpassed, if at all, only by “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe himself recognized its excellence: as late as August 9, 1846, he wrote to Philip Pendleton Cooke, “ ‘Ligeia’ may be called my best tale”; [page 306:] and writing to Duyckinck, January 8, 1846, he mentioned it as “undoubtedly the best story I have written.”

On the copy of the Broadway Journal he gave to Mrs. Whitman in 1848 he wrote that the story was suggested by a dream, like the poem “To Helen Whitman” he had sent her, and added, “Observe the eyes in both tale and poem.”* It is possible that he meant a vivid daydream, for he may have catered to the lady’s known love of the mystical. Yet the fancy of one person changing into another, as old as the legends of Proteus, may occur “in visions of the dark night.”

The story was revised with the greatest care. It must be regarded as a thoroughly conscious and complete work of art.

“Ligeia” has two obvious literary inspirations. Primarily it is the reworking of the love theme of Scott’s Ivanhoe, the story of Rebecca and Rowena. The protagonist’s blond wife even bears the name Rowena. Rebecca was unjustly accused of witchcraft; Ligeia studied alchemy — a forbidden knowledge considered akin to witchcraft. The parallel is psychological too. Who does not suppose that Scott’s Ivanhoe, married to Rowena, must often have thought sadly of Rebecca?

The second source is in “A Madman’s Manuscript” to be found in the eleventh chapter of Pickwick Papers, which Poe admired enough to reprint in his review of Dickens’ book in the Southern Literary Messenger, November 1836. There we find the splendid home, the incipient madness of the hero, the bride’s lack of love, the husband’s demoniacal hatred, his scorn of the lady’s family for cruelly forcing upon her a mercenary marriage, and finally his inability to recall certain facts, in especial to remember the woman’s name. There is an extreme parallelism in the following:

I don’t remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl was beautiful. I know she was; for in the bright moonlight nights, when I start up from my sleep, and all is quiet about me, I see, standing still and motionless in one corner of this cell, a slight and wasted figure, with long black hair, which, streaming down her back, stirs with no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gaze on me, and never wink or close. [page 306:]

After “Ligeia” was published Poe sent it to Philip Pendleton Cooke and asked whether the ending of the story was intelligible. Cooke’s comment did not express complete satisfaction, for he said, “I of course ‘took’ your ‘idea’ throughout . . . your intent is to tell a tale of the ‘mighty will’ contending with and finally vanquishing Death.” But he “was shocked by a violation of the ghostly proprieties . . . and wondered how the Lady Ligeia — a wandering essence — could, in quickening the body of the Lady Rowena . . . become suddenly the visible, bodily, Ligeia.” Cooke wished the narrator had only become gradually aware that the “blue Saxon eye . . . grew daily darker . . . a mind of grander powers . . . occupied the quickened body,” and added, “You may have some theory . . . which I have not caught.”

Poe replied on September 21, 1839 that because he had already written “Morella” he felt he must be content with a sudden half consciousness on the part of the narrator that Ligeia stood before him. “I should have intimated that the will did not perfect its intention — there should have been a relapse . . . and Ligeia . . . should be at length entombed as Rowena.” He added that he would “suffer ‘Ligeia’ to remain as it is.” He was to change his mind five years later. Then he inserted in the story, as a composition of the heroine, his own powerful poem “The Conqueror Worm” (written in 1842 and first published in Graham’s for January 1843) — a plain indication that the human will was too feeble to enable Ligeia to win. On August 9, 1846, Poe wrote Cooke that he had improved the story.

We cannot doubt that the author intended a story of real magic, as the pentagonal room would suggest. Of course, he did not expect readers to believe the story after they put it down; he wanted temporary suspension of disbelief during its perusal. Reviewing Bird’s Sheppard Lee in the Messenger for September 1836 he had named three wholly incredible notions acceptable in tales of wonder — an invisible person, the elixir of life, and the Wandering Jew. He used the first two, and perhaps the third, in “Ligeia.” [page 308:]

It is not surprising to find articles propounding the idea that the story is solely of remorse and hallucination. Poe probably would have been amused. He had provided, by reference to his narrator’s use of opium, a way for the matter-of-fact reader to interpret the tale in precisely that way, if he wished. Nobody need dismiss the presence of the hallucinatory element in “Ligeia,” even though the documents indicate it was not the primary concern of the author. The pentagonal shape of the bridal chamber is meaningless unless genuine magic be intended.

It is never clear whether the disembodied spirit of Ligeia influenced her husband’s mind and led him to seek out the weak Rowena, or whether Ligeia told anyone her true name. The red liquid is not poison, but the elixir vitae, the color of which mystical writers believe to be that of a ruby.§

Fanciful interpretations of Poe’s story may be found. The heroine is not an orthodox vampire. Her resemblance to a dybbuk is undeniable, but is probably fortuitous, since it is not easy to say how Poe could have met with legends current in Jewish folklore of Poland and Russia.

TEXTS

(A) Baltimore American Museum, September 1838 (1:25-37); (B) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), I, 171-192; (C) PHANTASY-PIECES with manuscript revisions of the last, 1842; (D) New York New World, February 15, [page 309:] 1845 (10:100-101); (E) Broadway Journal, September 27, 1845 (2:171-176); (F) Mrs. Whitman’s copy of the last with manuscript revisions, 1848; (G) Works (1850), I, 453-468.

The revised copy of the Broadway Journal (F) is chosen as the final text. Griswold’s variants (G) are not surely auctorial, and do not include the important revisions in the last paragraph. Some of the revisions of 1842 (C) were abortive. Note that the poem “The Conqueror Worm” was first incorporated in the New World version (D) in 1845. So few copies of volume 10 of the New World survive that this text was lost sight of for many years. See “An Early Publication of Poe’s ‘Ligeia,’ ” London Notes and Queries, February 28, 1931.

Although except in a few special cases punctuation variants have not been reported in this edition of Poe’s works, for reasons set forth in the Introduction it has seemed desirable to present one tale with a record of all the changes of every kind, as an example of Poe at work. The choice has fallen on “Ligeia” not only because Poe took great care in its revision but also because PHANTASY-PIECES (C) with Poe’s manuscript changes and the hard-to-come-by New World (D) text were not collated in the Virginia edition, nor were Poe’s changes in the Whitman text recorded there.

The Baltimore American Museum printing (A) was inconsistent in spelling and at times confused in punctuation. For the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (B), thirty-six verbal changes were made, all retained in later printings. (Among other changes “my brain wandered” became “my reason wandered.”) Some repetitions were taken care of, several misprints corrected, three capitals changed to lower case, and the spelling of colour, demeanour, etc., was normalized. Forty or more punctuation changes were made — most of them, but not all, improvements.

Alterations for the abortive PHANTASY-PIECES (C) were noted in Poe’s hand in a copy of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (B). Of the sixteen verbal changes all but three were adopted and retained in the later published texts. They included the transposition of the phrases of one sentence, the addition of two long clauses to another, and the italicization of “person” in “the person of Ligeia.” Poe made twenty-three punctuation changes in PHANTASY-PIECES, seven of which were not used in later printings. All but three of the indicated changes were concerned with the dash.

The New World text (D) added the poem, the three adjacent paragraphs, and more than fifty verbal changes beyond those in PHANTASY-PIECES. It was by far the most extensive revision Poe ever made in any of the “Ligeia” texts. He reworked a paragraph to make a new one to follow the poem, deleted two complete sentences, and greatly enriched another. He not only deleted words, as in substituting “Shadow” for “dark shadow,” “the shackles” for “the iron shackles,” but added words, too, as “she habitually uttered” for “she uttered” and “a pall-like canopy” for “a canopy.” There were also more than thirty punctuation changes. A few of these corrected errors, some trade little difference, and a few he would have been wise not to make.

In the Broadway Journal (E) punctuation changes were emphasized, not all improvements. In the sixteen verbal alterations, Poe was still tightening his style when he substituted “preparations” for “preparations for interment,” “slow” for “slow but imperceptible,” and on other occasions. A number of misprints appeared [page 310:] in this text. Some of them were corrected in the Whitman copy (F) where Poe made two final deletions in his story. In three instances the Broadway Journal printer used a dash after a period to fill out a line. These dashes have nothing to do with Poe’s punctuation and are eliminated in this text. See the variants, and the discussion of variants in the Introduction to this volume.

Griswold’s text (G) corrected all but two of the typographical errors of the Broadway Journal but introduced three new ones, and, as stated above, did not include Poe’s manuscript corrections in the last paragraph. Griswold’s text shows changes in punctuation and capitalization, particularly in the poem. In eliminating double punctuation at a number of places where E and F show a dash together with a comma or a semicolon, and in the retention of two necessary commas, the Griswold text follows A, B, C, D.

LIGEIA.   [F]   [[n]]

And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.

JOSEPH GLANVILL.   [[n]]   [[v]]

I cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where,{a} I first became acquainted with the lady{b} Ligeia. Long years have since elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or,{c} perhaps, I cannot now bring these points to mind, because, in truth, the character of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placid cast{d} of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low{e} musical language, made their way into my heart by paces{f} so steadily and stealthily progressive{g} that they have been unnoticed and unknown. Yet I believe{h} that I met her {ii}first and most{ii} frequently in some large, old, decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family — I have surely heard her {jj}speak. That it is{jj} of a remotely ancient date cannot be doubted. Ligeia! Ligeia!{k} Buried in studies of a nature{l} more than all else{m} adapted to deaden impressions of the outward world, it is by that sweet word alone — [page 311:] by Ligeia —{n} that I bring before mine eyes in fancy the image of her who is no more. And now, while I write, a recollection flashes upon me that I have never known the paternal name of her who was my friend and my betrothed, and who became the partner of my studies, and finally{o} the wife of my bosom.(1) Was it a playful charge on the part of my Ligeia? or was it a test of my strength of affection,{p} that I should institute no inquiries upon this point? or was it rather a caprice of my own — a wildly romantic offering on the shrine of the most passionate devotion? I but indistinctly recall the fact itself — what wonder that I have utterly forgotten the circumstances which originated or attended it? And{q} indeed, if ever that spirit which is entitled Romance — if ever she, the wan{r} and the misty-winged Ashtophet of idolatrous Egypt,(2) presided, as they tell, over marriages ill-omened,{s} then most surely she presided over mine.

There is one dear topic, however, on which my memory fails{t} me not. It is the person{u} of Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and,{v} in her latter days,{w} even emaciated. I would in vain attempt to portray{x} the majesty, the quiet ease,{y} of her demeanor,{z} or the incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She came and departed as{a} a shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance into my closed study{b} save by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as she placed her marble{c} hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face no maiden ever equalled her. It was the radiance of an opium dream{d} — an airy and spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the phantasies which hovered about the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos.(3) Yet her features were not of that regular mould which we have been falsely taught to worship in the classical labors of the heathen.{e} “There is no exquisite beauty,(4) {ff}says Bacon, Lord Verulam,{ff} speaking truly of all the forms and genera of [page 312:] beauty,’ “without some strangeness in the proportion.”{g} Yet, although I saw that the features of Ligeia were not of a{h} classic regularity —{i} although I perceived that her loveliness was indeed “exquisite,” and felt that there was much of “strangeness” pervading it, yet I have tried in vain to detect the irregularity{j} and to trace home my own perception of “the strange.” I examined the contour of the lofty and pale forehead — it was faultless — how cold indeed that word when applied to a majesty so divine! — the{k} skin rivalling{l} the purest ivory, the commanding extent{m} and repose, the gentle prominence(5) of the regions above the temples;{n} and then the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and naturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric epithet, “hyacinthine!”{o} I looked at the delicate outlines of the nose — and nowhere but in the graceful medallions of the Hebrews had I beheld a similar perfection.(6) There were{p} the same luxurious smoothness of surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to the aquiline, the same harmoniously curved nostrils{q} speaking the free spirit. I regarded the sweet mouth. Here was indeed the triumph of all things heavenly — the magnificent turn of the short upper lip — the soft, voluptuous slumber{r} of the under — the dimples which sported, and the color{s} which spoke — the teeth glancing back,{t} with a brilliancy almost startling, every ray of the holy light which fell upon them in her serene{u} and placid, yet most exultingly radiant{v} of all smiles. I scrutinized the formation of the chin — and here, too, I found the gentleness of breadth, the softness and the majesty, the fullness{w} and the spirituality, of the Greek —{x} the contour which the God{y} Apollo revealed but in a dream,{z} to Cleomenes, the son of the Athenian.(7) And then I peered into the large eyes of Ligeia.

For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. It might [page 313:] have been, too, that in these eyes of my beloved lay the secret to which Lord Verulam{a} alludes. They were, I must believe, far larger than the ordinary eyes of our own{b} race. They were even{c} fuller than the fullest of the gazelle{d} eyes of the tribe of the valley of Nourjahad.{e} (8) Yet it was only at intervals — in moments of intense excitement — that this peculiarity became more than slightly noticeable in Ligeia. And at such moments was her beauty — in my heated fancy thus it appeared perhaps — the beauty of beings either above or apart from the earth — the beauty of the fabulous Houri of the Turk.(9) The hue{f} of the orbs was the most brilliant of black, and,{g} far over them,{h} hung jetty lashes of great length. The brows, slightly irregular in outline, had the same tint.{i} The “strangeness,” however, which I{j} found in the eyes,{k} was of a nature distinct from the formation, or the color,{l} or the brilliancy of the features,{m} and must, after all, be referred to the expression. Ah, word of no meaning! behind whose vast latitude of mere sound we intrench our ignorance of so much of the spiritual. The expression of the eyes of Ligeia! How{n} for long hours have I pondered upon it! How have I, through the whole of a midsummer{o} night, struggled to fathom it! What was it — that something more profound than the well of Democritus(10) — which lay far within the pupils of my beloved? What was it? I was possessed with a passion to discover. Those eyes! those large, those shining, those divine orbs! they became to me twin stars of Leda,(11) and I to them devoutest of astrologers.{p}

There is no point, among the many incomprehensible anomalies of the science of mind, more thrillingly exciting than the fact — never, I believe,{q} noticed in the schools — that{r} in our endeavors{s} to recall to memory something long forgotten,{t} we often find ourselves [page 314:] upon the very verge of remembrance,{u} without being able, in the end, to remember. And thus{v} how frequently, in my intense scrutiny of Ligeia’s eyes, have I felt approaching the full knowledge of{w} their expression — felt it approaching — yet not quite be mine — and so at length entirely{x} depart!{y} And (strange, oh strangest mystery of all!) I found, in the commonest objects of the universe, a circle of analogies to that expression. I mean to say that, subsequently to the period when Ligeia’s beauty passed into my spirit, there dwelling as in a shrine, I derived,{z} from many existences in the material world, a sentiment{a} such as I felt always aroused{b} within me{c} by her large and luminous orbs. Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or analyze, or even steadily view it. I recognized{d} it, let me repeat, sometimes{e} in the survey of a rapidly-growing vine — in the contemplation of a moth, a butterfly, a chrysalis, a stream of running water. I have felt it in the ocean;{f} in the falling of a meteor.(12) I have felt it in the glances of unusually aged people.(13) And there are one or two stars in heaven — (one especially, a star of the sixth magnitude, double and changeable, to be found near the large star in Lyra){g} in a telescopic scrutiny of which I have been made aware of the feeling.(14) I have been filled with it by certain sounds from stringed instruments, and not unfrequently by passages from books. Among innumerable other instances, I well remember something in a volume of Joseph Glanvill, which{h} (perhaps merely from its quaintness — who shall say?) never failed to inspire me with the sentiment; —{i} “And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save{j} only through the weakness of his feeble will.” [page 315:]

Length of years,{k} and subsequent reflection, have enabled me to trace, indeed, some remote connection{l} between this passage in the{m} English moralist and a portion of the character of Ligeia. An intensity in thought, action, or speech,{n} was possibly, in her, a result, or at least an index, of that gigantic volition which, during our long intercourse, failed to give other and more immediate evidence of its existence. Of all the{o} women whom I have ever known,{p} she, the outwardly calm, the ever-placid{q} Ligeia, was the most violently a prey to the tumultuous vultures of stern passion. And of such passion I could form no estimate, save by the miraculous expansion of those eyes which at once so delighted and appalled me —{r} by the almost magical melody, modulation, distinctness{s} and placidity of her very low voice —{t} and by the fierce energy{u} (rendered doubly effective by contrast with her manner of utterance){v} of the wild{w} words which she habitually{x} uttered.

I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia: it was immense — such as I have never known in woman.(15) In{y} the classical tongues was she deeply proficient, and as far as my own acquaintance extended in regard to the modern dialects of Europe, I have never known her at fault. Indeed upon any theme of the most admired, because simply the most abstruse{z} of the boasted erudition of the academy, have I ever found Ligeia at fault? How singularly —{a} how thrillingly, this one point in the nature of my wife has forced itself, at this late period{b} only, upon my attention! I said her knowledge was such as I have{c} never known in woman — but where{d} breathes the man who{e} has traversed, and successfully, all the wide areas of moral, physical,{f} and mathematical science? I saw not then what I now clearly perceive, that the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, [page 316:] were astounding;{g} yet I was sufficiently aware of her infinite supremacy to resign myself, with a child-like confidence, to her guidance through the chaotic world of metaphysical investigation at which I was most busily occupied during the earlier years of our marriage. With how vast a triumph — with how vivid a delight — with how much of all that is ethereal in hope — did I feel, as she bent over me{h} in studies but little sought{i} — but less known —{j} that delicious vista by slow{k} degrees expanding before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path,{l} I might at length pass onward{m} to the goal of a wisdom too divinely precious not to be forbidden!(17)

How poignant, then, must have been the grief with which, after some years, I beheld my well-grounded expectations take wings to themselves and fly{n} away!(17) Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping benighted. Her presence, her readings alone, rendered vividly luminous the many mysteries of the transcendentalism(18) in which we were immersed. {oo}Wanting the radiant lustre of her eyes, letters, lambent and golden, grew duller than Saturnian lead.{oo} (19) And now those eyes shone less and less frequently upon the pages over which I pored.{p} Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes{q} blazed with a too — too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the transparent waxen hue of the grave{r} and the blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sank{s} impetuously with the tides of the most gentle emotion. I saw that she must die —{t} and I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael.(20) And the struggles of the passionate wife{u} were, to my astonishment, even more energetic than my own. There had been much in her stern nature to impress me with the belief that, to her, death would have come without its [page 317:] terrors; —{v} but not so. Words are impotent to convey any just idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she{w} wrestled with the Shadow.{x} I groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle. I would have soothed — I would have reasoned; but,{y} in the intensity of her wild desire for life,{z} — for life — but for life —{a} solace and reason were alike the uttermost of folly. Yet {bb}not until the last instance,{bb} amid the most convulsive writhings of her fierce spirit, was shaken the external placidity of her demeanor. Her voice grew more gentle — grew more low — yet I would not wish to dwell upon the wild meaning of the quietly uttered{c} words. My brain reeled as I hearkened{d} entranced, to a melody more than mortal — to assumptions and aspirations which mortality had never before known.(21)

That she{e} loved me{f} I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in a bosom such as hers,{g} love would have reigned no ordinary passion. But in death only, was I fully impressed with the strength{h} of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand, would she pour out before me the overflowing{i} of a heart whose more than passionate devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so blessed by such confessions? — how{j} had I deserved to be so cursed with the removal of my beloved in the hour of her making them? But upon this subject I cannot bear to dilate. Let me say only, that in Ligeia’s more than womanly abandonment to a love, alas!{k} all unmerited, all unworthily bestowed,{l} I at length recognized{m} the principle of her longing{n} with so wildly earnest a desire{o} for the life which was now fleeing so rapidly away. It is this wild longing — it is this eager vehemence{p} [page 318:] of desire for life — but for life — that I have no power to portray{q} — no utterance capable {rr}of expressing.{rr}

{ss}At high noon of the night in which she departed, beckoning me, peremptorily, to her side, she bade me repeat certain verses composed by herself not many days before. I obeyed her. —{t} They were these:{u}

Lo! ’tis a gala night

Within the lonesome latter years!

An angel throng, bewinged, bedight

In veils, and drowned{v} 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 —{w}

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{x} forevermore,{y}

By a crowd that seize it not,

Through a circle that ever returneth in

To the self-same spot,{z} [page 319:]

And much of Madness{a} and more of Sin,{b}

And Horror{c} the soul of the plot.{d}

 

But see, amid the mimic rout,{e}

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 the seraphs sob at vermin fangs

In human gore imbued.

 

Out — out are the lights — out all!

And{f} over each quivering form,

The curtain, a funeral pall,

Comes down with the rush of a storm,{g}

And the angels, all pallid and wan,

Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”

And its hero{h} the Conqueror{i} Worm.

“O God!” half shrieked Ligeia, leaping to her feet and extending her arms aloft with a spasmodic movement, as I made an end of these lines — “O God! O Divine Father! — shall these things be undeviatingly so? — shall this Conqueror{j} be not once conquered?{k} Are we not part and parcel in Thee? Who — who knoweth the mysteries of the will with its vigor? Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.”(22)

And now, as if exhausted with emotion, she suffered her white arms to fall, and returned solemnly to her bed of Death.{l} And as she breathed her last sighs,{m} there came mingled with them{n} a low murmur from her lips. I bent to them my ear{o} and distinguished, again, the concluding words of the passage in Glanvill —{p}Man [page 320:] doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.

She died; —{q} and I, crushed into the very dust with sorrow, could no longer endure the lonely desolation of my dwelling in the dim and decaying city by the Rhine. I had no lack of what the world calls{r} wealth.{s} Ligeia had brought me far more, very far more{t} than {uu}ordinarily falls{uu} to the lot of mortals. After a few months, therefore, of weary and aimless wandering, I purchased, and put in some repair, an abbey, which I shall not name, in one of the wildest and least frequented portions of fair England. The gloomy and dreary grandeur of the building, the almost savage aspect of the domain, the many melancholy and time-honored memories connected with both,{v} had much in unison with the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into that remote and unsocial{w} region of the country. Yet{x} although the external abbey, with its verdant decay hanging about it, suffered but little alteration, I gave way,{y} with a child-like perversity, and perchance with a faint hope of alleviating my sorrows, to a display of more than regal magnificence within.{z} For such follies,{a} even in childhood,{b} I had imbibed a taste,{c} and now they came back to me as if in the dotage of grief. Alas, I{d} feel how much even of incipient madness might have been discovered in the gorgeous and fantastic draperies, in the solemn carvings of Egypt, in the wild cornices and furniture,{e} in the Bedlam{f} patterns of the carpets of tufted gold! I had became a bounden slave in the trammels of opium, and my labors and my orders had taken a coloring{g} from my dreams.(23) But these absurdities I must not pause to detail. Let me speak only of that one chamber, ever accursed, whither{h} in a moment of mental [page 321:] alienation, I led from the altar as my bride — as the successor of the unforgotten Ligeia — the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady{i} Rowena Trevanion, of Tremaine.(24)

There is no{j} individual portion of the architecture and decoration of that bridal chamber which is not now visibly before me. Where were the souls of the haughty family of the bride, when,{k} through thirst of gold, they permitted to pass the threshold of an apartment so bedecked, a maiden and a daughter so beloved? I have said{l} that I minutely remember the details of the chamber —{m} yet I am sadly forgetful on topics of deep moment —{n} and here there was no system, no keeping, in the fantastic display, to take hold upon the memory. The room lay in a high turret of the castellated abbey,{o} was pentagonal in shape,(25) and of capacious size. Occupying the whole southern face of the pentagon was the sole window — an immense sheet of unbroken glass from Venice — a single pane, and tinted of a leaden hue, so that the rays of either the sun or moon,{p} passing through it, fell with a ghastly lustre on{q} the objects within. Over the upper portion of this huge window,{r} extended the{s} trellice-work of an aged vine,{t} which clambered up the massy walls of the turret. The ceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively lofty, vaulted, and elaborately fretted with the wildest and most grotesque specimens of a semi-Gothic, semi-Druidical{u} device. From out the most central recess of this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain of gold{v} with long links, a huge censer of the same metal, Saracenic{w} in pattern, and with many perforations so contrived that there writhed in and out of them, as if endued with a serpent vitality, a continual succession of parti-colored{x} fires.

{y} Some few ottomans and golden candelabra,{z} of Eastern figure,{a} [page 322:] were in various stations about —{b} and there was the couch, too —{c} the bridal couch —{d} of an Indian model, and low, and sculptured of solid ebony, with a pall-like{e} canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamber{f} stood on end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, from the tombs of the kings over against Luxor,(26) with their aged lids full of immemorial sculpture. But in the draping of the apartment lay, alas! the chief phantasy of all. The lofty walls,{g} gigantic in height — even unproportionably so —{h} were hung from summit to foot, in vast folds,{i} with a heavy and massive-looking{j} tapestry — tapestry of a material which was found alike as a carpet on the floor, as a covering for the ottomans{k} and the ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as the gorgeous volutes of the curtains which partially shaded the window. The{l} material was the richest cloth of gold. It was spotted all over, at irregular intervals, with arabesque{m} figures, about{n} a foot in diameter, and wrought upon the cloth in patterns of the most jetty black. But these figures partook of the true character of the arabesque{o} only when regarded from a single point of view. By a contrivance now common, and indeed traceable to a very remote period of antiquity, they were made changeable in aspect. To one entering the room,{p} they bore the appearance of simple{q} monstrosities; but{r} upon a farther advance, this appearance gradually{s} departed; and{t} step by step, as the visiter{u} moved his station in the chamber, he saw himself surrounded by an endless succession of the ghastly forms which belong to the superstition of the Norman,{v} or arise in the guilty slumbers of the monk.(27) The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by the artificial introduction of a strong continual current of wind behind the draperies — giving a hideous{w} and uneasy animation{x} to the whole. [page 323:]

In halls such as these — in a bridal chamber such as this —{y} I passed, with the Lady{z} of Tremaine, the unhallowed hours of the first month of our marriage — passed them with but little disquietude. That my wife dreaded the fierce moodiness of my temper — that she shunned me{a} and loved me but little —{b} I could not help perceiving;{c} but it gave me rather pleasure than otherwise. I loathed her with a hatred belonging more to demon than to man. My memory flew back, (oh,{d} with what intensity of regret!) to Ligeia, the beloved, {ee}the august,{ee} the beautiful, the entombed. I revelled in recollections of her purity, of her wisdom, of her lofty, her ethereal nature, of her passionate, her idolatrous love. Now, then, did my spirit fully and freely burn with more than all the fires of her own. In the excitement of my opium dreams{f} (for I was habitually fettered in the{g} shackles of the drug){h} I would call aloud upon her name, during the silence of the night, or among the sheltered recesses of the glens by day, as if, through{i} the wild eagerness, the solemn passion, the consuming ardor{j} of my longing for the departed,{k} I could restore her{l} to the pathway{m} she had {nn}abandoned — ah, could it be forever?{o} — upon the earth.{nn}

About the commencement of the second month of the marriage, the Lady{p} Rowena was attacked with sudden illness,{q} from which her recovery was slow. The fever which consumed her{r} rendered her nights uneasy; and{s} in her perturbed{t} state of half-slumber, she spoke of sounds, and of motions, in and about the chamber of the turret,{u} which {vv}I concluded{vv} had no origin save in the distemper of her fancy, or perhaps{w} in the phantasmagoric{x} influences [page 324:] of the chamber itself. She became at length convalescent — finally{y} well. Yet but a brief period elapsed, ere a second more violent disorder again threw her upon a bed of suffering;{z} and from this attack her frame, at all times feeble, never altogether recovered. Her illnesses were, after this epoch,{a} of alarming character, and of more alarming recurrence, defying alike the knowledge and the great exertions of her physicians.{b} With the increase of the chronic disease{c} which had thus, apparently, taken too sure hold upon her constitution to be eradicated by human means, I could not fail to observe a similar increase in the nervous irritation{d} of her temperament, and in her excitability by trivial causes of fear.{e} She spoke again, and now more frequently and pertinaciously, of the sounds —{f} of the slight sounds —{g} and of the unusual motions among the tapestries,(28) to which she had formerly alluded.{h}

One night,{i} near the closing in of September, she{j} pressed this distressing subject with more than usual emphasis upon my attention. She had just awakened from an unquiet{k} slumber, and I had been watching, with feelings half of anxiety, half of a{l} vague terror, the workings of her emaciated countenance. I sat by the side of her ebony bed, upon one of the ottomans of India. She partly arose, and spoke, in an earnest low whisper, of sounds which she then heard, but which I could not hear —{m} of motions which she then saw, but which I could not perceive.(29) The wind was rushing hurriedly behind the tapestries, and I wished to show her (what,{n} let me confess it, I could not all believe) that those{o} almost inarticulate{p} breathings, and those{q} very gentle variations of the figures upon the wall, were but the natural effects of that customary rushing of the wind.{r} But a deadly pallor,{s} over-spreading her face, had proved [page 325:] to me that my exertions to reassure{t} her would be fruitless. She appeared to be fainting, and no attendants were within call. I remembered where was deposited a decanter of{u} light wine which had been ordered by her physicians, and hastened across the chamber to procure it. But, as I stepped beneath the light of the censer, two circumstances of a startling nature attracted my attention. I had felt that some palpable {vv}although invisible{vv} object had passed lightly by my person; and I saw that there lay {ww}upon the golden carpet, in the very middle of the rich lustre thrown from the censer, a shadow — a faint, indefinite shadow of angelic aspect — such as might be fancied for the shadow of a shade.{ww} (30) But I was wild with the excitement of an immoderate dose of opium, and heeded these things but little, nor spoke of them to Rowena. {xx}Having found{xx} the wine, I recrossed{y} the chamber, and poured out a goblet-ful,{z} which I held to the lips of the fainting lady. She{a} had now partially recovered, however,{b} and {cc}took the vessel herself,{cc} while I sank upon an{d} ottoman near me, with my eyes fastened{e} upon her person. It was then that I became distinctly aware of a gentle foot-fall{f} upon the carpet, and near the couch; and{g} in a second thereafter, as Rowena was in the act of raising the wine to her lips, I saw, or may have dreamed that I saw, fall within the goblet, as if from some invisible spring{h} in the atmosphere of the room, three or four large drops of a brilliant and ruby colored{i} fluid.(31) If this I saw — not so Rowena. She swallowed the wine unhesitatingly, and I forbore to speak to her of a circumstance which must, after all, I considered, have been but the suggestion of a vivid imagination, rendered morbidly active by the terror of the lady, by the opium, and by the hour. [page 326:]

Yet{j} I cannot conceal it from my own perception that,{k} {ll}immediately subsequent to the fall of the ruby-drops,{ll} a rapid change for the worse took place in the disorder of my wife;{m} so that, on the third subsequent night, the hands of her menials prepared her for the tomb, and on the fourth, I sat alone, with her shrouded body, in that fantastic{n} chamber which had received her as my bride.{o} Wild visions, opium-engendered,{p} flitted, shadow-like, before me. I gazed with unquiet eye (32) upon{q} the sarcophagi in the angles of the room, upon the varying figures of the drapery,{r} and upon the writhing of the parti-colored{s} fires in the censer overhead. My eyes then fell, as I called to mind the circumstances of a former night, to the spot beneath the glare of the censer where I had seen{t} the faint traces of the shadow. It was there, however, no longer;{u} and{v} breathing with greater freedom, I turned my glances to the pallid and rigid figure upon the bed. Then rushed upon me a thousand memories of Ligeia — and then came back upon my heart, with the turbulent violence of a flood, the whole of that unutterable wo{w} with which I had regarded her thus enshrouded. The night waned; and still, with a bosom full of bitter thoughts of the one only and supremely beloved, I remained gazing{x} upon the body of Rowena.

It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my revery.{y} I felt that it came from the bed of ebony — the bed of death. I listened in an agony of superstitious terror — but there was no repetition of the sound.{z} I strained my vision to detect any motion in the corpse —{a} but there was not the slightest{b} perceptible. Yet I could not have been deceived. I had{c} heard the noise, however faint, and my soul{d} was awakened within [page 327:] me.{e} I resolutely and perseveringly kept my attention riveted{f} upon the body. Many minutes elapsed before any circumstance occurred tending to throw light upon the mystery. At length it became evident that a slight, a very feeble,{g} and barely noticeable tinge of color{h} had flushed up within the cheeks, and along the sunken small veins of the eyelids. Through a species of unutterable horror and awe, for which the language of mortality has no sufficiently energetic expression, I felt{i} my heart cease to beat, my limbs grow rigid where I sat. Yet a sense of duty finally operated to restore my self-possession. I could no longer doubt that we had been precipitate in our preparations{j} — that Rowena still lived. It was necessary that some immediate exertion be made; yet the turret was altogether apart from the portion of the abbey{k} tenanted by the servants — there were none within call —{l} I had no means of summoning them to my aid without leaving the room for many minutes — and this I could not venture to do. I therefore struggled alone in my endeavors to call back the spirit still hovering. In a short period it was certain,{m} however, that a relapse had taken place; the color{n} disappeared from both eyelid and cheek, leaving a wanness even more than that of marble; the lips became doubly shrivelled and pinched up in the ghastly expression of death; a {oo}repulsive clamminess and coldness{oo} overspread rapidly the surface of the body;{p} and all the usual rigorous stiffness immediately supervened. I fell back with a shudder upon the couch{q} from which I had been so startlingly aroused, and again gave myself up to passionate waking visions of Ligeia.

An hour thus elapsed{r} when{s} (could it be possible?) I was a second time aware of some vague sound issuing from the region of the bed. I listened — in extremity of horror. The sound came again — it was a sigh. Rushing to the corpse, I saw — distinctly saw — a [page 328:] tremor upon the lips. In a minute afterward{t} they{u} relaxed, disclosing a bright line of the pearly teeth. Amazement now struggled in my bosom with the profound awe which had hitherto reigned there{v} alone. I felt that my vision grew dim, that my reason{w} wandered;{x} and it was only by a violent{y} effort that I at length succeeded in nerving myself to the task which duty {zz}thus once more had pointed out. There was now a partial glow upon the forehead and{a} upon the cheek and throat;{b} a perceptible warmth pervaded the whole frame;{c} there was even a slight pulsation at the heart. The lady lived;{d} and with redoubled ardor{e} I betook myself to the task of restoration. I chafed{f} and bathed the temples{g} and the hands, and used every exertion which experience, and no little medical reading, could suggest. But in vain. Suddenly, the color{h} fled, the pulsation ceased, the lips resumed the expression of the dead, and, in an instant afterward,{i} the whole body took upon itself the icy chilliness,{j} the livid hue, the intense rigidity, the sunken{k} outline, and all{l} the loathsome peculiarities of that which has been, for many days, a tenant of the tomb.

And again I sunk into visions of Ligeia — and again,{m} (what marvel that I shudder while I write?) again there reached my ears a low sob from the region of the ebony bed. But why shall I minutely detail the unspeakable horrors of that night? Why shall I pause to relate how, time after time, until near the period of the gray{n} dawn, this hideous drama of revivification{o} was repeated;{p} how each terrific relapse was only into a sterner and apparently more irredeemable death;{q} {rr}how each agony wore [page 329:] the aspect of a struggle with some invisible foe; and how each struggle was succeeded by I know not what of wild change in the personal appearance of the corpse?{rr} Let me hurry to a conclusion.

The greater part of the fearful{s} night had worn away, and {tt}she who had been dead,{tt} once{u} again stirred — and now more vigorously than hitherto, although arousing from a dissolution more appalling in its utter hopelessness than any. I had long ceased to struggle or to move, and remained sitting rigidly upon the ottoman, a helpless prey to a whirl of violent emotions, of which extreme awe was perhaps the least terrible, the least consuming. The corpse, I repeat, stirred, and{v} now more vigorously than before. The hues of life flushed up with unwonted energy into the countenance —{w} the limbs relaxed —{x} and, save{y} that the eyelids were yet pressed heavily together, and that the bandages and draperies of the grave still imparted their charnel{z} character to the figure, I might have dreamed that Rowena had indeed shaken off, utterly, the fetters of Death. But if this idea was not, even then, altogether adopted, I could at least{a} doubt no longer, when, arising from the bed, tottering, with feeble steps, with closed eyes, and with the manner{b} of one bewildered it a dream, {cc}the thing that was enshrouded advanced bodily{d} and palpably into the middle of the apartment.{cc}

I trembled{e} not — I stirred not — for a crowd of unutterable fancies connected with the air,{f} the stature,{g} the demeanor{h} of the figure, rushing hurriedly{i} through my brain, {jj}had paralyzed —{k} had chilled me into stone.{jj} I stirred not — but gazed upon {ll}the apparition.{ll} [page 330:] There was a mad disorder in my thoughts — a tumult unappeasable. Could it, indeed, be the living Rowena who confronted me? {mm} Could it indeed be Rowena at all — the fair-haired, the blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine?{mm} Why, why should I doubt it? The bandage lay heavily about the mouth — but then {nn}might it not be{nn} the mouth of the breathing Lady{o} of Tremaine?{p} And the cheeks — there were the roses as in her noon of life{q} — yes, these {rr}might indeed be{rr} the fair cheeks of the living Lady{s} of Tremaine. And the chin, with its dimples, as in health, {tt}might it not be hers?{tt} — but{u} had she then grown taller since her malady? What inexpressible madness seized me with that thought? One bound, and I had reached her feet! Shrinking from my touch, she let fall from her head{v} the ghastly cerements which had confined it, and there streamed forth, into the rushing atmosphere of the chamber, huge masses of long and dishevelled{v’} hair; it{w} was blacker than the{x} wings of the{y} midnight!(33) And now {zz}slowly opened the eyes{zz} of the figure which stood before me. “Here then,{a} at least,” I shrieked aloud, “can I never — can I never be mistaken — these are the full, and the black, and the wild eyes —{b} {cc}of my lost love —{cc} of the lady{d} — of the LADY{e} LIGEIA!”{f}

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 310:]

Motto:  vigor / vigour (A)

a  where (A)

b  Lady (B, C)

c  suffering. Or, / suffering: or, (A)

d  caste (G) misprint

e  low, (A, B, C)

f  paces, (A)

g  progressive, (A, B, C, G)

h  know (A)

ii . . . ii  most (A, B) changed in C

jj . . . jj  speak — that they are (A, B) changed in C

k  Omitted (A, B, C)

l  nature, (A)

m  else, (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 311:]

n  Ligeia, (A)

o  eventually (A, B, C)

p  affection (A, B, C)

q  And (A)

r  wan, (A, B, C)

s  ill-omened (D)

t  faileth (A, B) changed in C

u  First italicized in C

v  and (A, B, C)

w  days (A, B, C)

x  pourtray (A)

y  ease (A)

z  demeanour, (A)

a  like (A, B, C)

b  study, (G)

c  delicate (A, B, C)

d  opium dream / opium-dream (G)

e  Heathen. (A)

ff . . . ff  saith VerĂ¼lam, Lord Bacon, (A); the umlaut also appears in B, C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 312:]

g  proportions.” (A, B, C,D)

h  Omitted (A, B, C,D)

i  regularity, (A, B, C)

j  irregularity, (A, B, C)

k  divine! — the / divine. The (A)

l  rivaling (A)

m  breadth (A)

n  temples, (A, B, C)

o  “hyacinthine;” (A)

p  was (A, B, C)

q  nostril (A, B, C,D)

r  repose (A)

s  colour (A)

t  back (D)

u  serene, (A, B, C)

v  radian, (D) misprint

w  fulness (A, B, C, G)

x  Greek, (A); Greek, — (B, C)

y  god (B, C, D, G)

z  dream (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 313:]

a  VerĂ¼lam (A, B, C)

b  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

c  even far (A, B, C, D)

d  Gazelle (A, B) changed in C

e  Nourjabad. (A)

f  colour (A); color (B, C)

g  and (A, B, C)

h  them (A, B, C)

i  hue. (A, B, C)

j  I have (A)

k  eyes of my Ligeia (A); eyes (B, C)

l  colour, (A)

m  feature, (A)

n  How, (A, B, C)

o  mid-summer (A)

p  After this: Not for a moment was the unfathomable meaning of their glance, by day or by night, absent from my soul. (A, B, C)

q  believe (A)

r  that (A, B, C)

s  endeavours (A)

t  forgotten (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 314:]

u  remembrance (A, B, C)

v  thus, (A, B, C)

w  of the secret of (A, B, C)

x  utterly (A)

y  depart. (A, B, C,D)

z  derived (A)

a  sentiment, (A)

b  around (E, F) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D; around, (G)

c  me, (G)

d  recognised (G)

e  After this: in the commonest objects of the universe. It has flashed upon me (A, B, C,D)

f  ocean, (A, B, D); ocean — (C)

g  Lyra,) (G)

h  which, (A; parentheses omitted)

i  sentiment. — (A); sentiment, — (B, C); sentiment: (G)

j  but (A, B) changed in C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 315:]

k  years (G)

l  connexion (A, B, C)

m  the old (A, B) changed in C

n  speech (A)

o  Omitted (A, B, C)

p  known (B, C)

q  ever placid (A)

r  me, (A, B, C)

s  distinctness, (G)

t  voice, (A, B, C)

u  energy, (A)

v  utterance) / utterance,) (G)

w  Omitted (A, B, C)

x  Omitted (A, B, C)

y  In all (A)

z  abstruse, (A, B, C,D)

a  singularly, (A, B) changed in C

b  period, (A)

c  had (A, B, C)

d  woman — but where / woman. Where (A, B, C)

e  who, like her, (A, B) changed in C

f  natural, (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 316:]

g  astounding — (A, B) changed in C

h  me, (A)

i  sought for (A, B, C)

j  known (A)

k  slow but very perceptible (A); slow but perceptible (B, C, D)

l  path (A)

m  onwarc (E, F) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D, G

n  flee (A, B) changed in C

oo . . . oo  Letters, lambent and golden, grew duller than Saturnian lead [, (B)] wanting the radiant lustre of her eyes. (A, B) changed in C

p  poured. (A)

q  eye (A, B, C)

r  grave — (A, B) changed in C; grave; (D, G)

s  sunk (A, B, C)

t  die; (C)

u  Ligeia (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 317:]

v  terrors — (A, B); terrors; (C, G)

w  Ligeia (A)

x  dark shadow. (A, B, C)

y  but (A, B, C)

z  life (A, B, C, G)

a  life, (A, B, C)

bb . . . bb  for an instant, (A, B, C); until the last instant, (D)

c  quietly uttered / quietly-uttered (A, B, C, D)

d  hearkened (E, F) comma added from A, B, C, D, G

e  Ligeia (A)

f  me, (A, B, C)

g  her’s, (G) misprint

h  intensity (A)

i  overflowings (A, B, C,D)

j  confessions? — how / confessions. — How (A)

k  alas, (A)

l  bestowed; (A)

m  recognised (A, B, C, G)

n  longing, (A, G)

o  desire, (G)

p  intensity (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 318:]

q  pourtray (A)

rr . . . rr  to express. (A); of expression. (D)

ss . . . ss  This material, including the first paragraph, the poem, and the two succeeding paragraphs, was introduced in D. This extensive addition took the place of the following passage in A, B, C:

Methinks I again behold the terrific struggles of her lofty, her nearly idealized nature, with the might and the terror, and the majesty [, (B, C)] of the great Shadow. But she perished. The giant will succumbed to a power more stern. And I thought, as I gazed upon the corpse, of the wild passage in Joseph Glanvill. [: (B, C)] “The will therein lieth which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will. [” (B, C)]

t  her. (G)

u  these: — (G)

v  drown’d (D)

w  fly; (G)

x  chas’d (D)

y  forever more, (D); for evermore, (G)

z  spot; (G)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 319:]

a  Madness, (D, G)

b  Sin (G)

c  horror, (G)

d  plot! (G)

e  rout (G)

f  And, (D)

g  storm — (G)

h  hero, (G)

i  conqueror (G)

j  conqueror (G)

k  unconquered? (D) misprint

l  death. (G)

m  sighs (D)

n  them, (D)

o  ear, (G)

p  Glanvill: — (G)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 320:]

q  died — (A, B) changed in C; died: — (G)

r  terms (A, B, C)

s  wealth — (A, B) changed in C

t  more, (A, B, C, G)

uu . . . uu  falls ordinarily (A, B, C,D)

v  both (G)

w  musical (A)

x  Yet, (A)

y  way (A)

z  within. — (E, F) End of line dash deleted editorially.

a  follies (A, B, C,D)

b  childhood (A, B, C,D)

c  taste (E, F) comma added from all other texts. The space beside this word, which is at the end of a line, in the Broadway Journal, indicates that a comma may have fallen out.

d  I now (A)

e  furniture of Arabesque, (A)

f  bedlam (A, B, C,D)

g  colouring (A)

h  whither, (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 321:]

i  lady (A)

j  not any (A, B, C)

k  when (D)

l  said, (G)

m  chamber; (C)

n  moment; (G)

o  abbey (D)

p  moon (G)

q  upon (A, B, C,D)

r  window (A, B, C)

s  the open (A, B, C)

t  vine (A, B, C,D)

u  semi-druidical (A); semi-Druidicial (D) misprint

v  gold, (A, B, C)

w  Arabesque (A); Sarcenic (D) misprint

x  parti-coloured (A)

y  No paragraph division in A, B, C

z  candelabras (A); candelabra (B, C)

a  figure (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 322:]

b  about; (G)

c  too, (A, B, C)

d  couch, (A, B, C)

e  Omitted (A, B, C)

f  chamber, (A, B, C,D)

g  walls — (A, B) changed in C

h  so, (A, B) changed in C

i  folds (A)

j  massy looking (A); massive looking (B, C, D)

k  ottomans, (A)

l  This (A, B, C,D)

m  Arabesque (A)

n  of about (A, B, C)

o  Arabesque (A)

p  room (A, B, C,D)

q  ideal (A)

r  but, (A, B, C,D)

s  suddenly (A, B, C)

t  and, (A, B, C, D, G)

u  visitor (D)

v  Northman, (A, B, C,D)

w  hidious (A) misprint

x  vitality (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 323:]

y  this, (A)

z  lady (A)

a  me, (A, B, C, D, G)

b  little, (A)

c  perceiving — (A, B) changed in C

d  oh (A)

ee . . . ee  Omitted (A, B, C)

f  dreams, (G)

g  the iron (A, B, C)

h  drug,) (G); parentheses omitted (A)

i  by (A)

j  intensity (A)

k  departed Ligeia, (A, B) changed in C

l  the departed Ligeia (A, B) changed in C

m  pathways (A)

nn . . . nn  abandoned upon earth. (A, B, C)

o  for ever? (D, G)

p  lady (A)

q  illness (A, B, C,D)

r  her, (A, G)

s  uneasy; and / uneasy, and, (A, B, C)

t  pertubed (E) misprint, corrected in F

u  turret (A, D)

vv . . . vv  Omitted (A, B, C)

w  or perhaps / or, perhaps, (A, B, C,D)

x  phantastic (B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 324:]

y  finally, (G)

z  suffering — (A, B) changed in C

a  period, (A)

b  medical men. (A, B, C)

c  disease, (G)

d  irritability (A)

e  After this: Indeed reason seemed fast tottering from her throne. (A, B, C)

f  sounds, (A, B) changed in C

g  sounds, (A, B) changed in C

h  No paragraph division (A)

i  It was one night (A); One night (B, C, D)

j  when she (A)

k  an unquiet / a perturbed (A)

l  Omitted (G)

m  hear, (A, B) changed in C

n  what (D)

o  those faint, (A, B, C)

p  articulate, (A)

q  the (A, B, C)

r  wind. / wind (D) period dropped

s  pallor (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 325:]

t  re-assure (A)

u  of some (A, B, C)

vv . . . vv  Omitted (A, B, C)

ww . . . ww  a faint, indefinite shadow upon the golden carpet, in the very middle of the rich lustre thrown from the censer. (A, B, C; but B and C omit the first comma and A omits the second)

xx . . . xx  Finding (A, B, C,D)

y  re-crossed (A)

z  gobletful, (B, C)

a  But she (A)

b  however, omitted (A)

cc . . . cc  took, herself, the vessel, (A, B, C); took the vessel herself (D)

d  the (A, B, C,D)

e  rivetted (A, B, C)

f  gentle foot-fall / gentle-footfall (D)

g  and, (A, B, C)

h  spring, (D)

i  ruby colored / ruby-colored (B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 326:]

j  Yet — (B, C)

k  my own perception that, / myself, (A); myself — (B, C)

ll . . . ll  after this period, (A, B, C)

m  wife, (A)

n  fantastical (A)

o  bride. — (E, F, G) End of line dash deleted editorially.

p  opium engendered, (A, B, C)

q  upcn (E, F) misprint, not corrected in F

r  draperry, (E) misprint, corrected in F

s  particolored (B, C)

t  beheld (A, B, C)

u  longer, (A, B, C,D)

v  and, (A, B, C)

w  woe (A)

x  with mine eyes rivetted (A, B, C)

y  revery. — (E, F) End of line dash deleted editorially.

z  sound; (A, B) changed in C

a  corpse, (A, B, C)

b  slightest, (D)

c  had (A)

d  whole soul (A, B, C,D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 327:]

e  me, as (A, B, C)

f  rivetted (A, B, C)

g  faint, (A, B, C)

h  colour (A)

i  felt my brain reel, (A, B) changed in C

j  preparations for interment (A, B, C,D)

k  Abbey (A, B, C)

l  call, and (A); call, — (B, C)

m  was certain, / became evident (A)

n  color utterly (A, B, C)

oo . . . oo  coldness surpassing that ice, (A)

p  body, (A)

q  ottoman (A)

r  elapsed, (G)

s  when, (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 328:]

t  after (A); after, (B, C); afterward, (D)

u  they slightly (A, B, C)

v  therein (A, B, C)

w  brain (A)

x  wandered, (A, B, C,D)

y  convulsive (A, B, C)

zz . . . zz  thus, once more, (A, B, C,D)

a  forehead and / forehead, (A)

b  throat — (A, B, C)

c  frame — (A, B, C)

d  lived; (A, B, C)

e  ardour (A)

f  chafed, (A)

g  temples, (A)

h  colour (A)

i  afterwards, (A, B, C)

j  chillness, (A, B, C); chileness, (D) misprint

k  snnken (D) misprint

l  each and all of (A, B, C); ell (D) misprint

m  again (A)

n  grey (A)

o  revivication (D, E, G) corrected in F

p  repeated, and (A, B) changed in C

q  death? (A, B)

rr . . . rr  Added in C where the insertion was italicized and with some invisible foe was omitted

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 329:]

s  fearfnl (E, F) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D, G

tt . . . tt  the corpse of Rowena (A, B, C)

u  one (G) misprint

v  Canceled (C)

w  countenance, (C)

x  relaxed, (C)

y  and, save / save (C)

z  charnal (A) misprint

a  could at least / could, at least, (A, B, C)

b  air (A)

cc . . . cc  the lady of Tremaine stood bodily and palpably before me. (A); the Lady of Tremaine advanced bodily and palpably into the middle of the apartment. (B, C)

d  boldly (E, G) misprint, corrected in F

e  spoke (C)

f  air — (C)

g  A, B, and C omit the stature,

h  demeanour (A)

i  hurridly (E) misprint, corrected in F

jj . . . jj  had sent the purple blood ebbing in torrents from the temples to the heart. (A)

k  paralyzed, (B) changed in C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 330:]

ll . . . ll  her who was before me. (A)

mm . . . mm  Omitted (A, B, C)

nn . . . nn  it was (A, B); was it not (C)

o  lady (A)

p  Tremaine. (A, B, D) changed in C but not followed in D

q  health (A)

rr . . . rr  were indeed (A, B, C)

s  lady (A)

tt . . . tt  was it not hers? (A, B, C)

u  but — but (A)

v  head, unloosened, (A, B, C, D, E, G) changed in F

v’ disshevelled (E, F) misprint

w  hair; it / hair. It (A, B, C)

x  the raven (A, B, C, D, E, G) changed in F

y  Omitted (G)

zz . . . zz  the eyes opened (A, B, C)

a  then (A)

b  eyes (A, B)

cc . . . cc  Omitted (A, B, C)

d  Lady (G)

e  lady (A, C); Lady (B, D)

f  Ligeia!” (A, B, C); LIGEIA.” (G)

 


[page 330, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  The name is the feminine (λιγεια) of the Homeric Greek adjective ligys (λιγυς), meaning canorous, high-sounding, clear-toned, or shrill. It was used as the name of a spirit in “Al Aaraaf,” II, 112, whom Henry B. Hirst, writing under Poe’s supervision in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, explained [page 331:] as a “personification of music.” The name Ligea was borne by a dryad in Vergil’s Georgics, IV, 336, and this is probably the significant connection in Poe’s poem. It was also the name of a siren, mentioned by Milton, Comus, line 880, and in the story this may be in Poe’s mind.

Motto:  This has never been found. Although the Glanvill quotation in “A Descent into the Maelström” is genuine, that in “Ligeia” is essential to the plot, and hence Poe may have made it up.

1.  Ligeia in the story is a magician or alchemist, and in view of the destruction of Morella, when her name was known, we may discern here a hint that perhaps Ligeia, cautiously, never revealed her real name. Her lack of a remembered family name, despite her noble ancestry, suggests that she may have been of Jewish origin and hence had none. Maxwell Morton, in A Builder of the Beautiful (1928), p. 58, has pointed out that Ligeia is described as resembling the poet’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, who had a Hebraic nose and large dark eyes. This is hardly accidental, for her son, despite his lack of a conscious memory of her, owned her miniature portrait, and revered her memory.

For “wife of my bosom,” a phrase also used in “The Black Cat,” compare Deuteronomy 13:6 and 28:54.

2.  Ashtophet was, according to Rees’s Cyclopaedia, a goddess of the Sidonians. In mythology she has been identified with, or assimilated to, Ashtoreth (see 2 Kings 23:13), Astarte, Aphrodite, and eventually Venus. See “The Duc de L’Omelette” above, at note 16, and compare Poe’s poems “Eulalie” and “Ulalume” and my notes on them in volume I of this edition.

3.  Poe obviously had in mind the following from “A Manuscript Found in a Madhouse” in Bulwer’s Conversations with an Ambitious Student. . . . p. 200 “. . . her face was an angel’s. Oh! lovelier far than the visions of the Carian, or the shapes that floated before the eyes of the daughters of Delos.” Poe had a similar phrase in a canceled passage in “Silence — A Fable,” and must have supposed that the reference was to dreams by night, although Buiwer perhaps had in mind visions inspiring the sculptors of the statues of Aphrodite at Cnidus in Caria, and of Apollo and Artemis at Delos.

4.  Bacon (Essays, number 43, “Of Beauty”) said: “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” Poe was fond of these words. When he quoted them in the “Anastatic Printing” (BJ, April 12, 1845), he said, as he does here, that “the remark is equally applicable to all the forms of beauty.” He used the remark with a humorous turn in a canceled passage in “The Man That Was Used Up” (Burton’s, August 1839); in referring to poetry in a review of William Ellery Channing (Graham’s, August 1843) and a passage on Shelley in the review of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett’s The Drama of Exile (BJ, Jan. 4, 11, 1845); and in a discussion of rhyme in “Marginalia,” number 147 (Graham’s, March 1846). Where Bacon has “excellent,” Poe wrote “exquisite.” See also “The Landscape Garden” at note 13.

5.  The “gentle prominence” phrenologists thought to signify love of life; see Edward Hungerford, “Poe and Phrenology” (AL, November 1930).

6.  For hyacinthine locks compare “The Visionary” at note 6, and see my [page 332:] notes on Poe’s poem “To Helen.” Poe referred to the medallions of the Hebrews in canceled passages in early versions of “The Visionary” (“The Assignation”) and of “Mystification” at note 8. In his day numismatists called Jewish silver shekels “medallions,” and these have graceful outlines, but not of human figures — something one suspects Poe did not know. Walter Blair suggested the sculptured medallions portraying Jewish captives on the Arch of Titus in Rome.

7.  Cleomenes, son of Apollodorus the Athenian, is named in its epigraph as the sculptor of the Venus de Medici. The inscription is generally regarded as a Renaissance forgery, although Pliny refers to a sculptor named Cleomenes in the Natural History, XXVI, 4. Poe apparently knew some story that the statue was modeled on a vision, and refers to it also in a canceled passage in “The Visionary”; in a review of Sophocles’ Antigone (BJ, April 12, 1845); and in “Marginalia,” number 186 (Graham’s, December 1846, p. 312).

8.  The allusion is to The History of Nourjahad by “Sidney Biddulph” (Mrs. Frances Sheridan). Professor G. H. Gerould referred me to a Dublin edition of 1767, pp. 34 and 44; “All parts of the earth shall be explored for women of the most exquisite beauty,” and Nourjahad’s “seraglio was soon adorned with a number of the most beautiful female slaves. . . . whom he purchased at vast expense.” A melodrama, Illusion, or the Trance of Nourjahad, was produced at Drury Lane, May 25, 1813.

9.  The Houris of the Mahometan Paradise, made of pure musk instead of clay, like mortals, have white skin and black eyes; the name is derived from the eyes. Poe mentions them also in “Israfel” and “The Oval Portrait.”

10.  Compare Poe’s quotation from Glanvill introduced in 1845 as the motto for “A Descent into the Maelström:” The idea that Truth lies at the bottom of a well Poe may have found in the article on Democritus in Rees’s Cyclopaedia (39 v., London, 1819). It has been ascribed to Democritus on the basis of a fragment — “Of truth we know nothing, for truth is in the depths” — quoted by Diogenes Laertius (Pyrrho, Book IX, section 72) and others. Poe alluded to the idea, though not to Democritus, in “Letter to Mr. ——,” introductory to Poems (1831), and in other places. See “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” at note 29.

11.  The twins of Leda, mentioned also in “A Valentine” addressed to Frances Sargent Osgood, are the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. Poe presumably knew a reference to “the Ledean stars, so famed for love” quoted from Cowley by Isaac D’Israeli in the chapter on “Literary Friendships” in Curiosities of Literature.

12.  All the natural phenomena named are types of mortality and change. There is another list in the early poem called “Stanzas.”

13.  Compare the expression of the captain — “the intense, the wonderful, the thrilling evidence of old age” — in “MS. Found in a Bottle,” at note 19.

14.  The bright star in Lyra — Alpha Lyrae — is Vega. The changeable star Poe means is Epsilon Lyrae, a double double star changing in brightness several times an hour. Lyra (the Harp) is a northern constellation between Hercules and Cygnus. [page 333:]

15.  The vast learning of Ligeia may be compared with that of Morella (and, by some, with that of Pierre Bon-Bon). It must trouble those who would find the model for Poe’s heroines in his wife.

16.  Compare “To Marie Louise,” line 23, “Gazing, entranced adown the gorgeous vista.” For forbidden knowledge see Genesis, chapters 2 and 3. Here, however, alchemy is meant.

17.  See Proverbs 23:5: “. . . riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away, as an eagle toward heaven.”

18.  Transcendentalism here means belief in intuitive knowledge.

19.  Saturnia is a poetic name for Italy — see Vergil’s Georgics, II, 173 Italian lead is graphite, than which few things are duller. “Saturn” is the name for lead in alchemy, but Poe’s allusion is more pointed.

20.  Azrael, the Mahometan angel of death, is also mentioned in “Metzengerstein”; Politian, IX, 4; and “Mesmeric Revelation.” There is, here and in the third sentence below, an allusion to Hercules who wrestled with Thanatos (Death) to rescue Alcestis.

21.  Compare Edward C. Pinkney, “A Health,” line 6: “And something more than melody dwells ever in her words.” Compare also “The Raven,” line 26, for “dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

22.  The insertion of the poem with its accompanying paragraphs is the indication that Ligeia’s struggle cannot succeed. When the poem made its first appearance in the story, the New World carried on another page the following comment:

LIGEIA. — We call attention to the powerful tale in this number of our paper by Edgar A. Poe, entitled LIGEIA. The force and boldness of the conception and the high artistic skill, with which the writer’s purpose is wrought out, are equally admirable. Mark the exquisite art, which keeps constantly before the reader the ruined and spectre-haunted mind of the narrator, and so suggests a possible explanation of the marvels of the story, without in the least weakening its vigor as an exposition of the mystical thesis which the tale is designed to illustrate and enforce.

The story will be, we presume, entirely new to most of our readers. It appeared we believe originally in England, in a volume of which only a small edition was printed. The volume is now out of print. We suggest that some of our enterprising publishers would do well in giving it to the public without delay. In our copy of LIGEIA, the author has put the last hand to his work, and improved it by several important changes and additions. In its present form it has not seen the light before. We shall have the pleasure of laying before our readers hereafter other similar contributions from the same source.

No authoritative record of the English printing mentioned has been found. The poem itself is discussed in detail in the collection of Poems in this edition, I, 323-328.

23.  The use of opium is, as usual with Poe, prefatory to a preternatural story.

24.  Rowena is the name of the blonde heroine of Scott’s Ivanhoe. Trevanion probably is from Trevena, a name for Tintagel in Cornwall, associated [page 334:] with Arthurian romance and magic. [It has also been pointed out (B. Pollin, London N & Q, September 1970) that Trevanion was the name of Byron’s grandmother.] Tremaine is the name of a novel by R. P. Ward, mentioned in “Marginalia,” number 221 (SLM, May 1849, p. 295), and discusssed in Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, II, x.

25.  The pentagon (preferably drawn without lifting the pen) is a powerful figure in magic, and the shape of the chamber is significant.

26.  Luxor, on the Nile in Upper Egypt near ancient Thebes, site of the great temple built by Amenhotep III and Ramses II, is mentioned again in “Some Words with a Mummy.”

27.  In referring to the superstition of the Norman, Poe has in mind Bulwer’s “Manuscript Found in a Madhouse” (cited in n. 3 above), p. 201: “I told her that I was more hideous than the demons which the imagination of a Northern savage had ever bodied forth.”

28.  Compare, for the eerie effect of wind rustling tapestries, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

29.  Compare lines in Thomas Tickell’s once widely known ballad ghost story, “Colin and Lucy,” for “I hear a voice you cannot hear, that says I may not stay; / I see a hand you cannot see, which beckons me away.”

30.  See “The Raven,” lines 79-80, “The air grew denser, perfumed with an unseen censer / Swung by Seraphim.” “Shadow of a shade” recalls Hamlet, II, ii, 266, “A dream itself is but a shadow.”

31.  So good a critic as Vincent Buranelli, Edgar Allan Poe, p 73, supposed the drops to be poison, but they are rather a primary corporeal form attained by Ligeia’s spirit; and in themselves the elixir of life.

32.  Compare “MS. Found in a Bottle,” for “he pored, with a fiery unquiet eye.”

33.  Compare the change of the heroine’s hair (from natural causes) in “Berenicë.”

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 306:]

*  Poe’s comment is quoted in full in my notes on “To Helen Whitman” in this edition, I, 444.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 307:]

  Poe’s first letter has not survived. Its contents are surmised from Cooke’s reply, September 16, 1839 (Harrison, XVII, 49).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 308:]

  Roy P. Basler in College English, April 1944, and again in PMLA, December 1962, at the second place replying to James Schroeter in PMLA, September 1961. Schroeter, defending the romantic view, gives a good many references to the “literature,” and cites interpretations of the story as one of magic by Woodberry, Clayton Hamilton, and A. H. Quinn. Schroeter also refers to several psychological interpretations, of which only that of D. H. Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature (1953) is of much interest.

§  Muriel West pointed this out in Explicator, October 1963, and again in Comparative Literature, Winter 1964. In her later article she quoted Poe’s letter to Cooke of September 21, 1839 concerning “Ligeia”: “You read my inmost spirit ‘like a book,’ and with the single exception of D’Israeli, I have had communication with no other person who does.” She also suggested that Poe’s tale might owe something to D’Israeli’s romance “Mejnoun and Leila,” but her principal thesis is that Poe felt that he and Isaac D’Israeli had a common understanding of the exceptional relation between the heroine and the hero. She did not mention Poe’s “Eleonora,” in which more obvious similarities to D’Israeli’s tale might be descried.

 


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Notes:

Addendum:

In regard to the motto note, H. B. Hirst uses the same motto in The Penance of Roland (1849, p. 51), probably copied from Poe. A source for the motto from the writings of Joseph Glanvill has still not been identified, and it must be allowed, as TOM suggests, that it may be Poe’s own paraphrase or invention. In the introduction to a facsimile edition of Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions (originally printed in 1689), Coleman O. Parsons comments briefly on Poe’s motto:

Glanvill’s evocativeness to Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps verbal, atmospheric, and technical. The method by which Henry More, Joseph Glanvill, and other tendentious narrators intensified interest by linking comment to gruesome action, the rational to the irrational, is similar to Poe’s ratiocinative approach to abnormality and crime. The motto which Poe places at the head of “Ligeia” (1838), which he considered his best short story, is repeated in the text . . . Although Poe scholars have apparently not found this very unorthodox passage in Glanvill, the awesome speculation — and exemplification — which Poe associates with the quaint old writer is a measure of the power that he once excercised over the imagination. [Gainesville, Florida: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1966, pp. xvi-xvii]


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[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Ligeia)