Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Morella” (Text-01), incomplete manuscript, about 1835


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[front of page:]

MORELLA

Αυτο καθ’ αυτο μεθ’ αυτου, μονο ειδες αει [[αιει]] ον

Itself — alone by itself — eternally one and single.

PLATO — Symp.

WITH a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella. Thrown by accident into her society many years ago, my soul, from our first meeting, burned with fires it had never known. But the fires were not of Eros — and bitter and tormenting to my eager spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define their unusual meaning, or regulate their vague intensity. Yet we met, and Fate bound us together at the altar, and I never spoke of love, or dreamed of passion. She, however, shunned society and attaching herself to me alone rendered me happy. It is a happiness to wonder. It is a happiness to think.

Morella’s erudition was profound. As I hope for life her talents also were of no common order — her powers of mind were gigantic. I felt this, and in many matters became her pupil. Rare and rich volumes were opened for my use; but my wife, perhaps influenced by her Presburg education, laid before me, as I took occasion to remark, chiefly those speculative writings which have, from causes to me unknown, been neglected in these latter days, and thrown aside, whether properly or not, among the mass of that German morality which is indeed purely wild, purely vague, and at times purely fantastical. These — these speculative writings were, for what reasons I could not imagine, Morella’s favourite and constant study, and that in process of time they became my own should be attributed to the simple but effectual influence of habit and example. In all this, if I think aright, my powers of thought predominated. My convictions, or I forget myself, were in no manner acted upon by my imagination; nor was any tincture of the mysticism which I read to be discovered, unless I greatly err, either in my meditations or my deeds. Feeling deeply persuaded of this I abandoned myself more implicitly to the guidance of my wife, and entered with a bolder spirit into the intricacy of her studies. And then — then when poring over forbidden pages I felt the consuming thirst for the unknown, would Morella place her cold hand upon mine, and rake up from the ashes of a dead philosophy words whose singular import burned themselves in upon my memory: and then hour after hour would I linger by her side, and listen to the music of her thrilling voice, until at length its melody was tinged with terror, and I grew pale, and shuddered inwardly at those too unearthly tones — and thus, suddenly, Joy faded into Horror, and the most beautiful became the most hideous as Hinnon became Ge-Henna.

It is unnecessary to state the exact character of those disquisitions which, growing out of the volumes I have mentioned, formed for so long a time almost the sole conversation of Morella and myself. By the learned in what might be called theological morality they will be readily conceived, and by the unlearned they would at all events be little understood. The wild Pantheism of Fitche, the modified Παλιγγενεσια of the Pythagoreans, and above all the doctrines of Identity as urged by Schelling were the points of discussion presenting the most of beauty to the imaginative Morella. That kind of identity which is not improperly called ‘personal’ Mr Lock determines, truly I think, to consist in the sameness of a rational being. And since by person we understand an intelligent essence having reason, and since there is a consciousness which always accompanies thinking, it is this consciousness which makes every one to be that which he calls ‘himself’ — thereby distinguishing him from other beings that think, and giving him his personal identity. But the “principium individuationis”, the notion of that identity which at death is or is not lost forever was to me at all times a consideration of intense interest, not more from the exciting and mystical nature of its consequences, than from the marked and agitated manner in which Morella mentioned them.

But indeed the time had now arrived when my wife’s society oppressed me like a spell. I could no longer bear the touch of her wan fingers, nor the low tones of her musical language, nor the lustre of her eyes. And she knew all this, but did not upbraid: she seemed conscious of my weakness or my folly, and smiling called it — Fate. Yet she was woman, and pined away daily. In time the crimson spot settled steadily upon the cheek, and the blue veins upon the pale forehead became prominent: and one instant my nature melted into pity, but in the next I met the glance of her melancholy eyes, and my soul sickened and became giddy with the giddiness of one who gazes downwards into some dreary and fathomless abyss.

Shall I then say that I longed with an earnest and consuming desire for the moment of Morella’s decease? I did: but the fragile spirit clung to its tenement of clay for many days — for many weeks and irksome months — until at length my tortured nerves obtained the mastery over my mind, and I grew furious with delay, and with the heart of a fiend I cursed the hours and the bitter moments which seemed to lengthen and lengthen as her gentle life declined, like shadows in the dying of the day.

But one autumnal evening when the winds lay still in Heaven Morella called me to her side. It was that season when the beautiful Halcyon is nursed* — there was a dim mist over all the Earth, and a warm glow upon the waters, and amid the rich November leaves of the forest a rainbow from the firmament had surely fallen. As I came she was murmuring in a low under-tone which trembled with fervor some words of a catholic hymn.

Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes

Upon the sinner’s sacrifice

Of fervent prayer, and humble love,

From thy holy throne above.

 

At morn, at noon, at twilight dim

Maria! thou hast heard my hymn: [back of page:]

In Joy and Woe — in Good and Ill

Mother of God! be with me still.

 

When my hours flew gently by,

And no storms were in the sky,

My soul — lest it should truant be —

Thy love did guide to thine and thee.

 

Now — when clouds of Fate oe’rcast

All my Present, and my Past,

Let my Future radiant shine

With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

“It is a day of days” — said Morella — “a day of all days, either to live or die. It is a fair day for the sons of Earth and Life — ah! more fair for the daughters of Heaven and Death!” I turned towards her and she continued.

“I am dying — yet shall I live. Therefore for me, Morella, thy wife, hath the charnel-house no terrors — mark me! — not even the terrors of the worm. The days have never been when thou couldst love me; but her whom in life thou didst abhor in death thou shalt adore. I repeat that I am dying — but within me is a pledge of that affection — ah, how little! — which thou didst feel for me — Morella. And when my spirit departs shall the child live — thy child and mine, Morella’s. But thy days shall be days of sorrow — sorrow, which is the most lasting of impressions, as the cypress is the most enduring of trees. For the hours of thy happiness are past, and Joy is not gathered twice in a life, as the roses of Pæstum twice in a year. Thou shalt not, then, play the Teian with Time, but, being ignorant of the flowers and the vine, thou shalt walk the earth with thy shroud around thee, like Moslemin at Mecca”.

“How knowest thou this” — I demanded eagerly — “how knowest thou all this, Morella?” But she turned away her face upon the pillow, and a slight tremor coming over her limbs, she thus died, and I heard her voice no more.

Yet, as she had predicted, the child — to which in dying she had given life, and which breathed not till the mother breathed no more — the child, a daughter, lived. And she grew strangely in size, and in intelligence, and I loved her with a love more fervent and more holy than I thought it possible to feel on earth.


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Notes:

This fragment is all that Poe apparently wrote of this version, with about half of the lower portion of the back page remaining blank. No footnote appears to have been written for the reference in the sixth paragraph.

This manuscript is currently in the collection of the Huntington Library, San Mariono, CA (HM 1726). Poe is said to have given the unfinished manuscript to Mrs. Sarah P. Simmons, who lived on Amity Street, in Baltimore, MD.

A typographical error appears in Mabbott’s text (p. 226), where in the third paragraph of the story (beginning “It is unnecessary . . .”) the phrase “always accompanies thinking, it is this consciounsess . . .” appears as “always accompanies thinking, it it this consciounsess . . .” Mabbott also changes, without comment, the second to last word in the Greek portion of the motto from “αει,” as it clearly appears in the manuscript and is printed in the Southern Literary Messenger (although in transliteration), to “αιει,” as it appears in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque and thereafter.


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[S:1 - MS, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Tales - Morella (Text-01)