The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Part 5 out of 5

_Monos._ Say, rather, a point in the vague infinity.
Unquestionably, it was in the Earth's dotage that I died. Wearied at
heart with anxieties which had their origin in the general turmoil
and decay, I succumbed to the fierce fever. After some few days of
pain, and many of dreamy delirium replete with ecstasy, the
manifestations of which you mistook for pain, while I longed but was
impotent to undeceive you - after some days there came upon me, as
you have said, a breathless and motionless torpor; and this was
termed Death by those who stood around me.

Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of
sentience. It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the extreme
quiescence of him, who, having slumbered long and profoundly, lying
motionless and fully prostrate in a midsummer noon, begins to steal
slowly back into consciousness, through the mere sufficiency of his
sleep, and without being awakened by external disturbances.

I breathed no longer. The pulses were still. The heart had ceased
to beat. Volition had not departed, but was powerless. The senses
were unusually active, although eccentrically so - assuming often
each other's functions at random. The taste and the smell were
inextricably confounded, and became one sentiment, abnormal and
intense. The rose-water with which your tenderness had moistened my
lips to the last, affected me with sweet fancies of flowers -
fantastic flowers, far more lovely than any of the old Earth, but
whose prototypes we have here blooming around us. The eyelids,
transparent and bloodless, offered no complete impediment to vision.
As volition was in abeyance, the balls could not roll in their
sockets but all objects within the range of the visual hemisphere
were seen with more or less distinctness; the rays which fell upon
the external retina, or into the corner of the eye, producing a more
vivid effect than those which struck the front or interior surface.
Yet, in the former instance, this effect was so far anomalous that I
appreciated it only as sound - sound sweet or discordant as the
matters presenting themselves at my side were light or dark in shade
- curved or angular in outline. The hearing, at the same time,
although excited in degree, was not irregular in action - estimating
real sounds with an extravagance of precision, not less than of
sensibility. Touch had undergone a modification more peculiar. Its
impressions were tardily received, but pertinaciously retained, and
resulted always in the highest physical pleasure. Thus the pressure
of your sweet fingers upon my eyelids, at first only recognised
through vision, at length, long after their removal, filled my whole
being with a sensual delight immeasurable. I say with a sensual
delight. All my perceptions were purely sensual. The materials
furnished the passive brain by the senses were not in the least
degree wrought into shape by the deceased understanding. Of pain
there was some little; of pleasure there was much; but of moral pain
or pleasure none at all. Thus your wild sobs floated into my ear with
all their mournful cadences, and were appreciated in their every
variation of sad tone; but they were soft musical sounds and no more;
they conveyed to the extinct reason no intimation of the sorrows
which gave them birth; while the large and constant tears which fell
upon my face, telling the bystanders of a heart which broke, thrilled
every fibre of my frame with ecstasy alone. And this was in truth the
Death of which these bystanders spoke reverently, in low whispers -
you, sweet Una, gaspingly, with loud cries.

They attired me for the coffin - three or four dark figures which
flitted busily to and fro. As these crossed the direct line of my
vision they affected me as forms; but upon passing to my side their
images impressed me with the idea of shrieks, groans, and other
dismal expressions of terror, of horror, or of wo. You alone, habited
in a white robe, passed in all directions musically about me.

The day waned; and, as its light faded away, I became possessed
by a vague uneasiness - an anxiety such as the sleeper feels when sad
real sounds fall continuously within his ear - low distant
bell-tones, solemn, at long but equal intervals, and mingling with
melancholy dreams. Night arrived; and with its shadows a heavy
discomfort. It oppressed my limbs with the oppression of some dull
weight, and was palpable. There was also a moaning sound, not unlike
the distant reverberation of surf, but more continuous, which,
beginning with the first twilight, had grown in strength with the
darkness. Suddenly lights were brought into the room, and this
reverberation became forthwith interrupted into frequent unequal
bursts of the same sound, but less dreary and less distinct. The
ponderous oppression was in a great measure relieved; and, issuing
from the flame of each lamp, (for there were many,) there flowed
unbrokenly into my ears a strain of melodious monotone. And when now,
dear Una, approaching the bed upon which I lay outstretched, you sat
gently by my side, breathing odor from your sweet lips, and pressing
them upon my brow, there arose tremulously within my bosom, and
mingling with the merely physical sensations which circumstances had
called forth, a something akin to sentiment itself - a feeling that,
half appreciating, half responded to your earnest love and sorrow;
but this feeling took no root in the pulseless heart, and seemed
indeed rather a shadow than a reality, and faded quickly away, first
into extreme quiescence, and then into a purely sensual pleasure as

And now, from the wreck and the chaos of the usual senses, there
appeared to have arisen within me a sixth, all perfect. In its
exercise I found a wild delight - yet a delight still physical,
inasmuch as the understanding had in it no part. Motion in the animal
frame had fully ceased. No muscle quivered; no nerve thrilled; no
artery throbbed. But there seemed to have sprung up in the brain,
that of which no words could convey to the merely human intelligence
even an indistinct conception. Let me term it a mental pendulous
pulsation. It was the moral embodiment of man's abstract idea of
Time. By the absolute equalization of this movement - or of such as
this - had the cycles of the firmamental orbs themselves, been
adjusted. By its aid I measured the irregularities of the clock upon
the mantel, and of the watches of the attendants. Their tickings came
sonorously to my ears. The slightest deviations from the true
proportion - and these deviations were omni-prævalent - affected me
just as violations of abstract truth were wont, on earth, to affect
the moral sense. Although no two of the time-pieces in the chamber
struck the individual seconds accurately together, yet I had no
difficulty in holding steadily in mind the tones, and the respective
momentary errors of each. And this - this keen, perfect,
self-existing sentiment of duration - this sentiment existing (as man
could not possibly have conceived it to exist) independently of any
succession of events - this idea - this sixth sense, upspringing from
the ashes of the rest, was the first obvious and certain step of the
intemporal soul upon the threshold of the temporal Eternity.

It was midnight; and you still sat by my side. All others had
departed from the chamber of Death. They had deposited me in the
coffin. The lamps burned flickeringly; for this I knew by the
tremulousness of the monotonous strains. But, suddenly these strains
diminished in distinctness and in volume. Finally they ceased. The
perfume in my nostrils died away. Forms affected my vision no longer.
The oppression of the Darkness uplifted itself from my bosom. A dull
shock like that of electricity pervaded my frame, and was followed by
total loss of the idea of contact. All of what man has termed sense
was merged in the sole consciousness of entity, and in the one
abiding sentiment of duration. The mortal body had been at length
stricken with the hand of the deadly Decay.

Yet had not all of sentience departed; for the consciousness and
the sentiment remaining supplied some of its functions by a lethargic
intuition. I appreciated the direful change now in operation upon the
flesh, and, as the dreamer is sometimes aware of the bodily presence
of one who leans over him, so, sweet Una, I still dully felt that you
sat by my side. So, too, when the noon of the second day came, I was
not unconscious of those movements which displaced you from my side,
which confined me within the coffin, which deposited me within the
hearse, which bore me to the grave, which lowered me within it, which
heaped heavily the mould upon me, and which thus left me, in
blackness and corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the

And here, in the prison-house which has few secrets to disclose,
there rolled away days and weeks and months; and the soul watched
narrowly each second as it flew, and, without effort, took record of
its flight - without effort and without object.

A year passed. The consciousness of being had grown hourly more
indistinct, and that of mere locality had, in great measure, usurped
its position. The idea of entity was becoming merged in that of
place. The narrow space immediately surrounding what had been the
body, was now growing to be the body itself. At length, as often
happens to the sleeper (by sleep and its world alone is Death imaged)
- at length, as sometimes happened on Earth to the deep slumberer,
when some flitting light half startled him into awaking, yet left him
half enveloped in dreams - so to me, in the strict embrace of the
Shadow came that light which alone might have had power to startle -
the light of enduring Love. Men toiled at the grave in which I lay
darkling. They upthrew the damp earth. Upon my mouldering bones there
descended the coffin of Una.

And now again all was void. That nebulous light had been
extinguished. That feeble thrill had vibrated itself into quiescence.
Many lustra had supervened. Dust had returned to dust. The worm had
food no more. The sense of being had at length utterly departed, and
there reigned in its stead - instead of all things - dominant and
perpetual - the autocrats Place and Time. For that which was not -
for that which had no form - for that which had no thought - for that
which had no sentience - for that which was soulless, yet of which
matter formed no portion - for all this nothingness, yet for all this
immortality, the grave was still a home, and the corrosive hours,

~~~ End of Text ~~~





I will bring fire to thee.

_Euripides - Androm:_


WHY do you call me Eiros?


So henceforward will you always be called. You must forget too,
my earthly name, and speak to me as Charmion.


This is indeed no dream!


Dreams are with us no more; - but of these mysteries anon. I
rejoice to see you looking life-like and rational. The film of the
shadow has already passed from off your eyes. Be of heart and fear
nothing. Your allotted days of stupor have expired and, to-morrow, I
will myself induct you into the full joys and wonders of your novel


True - I feel no stupor - none at all. The wild sickness and the
terrible darkness have left me, and I hear no longer that mad,
rushing, horrible sound, like the "voice of many waters." Yet my
senses are bewildered, Charmion, with the keenness of their
perception of the new.


A few days will remove all this; - but I fully understand you,
and feel for you. It is now ten earthly years since I underwent what
you undergo - yet the remembrance of it hangs by me still. You have
now suffered all of pain, however, which you will suffer in Aidenn.


In Aidenn?


In Aidenn.


Oh God! - pity me, Charmion! - I am overburthened with the
majesty of all things - of the unknown now known - of the speculative
Future merged in the august and certain Present.


Grapple not now with such thoughts. To-morrow we will speak of
this. Your mind wavers, and its agitation will find relief in the
exercise of simple memories. Look not around, nor forward - but back.
I am burning with anxiety to hear the details of that stupendous
event which threw you among us. Tell me of it. Let us converse of
familiar things, in the old familiar language of the world which has
so fearfully perished.


Most fearfully, fearfully! - this is indeed no dream.


Dreams are no more. Was I much mourned, my Eiros?


Mourned, Charmion? - oh deeply. To that last hour of all, there
hung a cloud of intense gloom and devout sorrow over your household.


And that last hour - speak of it. Remember that, beyond the naked
fact of the catastrophe itself, I know nothing. When, coming out from
among mankind, I passed into Night through the Grave - at that
period, if I remember aright, the calamity which overwhelmed you was
utterly unanticipated. But, indeed, I knew little of the speculative
philosophy of the day.


The individual calamity was as you say entirely unanticipated;
but analogous misfortunes had been long a subject of discussion with
astronomers. I need scarce tell you, my friend, that, even when you
left us, men had agreed to understand those passages in the most holy
writings which speak of the final destruction of all things by fire,
as having reference to the orb of the earth alone. But in regard to
the immediate agency of the ruin, speculation had been at fault from
that epoch in astronomical knowledge in which the comets were
divested of the terrors of flame. The very moderate density of these
bodies had been well established. They had been observed to pass
among the satellites of Jupiter, without bringing about any sensible
alteration either in the masses or in the orbits of these secondary
planets. We had long regarded the wanderers as vapory creations of
inconceivable tenuity, and as altogether incapable of doing injury to
our substantial globe, even in the event of contact. But contact was
not in any degree dreaded; for the elements of all the comets were
accurately known. That among them we should look for the agency of
the threatened fiery destruction had been for many years considered
an inadmissible idea. But wonders and wild fancies had been, of late
days, strangely rife among mankind; and, although it was only with a
few of the ignorant that actual apprehension prevailed, upon the
announcement by astronomers of a new comet, yet this announcement was
generally received with I know not what of agitation and mistrust.

The elements of the strange orb were immediately calculated, and
it was at once conceded by all observers, that its path, at
perihelion, would bring it into very close proximity with the earth.
There were two or three astronomers, of secondary note, who
resolutely maintained that a contact was inevitable. I cannot very
well express to you the effect of this intelligence upon the people.
For a few short days they would not believe an assertion which their
intellect so long employed among worldly considerations could not in
any manner grasp. But the truth of a vitally important fact soon
makes its way into the understanding of even the most stolid.
Finally, all men saw that astronomical knowledge lied not, and they
awaited the comet. Its approach was not, at first, seemingly rapid;
nor was its appearance of very unusual character. It was of a dull
red, and had little perceptible train. For seven or eight days we saw
no material increase in its apparent diameter, and but a partial
alteration in its color. Meantime, the ordinary affairs of men were
discarded and all interests absorbed in a growing discussion,
instituted by the philosophic, in respect to the cometary nature.
Even the grossly ignorant aroused their sluggish capacities to such
considerations. The learned now gave their intellect - their soul -
to no such points as the allaying of fear, or to the sustenance of
loved theory. They sought -- they panted for right views. They
groaned for perfected knowledge. Truth arose in the purity of her
strength and exceeding majesty, and the wise bowed down and adored.

That material injury to our globe or to its inhabitants would
result from the apprehended contact, was an opinion which hourly lost
ground among the wise; and the wise were now freely permitted to rule
the reason and the fancy of the crowd. It was demonstrated, that the
density of the comet's nucleus was far less than that of our rarest
gas; and the harmless passage of a similar visitor among the
satellites of Jupiter was a point strongly insisted upon, and which
served greatly to allay terror. Theologists with an earnestness
fear-enkindled, dwelt upon the biblical prophecies, and expounded
them to the people with a directness and simplicity of which no
previous instance had been known. That the final destruction of the
earth must be brought about by the agency of fire, was urged with a
spirit that enforced every where conviction; and that the comets were
of no fiery nature (as all men now knew) was a truth which relieved
all, in a great measure, from the apprehension of the great calamity
foretold. It is noticeable that the popular prejudices and vulgar
errors in regard to pestilences and wars - errors which were wont to
prevail upon every appearance of a comet - were now altogether
unknown. As if by some sudden convulsive exertion, reason had at once
hurled superstition from her throne. The feeblest intellect had
derived vigor from excessive interest.

What minor evils might arise from the contact were points of
elaborate question. The learned spoke of slight geological
disturbances, of probable alterations in climate, and consequently in
vegetation, of possible magnetic and electric influences. Many held
that no visible or perceptible effect would in any manner be
produced. While such discussions were going on, their subject
gradually approached, growing larger in apparent diameter, and of a
more brilliant lustre. Mankind grew paler as it came. All human
operations were suspended.

There was an epoch in the course of the general sentiment when
the comet had attained, at length, a size surpassing that of any
previously recorded visitation. The people now, dismissing any
lingering hope that the astronomers were wrong, experienced all the
certainty of evil. The chimerical aspect of their terror was gone.
The hearts of the stoutest of our race beat violently within their
bosoms. A very few days sufficed, however, to merge even such
feelings in sentiments more unendurable We could no longer apply to
the strange orb any accustomedthoughts. Its historical attributes had
disappeared. It oppressed us with a hideous novelty of emotion. We
saw it not as an astronomical phenomenon in the heavens, but as an
incubus upon our hearts, and a shadow upon our brains. It had taken,
with inconceivable rapidity, the character of a gigantic mantle of
rare flame, extending from horizon to horizon.

Yet a day, and men breathed with greater freedom. It was clear
that we were already within the influence of the comet; yet we lived.
We even felt an unusual elasticity of frame and vivacity of mind. The
exceeding tenuity of the object of our dread was apparent; for all
heavenly objects were plainly visible through it. Meantime, our
vegetation had perceptibly altered; and we gained faith, from this
predicted circumstance, in the foresight of the wise. A wild
luxuriance of foliage, utterly unknown before, burst out upon every
vegetable thing.

Yet another day - and the evil was not altogether upon us. It was
now evident that its nucleus would first reach us. A wild change had
come over all men; and the first sense of pain was the wild signal
for general lamentation and horror. This first sense of pain lay in a
rigorous constriction of the breast and lungs, and an insufferable
dryness of the skin. It could not be denied that our atmosphere was
radically affected; the conformation of this atmosphere and the
possible modifications to which it might be subjected, were now the
topics of discussion. The result of investigation sent an electric
thrill of the intensest terror through the universal heart of man.

It had been long known that the air which encircled us was a
compound of oxygen and nitrogen gases, in the proportion of twenty-
one measures of oxygen, and seventy-nine of nitrogen in every one
hundred of the atmosphere. Oxygen, which was the principle of
combustion, and the vehicle of heat, was absolutely necessary to the
support of animal life, and was the most powerful and energetic agent
in nature. Nitrogen, on the contrary, was incapable of supporting
either animal life or flame. An unnatural excess of oxygen would
result, it had been ascertained in just such an elevation of the
animal spirits as we had latterly experienced. It was the pursuit,
the extension of the idea, which had engendered awe. What would be
the result of a total extraction of the nitrogen? A combustion
irresistible, all-devouring, omni-prevalent, immediate; - the entire
fulfilment, in all their minute and terrible details, of the fiery
and horror-inspiring denunciations of the prophecies of the Holy

Why need I paint, Charmion, the now disenchained frenzy of
mankind? That tenuity in the comet which had previously inspired us
with hope, was now the source of the bitterness of despair. In its
impalpable gaseous character we clearly perceived the consummation of
Fate. Meantime a day again passed - bearing away with it the last
shadow of Hope. We gasped in the rapid modification of the air. The
red blood bounded tumultuously through its strict channels. A furious
delirium possessed all men; and, with arms rigidly outstretched
towards the threatening heavens, they trembled and shrieked aloud.
But the nucleus of the destroyer was now upon us; - even here in
Aidenn, I shudder while I speak. Let me be brief - brief as the ruin
that overwhelmed. For a moment there was a wild lurid light alone,
visiting and penetrating all things. Then - let us bow down Charmion,
before the excessive majesty of the great God! - then, there came a
shouting and pervading sound, as if from the mouth itself of HIM;
while the whole incumbent mass of ether in which we existed, burst at
once into a species of intense flame, for whose surpassing brilliancy
and all-fervid heat even the angels in the high Heaven of pure
knowledge have no name. Thus ended all.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow:

-- Psalm of David.

YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have
long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange
things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries
shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen,
there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few
who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with
a stylus of iron.

The year had been a year of terror, and of feelings more intense than
terror for which there is no name upon the earth. For many prodigies
and signs had taken place, and far and wide, over sea and land, the
black wings of the Pestilence were spread abroad. To those,
nevertheless, cunning in the stars, it was not unknown that the
heavens wore an aspect of ill; and to me, the Greek Oinos, among
others, it was evident that now had arrived the alternation of that
seven hundred and ninety-fourth year when, at the entrance of Aries,
the planet Jupiter is conjoined with the red ring of the terrible
Saturnus. The peculiar spirit of the skies, if I mistake not greatly,
made itself manifest, not only in the physical orb of the earth, but
in the souls, imaginations, and meditations of mankind.

Over some flasks of the red Chian wine, within the walls of a noble
hall, in a dim city called Ptolemais, we sat, at night, a company of
seven. And to our chamber there was no entrance save by a lofty door
of brass: and the door was fashioned by the artisan Corinnos, and,
being of rare workmanship, was fastened from within. Black draperies,
likewise, in the gloomy room, shut out from our view the moon, the
lurid stars, and the peopleless streets -- but the boding and the
memory of Evil they would not be so excluded. There were things
around us and about of which I can render no distinct account --
things material and spiritual -- heaviness in the atmosphere -- a
sense of suffocation -- anxiety -- and, above all, that terrible
state of existence which the nervous experience when the senses are
keenly living and awake, and meanwhile the powers of thought lie
dormant. A dead weight hung upon us. It hung upon our limbs -- upon
the household furniture -- upon the goblets from which we drank; and
all things were depressed, and borne down thereby -- all things save
only the flames of the seven lamps which illumined our revel.
Uprearing themselves in tall slender lines of light, they thus
remained burning all pallid and motionless; and in the mirror which
their lustre formed upon the round table of ebony at which we sat,
each of us there assembled beheld the pallor of his own countenance,
and the unquiet glare in the downcast eyes of his companions. Yet we
laughed and were merry in our proper way -- which was hysterical; and
sang the songs of Anacreon -- which are madness; and drank deeply --
although the purple wine reminded us of blood. For there was yet
another tenant of our chamber in the person of young Zoilus. Dead,
and at full length he lay, enshrouded; the genius and the demon of
the scene. Alas! he bore no portion in our mirth, save that his
countenance, distorted with the plague, and his eyes, in which Death
had but half extinguished the fire of the pestilence, seemed to take
such interest in our merriment as the dead may haply take in the
merriment of those who are to die. But although I, Oinos, felt that
the eyes of the departed were upon me, still I forced myself not to
perceive the bitterness of their expression, and gazing down steadily
into the depths of the ebony mirror, sang with a loud and sonorous
voice the songs of the son of Teios. But gradually my songs they
ceased, and their echoes, rolling afar off among the sable draperies
of the chamber, became weak, and undistinguishable, and so faded
away. And lo! from among those sable draperies where the sounds of
the song departed, there came forth a dark and undefined shadow -- a
shadow such as the moon, when low in heaven, might fashion from the
figure of a man: but it was the shadow neither of man nor of God, nor
of any familiar thing. And quivering awhile among the draperies of
the room, it at length rested in full view upon the surface of the
door of brass. But the shadow was vague, and formless, and
indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man nor of God -- neither
God of Greece, nor God of Chaldaea, nor any Egyptian God. And the
shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and under the arch of the
entablature of the door, and moved not, nor spoke any word, but there
became stationary and remained. And the door whereupon the shadow
rested was, if I remember aright, over against the feet of the young
Zoilus enshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen the
shadow as it came out from among the draperies, dared not steadily
behold it, but cast down our eyes, and gazed continually into the
depths of the mirror of ebony. And at length I, Oinos, speaking some
low words, demanded of the shadow its dwelling and its appellation.
And the shadow answered, "I am SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the
Catacombs of Ptolemais, and hard by those dim plains of Helusion
which border upon the foul Charonian canal." And then did we, the
seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and
shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were
not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and,
varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon
our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand
departed friends.


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