Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Tuesday 26 February 2013

The Haunted Palace

Here is the second in my series of ghostly poems. I had to include this classic, didn't I? Especially given the controversy surrounding the film of the same name ... more of that below.

The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace

Radiant palace reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion

It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
all this was in the olden
Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odour went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!
for never sorrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, lie a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh – but smile no more. 

I must admit I don't read much Poe, but I read this poem years ago after watching the film of the same name, and I loved it. I still do. It has good flow and rhythm, and is easy to read considering its vintage (it was first published in 1839). At the time I assumed the film had something to do with the poem, as it was one of Roger Corman's successful series of "Poe" films. Recently, however, I found out it was in fact based on an HP Lovecraft tale, The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Apparently, at the time the film was made – 1963 – no one thought much of Lovecraft, so Poe fitted the bill better. Minor changes were made to cater for this, and I don't suppose many people noticed. Nonetheless, a great film. I remember it as a stylish, atmospheric film with great cinematography and acting. The plot was a bit dodgy, but you wouldn't watch a '60s horror flick for the plot, now would you? I fancy seeing it again, come to think of it. You just can't beat a film with Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr. What more could you ask for?

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