Friday, April 25, 2008

Edgar Allan Poe - Ligeia

Edgar Allan Poe has always been and will always be one of my favorite writers. And i cannot think of a better way to say goodmorning than with a story by the old master:

And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth themysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great willpervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yieldhimself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through theweakness of his feeble will. --Joseph Glanvill.
I Cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, Ifirst became acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have sinceelapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or, perhaps,I cannot now bring these points to mind, because, in truth, thecharacter of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placidcast of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of herlow musical language, made their way into my heart by paces sosteadily and stealthily progressive that they have been unnoticed andunknown. Yet I believe that I met her first and most frequently insome large, old, decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family -- Ihave surely heard her speak. That it is of a remotely ancient datecannot be doubted. Ligeia! Ligeia! in studies of a nature more thanall else adapted to deaden impressions of the outward world, it is bythat sweet word alone -- by Ligeia -- that I bring before mine eyesin fancy the image of her who is no more. And now, while I write, arecollection flashes upon me that I have never known the paternalname of her who was my friend and my betrothed, and who became thepartner of my studies, and finally the wife of my bosom. Was it aplayful charge on the part of my Ligeia? or was it a test of mystrength of affection, that I should institute no inquiries upon thispoint? or was it rather a caprice of my own -- a wildly romanticoffering on the shrine of the most passionate devotion? I butindistinctly recall the fact itself -- what wonder that I haveutterly forgotten the circumstances which originated or attended it?And, indeed, if ever she, the wan and the misty-winged Ashtophet ofidolatrous Egypt, presided, as they tell, over marriages ill-omened,then most surely she presided over mine.
There is one dear topic, however, on which my memory falls me not. Itis the person of Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat slender,and, in her latter days, even emaciated. I would in vain attempt toportray the majesty, the quiet ease, of her demeanor, or theincomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She cameand departed as a shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance intomy closed study save by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as sheplaced her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face no maidenever equalled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream -- an airyand spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the phantasieswhich hovered vision about the slumbering souls of the daughters ofDelos. Yet her features were not of that regular mould which we havebeen falsely taught to worship in the classical labors of theheathen. "There is no exquisite beauty," says Bacon, Lord Verulam,speaking truly of all the forms and genera of beauty, without somestrangeness in the proportion." Yet, although I saw that the featuresof Ligeia were not of a classic regularity -- although I perceivedthat her loveliness was indeed "exquisite," and felt that there wasmuch of "strangeness" pervading it, yet I have tried in vain todetect the irregularity and to trace home my own perception of "thestrange." I examined the contour of the lofty and pale forehead -- itwas faultless -- how cold indeed that word when applied to a majestyso divine! -- the skin rivalling the purest ivory, the commandingextent and repose, the gentle prominence of the regions above thetemples; and then the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant andnaturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of theHomeric epithet, "hyacinthine!" I looked at the delicate outlines ofthe nose -- and nowhere but in the graceful medallions of the Hebrewshad I beheld a similar perfection. There were the same luxurioussmoothness of surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to theaquiline, the same harmoniously curved nostrils speaking the freespirit. I regarded the sweet mouth. Here was indeed the triumph ofall things heavenly -- the magnificent turn of the short upper lip --the soft, voluptuous slumber of the under -- the dimples whichsported, and the color which spoke -- the teeth glancing back, with abrilliancy almost startling, every ray of the holy light which fellupon them in her serene and placid, yet most exultingly radiant ofall smiles. I scrutinized the formation of the chin -- and here, too,I found the gentleness of breadth, the softness and the majesty, thefullness and the spirituality, of the Greek -- the contour which thegod Apollo revealed but in a dream, to Cleomenes, the son of theAthenian. And then I peered into the large eves of Ligeia.
For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. It might havebeen, too, that in these eves of my beloved lay the secret to whichLord Verulam alludes. They were, I must believe, far larger than theordinary eyes of our own race. They were even fuller than the fullestof the gazelle eyes of the tribe of the valley of Nourjahad. Yet itwas only at intervals -- in moments of intense excitement -- thatthis peculiarity became more than slightly noticeable in Ligeia. Andat such moments was her beauty -- in my heated fancy thus it appearedperhaps -- the beauty of beings either above or apart from the earth-- the beauty of the fabulous Houri of the Turk. The hue of the orbswas the most brilliant of black, and, far over them, hung jettylashes of great length. The brows, slightly irregular in outline, hadthe same tint. The "strangeness," however, which I found in the eyes,was of a nature distinct from the formation, or the color, or thebrilliancy of the features, and must, after all, be referred to theexpression. Ah, word of no meaning! behind whose vast latitude ofmere sound we intrench our ignorance of so much of the spiritual. Theexpression of the eyes of Ligeia! How for long hours have I ponderedupon it! How have I, through the whole of a midsummer night,struggled to fathom it! What was it -- that something more profoundthan the well of Democritus -- which lay far within the pupils of mybeloved? What was it? I was possessed with a passion to discover.Those eyes! those large, those shining, those divine orbs! theybecame to me twin stars of Leda, and I to them devoutest ofastrologers.
There is no point, among the many incomprehensible anomalies of thescience of mind, more thrillingly exciting than the fact -- never, Ibelieve, noticed in the schools -- that, in our endeavors to recallto memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves upon thevery verge of remembrance, without being able, in the end, toremember. And thus how frequently, in my intense scrutiny of Ligeia'seyes, have I felt approaching the full knowledge of their expression-- felt it approaching -- yet not quite be mine -- and so at lengthentirely depart! And (strange, oh strangest mystery of all!) I found,in the commonest objects of the universe, a circle of analogies totheat expression. I mean to say that, subsequently to the period whenLigeia's beauty passed into my spirit, there dwelling as in a shrine,I derived, from many existences in the material world, a sentimentsuch as I felt always aroused within me by her large and luminousorbs. Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or analyze, oreven steadily view it. I recognized it, let me repeat, sometimes inthe survey of a rapidly-growing vine -- in the contemplation of amoth, a butterfly, a chrysalis, a stream of running water. I havefelt it in the ocean; in the falling of a meteor. I have felt it inthe glances of unusually aged people. And there are one or two starsin heaven -- (one especially, a star of the sixth magnitude, doubleand changeable, to be found near the large star in Lyra) in atelescopic scrutiny of which I have been made aware of the feeling. Ihave been filled with it by certain sounds from stringed instruments,and not unfrequently by passages from books. Among innumerable otherinstances, I well remember something in a volume of Joseph Glanvill,which (perhaps merely from its quaintness -- who shall say?) neverfailed to inspire me with the sentiment; -- "And the will thereinlieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, withits vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by natureof its intentness. Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor untodeath utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will."
Length of years, and subsequent reflection, have enabled me to trace,indeed, some remote connection between this passage in the Englishmoralist and a portion of the character of Ligeia. An intensity inthought, action, or speech, was possibly, in her, a result, or atleast an index, of that gigantic volition which, during our longintercourse, failed to give other and more immediate evidence of itsexistence. Of all the women whom I have ever known, she, theoutwardly calm, the ever-placid Ligeia, was the most violently a preyto the tumultuous vultures of stern passion. And of such passion Icould form no estimate, save by the miraculous expansion of thoseeyes which at once so delighted and appalled me -- by the almostmagical melody, modulation, distinctness and placidity of her verylow voice -- and by the fierce energy (rendered doubly effective bycontrast with her manner of utterance) of the wild words which shehabitually uttered.
I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia: it was immense -- such as Ihave never known in woman. In the classical tongues was she deeplyproficient, and as far as my own acquaintance extended in regard tothe modern dialects of Europe, I have never known her at fault.Indeed upon any theme of the most admired, because simply the mostabstruse of the boasted erudition of the academy, have I ever foundLigeia at fault? How singularly -- how thrillingly, this one point inthe nature of my wife has forced itself, at this late period only,upon my attention! I said her knowledge was such as I have neverknown in woman -- but where breathes the man who has traversed, andsuccessfully, all the wide areas of moral, physical, and mathematicalscience? I saw not then what I now clearly perceive, that theacquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, were astounding; yet I wassufficiently aware of her infinite supremacy to resign myself, with achild-like confidence, to her guidance through the chaotic world ofmetaphysical investigation at which I was most busily occupied duringthe earlier years of our marriage. With how vast a triumph -- withhow vivid a delight -- with how much of all that is ethereal in hope-- did I feel, as she bent over me in studies but little sought --but less known -- that delicious vista by slow degrees expandingbefore me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path, I mightat length pass onward to the goal of a wisdom too divinely preciousnot to be forbidden!
How poignant, then, must have been the grief with which, after someyears, I beheld my well-grounded expectations take wings tothemselves and fly away! Without Ligeia I was but as a child gropingbenighted. Her presence, her readings alone, rendered vividlyluminous the many mysteries of the transcendentalism in which we wereimmersed. Wanting the radiant lustre of her eyes, letters, lambentand golden, grew duller than Saturnian lead. And now those eyes shoneless and less frequently upon the pages over which I pored. Ligeiagrew ill. The wild eyes blazed with a too -- too glorious effulgence;the pale fingers became of the transparent waxen hue of the grave,and the blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sankimpetuously with the tides of the gentle emotion. I saw that she mustdie -- and I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael.And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to my astonishment,even more energetic than my own. There had been much in her sternnature to impress me with the belief that, to her, death would havecome without its terrors; -- but not so. Words are impotent to conveyany just idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she wrestledwith the Shadow. I groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle.would have soothed -- I would have reasoned; but, in the intensity ofher wild desire for life, -- for life -- but for life -- solace andreason were the uttermost folly. Yet not until the last instance,amid the most convulsive writhings of her fierce spirit, was shakenthe external placidity of her demeanor. Her voice grew more gentle --grew more low -- yet I would not wish to dwell upon the wild meaningof the quietly uttered words. My brain reeled as I hearkenedentranced, to a melody more than mortal -- to assumptions andaspirations which mortality had never before known.
That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have beeneasily aware that, in a bosom such as hers, love would have reignedno ordinary passion. But in death only, was I fully impressed withthe strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand,would she pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose morethan passionate devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved tobe so blessed by such confessions? -- how had I deserved to be socursed 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, thatin Ligeia's more than womanly abandonment to a love, alas! allunmerited, all unworthily bestowed, I at length recognized theprinciple of her longing with so wildly earnest a desire for the lifewhich was now fleeing so rapidly away. It is this wild longing -- itis this eager vehemence of desire for life -- but for life -- that Ihave no power to portray -- no utterance capable of expressing.
At high noon of the night in which she departed, beckoning me,peremptorily, to her side, she bade me repeat certain verses composedby herself not many days before. I obeyed her. -- They were these:Lo! 'tis a gala night Within the lonesome latter years!An angel throng, bewinged, bedight In veils, and drowned 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; Mere puppets they, who come and goAt 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 forever more, By a crowd that seize it not,Through a circle that ever returneth in To the self-same spot,And much of Madness and more of Sin And Horror the soul of the plot.But see, amid the mimic rout, 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 over each quivering form,The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm,And the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirmThat the play is the tragedy, "Man," And its hero the Conqueror Worm."O God!" half shrieked Ligeia, leaping to her feet and extending herarms aloft with a spasmodic movement, as I made an end of these lines-- "O God! O Divine Father! -- shall these things be undeviatinglyso? -- shall this Conqueror be not once conquered? Are we not partand parcel in Thee? Who -- who knoweth the mysteries of the will withits vigor? Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto deathutterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will."
And now, as if exhausted with emotion, she suffered her white arms tofall, and returned solemnly to her bed of death. And as she breathedher last sighs, there came mingled with them a low murmur from herlips. I bent to them my ear and distinguished, again, the concludingwords of the passage in Glanvill -- "Man doth not yield him to theangels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of hisfeeble will."
She died; -- and I, crushed into the very dust with sorrow, could nolonger endure the lonely desolation of my dwelling in the dim anddecaying city by the Rhine. I had no lack of what the world callswealth. Ligeia had brought me far more, very far more than ordinarilyfalls to the lot of mortals. After a few months, therefore, of wearyand aimless wandering, I purchased, and put in some repair, an abbey,which I shall not name, in one of the wildest and least frequentedportions of fair England. The gloomy and dreary grandeur of thebuilding, the almost savage aspect of the domain, the many melancholyand time-honored memories connected with both, had much in unisonwith the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into thatremote and unsocial region of the country. Yet although the externalabbey, with its verdant decay hanging about it, suffered but littlealteration, I gave way, with a child-like perversity, and perchancewith a faint hope of alleviating my sorrows, to a display of morethan regal magnificence within. -- For such follies, even inchildhood, I had imbibed a taste and now they came back to me as ifin the dotage of grief. Alas, I feel how much even of incipientmadness might have been discovered in the gorgeous and fantasticdraperies, in the solemn carvings of Egypt, in the wild cornices andfurniture, in the Bedlam patterns of the carpets of tufted gold! Ihad become a bounden slave in the trammels of opium, and my laborsand my orders had taken a coloring from my dreams. But theseabsurdities must not pause to detail. Let me speak only of that onechamber, ever accursed, whither in a moment of mental alienation, Iled from the altar as my bride -- as the successor of the unforgottenLigeia -- the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion, ofTremaine.
There is no individual portion of the architecture and decoration ofthat bridal chamber which is not now visibly before me. Where werethe souls of the haughty family of the bride, when, through thirst ofgold, they permitted to pass the threshold of an apartment sobedecked, a maiden and a daughter so beloved? I have said that Iminutely remember the details of the chamber -- yet I am sadlyforgetful on topics of deep moment -- 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, waspentagonal in shape, and of capacious size. Occupying the wholesouthern face of the pentagon was the sole window -- an immense sheetof unbroken glass from Venice -- a single pane, and tinted of aleaden hue, so that the rays of either the sun or moon, passingthrough it, fell with a ghastly lustre on the objects within. Overthe upper portion of this huge window, extended the trellice-work ofan aged vine, which clambered up the massy walls of the turret. Theceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively lofty, vaulted, andelaborately fretted with the wildest and most grotesque specimens ofa semi-Gothic, semi-Druidical device. From out the most centralrecess of this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain ofgold with long links, a huge censer of the same metal, Saracenic inpattern, and with many perforations so contrived that there writhedin and out of them, as if endued with a serpent vitality, a continualsuccession of parti-colored fires.
Some few ottomans and golden candelabra, of Eastern figure, were invarious stations about -- and there was the couch, too -- bridalcouch -- of an Indian model, and low, and sculptured of solid ebony,with a pall-like canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamberstood on end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, from the tombsof the kings over against Luxor, with their aged lids full ofimmemorial sculpture. But in the draping of the apartment lay, alas!the chief phantasy of all. The lofty walls, gigantic in height --even unproportionably so -- were hung from summit to foot, in vastfolds, with a heavy and massive-looking tapestry -- tapestry of amaterial which was found alike as a carpet on the floor, as acovering for the ottomans and the ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed,and as the gorgeous volutes of the curtains which partially shadedthe window. The material was the richest cloth of gold. It wasspotted all over, at irregular intervals, with arabesque figures,about a foot in diameter, and wrought upon the cloth in patterns ofthe most jetty black. But these figures partook of the true characterof the arabesque only when regarded from a single point of view. By acontrivance now common, and indeed traceable to a very remote periodof antiquity, they were made changeable in aspect. To one enteringthe room, they bore the appearance of simple monstrosities; but upona farther advance, this appearance gradually departed; and step bystep, as the visitor moved his station in the chamber, he saw himselfsurrounded by an endless succession of the ghastly forms which belongto the superstition of the Norman, or arise in the guilty slumbers ofthe monk. The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by theartificial introduction of a strong continual current of wind behindthe draperies -- giving a hideous and uneasy animation to the whole.
In halls such as these -- in a bridal chamber such as this -- Ipassed, with the Lady of Tremaine, the unhallowed hours of the firstmonth of our marriage -- passed them with but little disquietude.That my wife dreaded the fierce moodiness of my temper -- that sheshunned me and loved me but little -- I could not help perceiving;but it gave me rather pleasure than otherwise. I loathed her with ahatred belonging more to demon than to man. My memory flew back, (oh,with what intensity of regret!) to Ligeia, the beloved, the august,the beautiful, the entombed. I revelled in recollections of herpurity, of her wisdom, of her lofty, her ethereal nature, of herpassionate, her idolatrous love. Now, then, did my spirit fully andfreely burn with more than all the fires of her own. In theexcitement of my opium dreams (for I was habitually fettered in theshackles of the drug) I would call aloud upon her name, during thesilence of the night, or among the sheltered recesses of the glens byday, as if, through the wild eagerness, the solemn passion, theconsuming ardor of my longing for the departed, I could restore herto the pathway she had abandoned -- ah, could it be forever? -- uponthe earth.
About the commencement of the second month of the marriage, the LadyRowena was attacked with sudden illness, from which her recovery wasslow. The fever which consumed her rendered her nights uneasy; and inher perturbed state of half-slumber, she spoke of sounds, and ofmotions, in and about the chamber of the turret, which I concludedhad no origin save in the distemper of her fancy, or perhaps in thephantasmagoric influences of the chamber itself. She became at lengthconvalescent -- finally well. Yet but a brief period elapsed, ere asecond more violent disorder again threw her upon a bed of suffering;and from this attack her frame, at all times feeble, never altogetherrecovered. Her illnesses were, after this epoch, of alarmingcharacter, and of more alarming recurrence, defying alike theknowledge and the great exertions of her physicians. With theincrease of the chronic disease which had thus, apparently, taken toosure hold upon her constitution to be eradicated by human means, Icould not fall to observe a similar increase in the nervousirritation of her temperament, and in her excitability by trivialcauses of fear. She spoke again, and now more frequently andpertinaciously, of the sounds -- of the slight sounds -- and of theunusual motions among the tapestries, to which she had formerlyalluded.
One night, near the closing in of September, she pressed thisdistressing subject with more than usual emphasis upon my attention.She had just awakened from an unquiet slumber, and I had beenwatching, with feelings half of anxiety, half of vague terror, theworkings of her emaciated countenance. I sat by the side of her ebonybed, upon one of the ottomans of India. She partly arose, and spoke,in an earnest low whisper, of sounds which she then heard, but whichI could not hear -- of motions which she then saw, but which I couldnot perceive. The wind was rushing hurriedly behind the tapestries,and I wished to show her (what, let me confess it, I could not allbelieve) that those almost inarticulate breathings, and those verygentle variations of the figures upon the wall, were but the naturaleffects of that customary rushing of the wind. But a deadly pallor,overspreading her face, had proved to me that my exertions toreassure her would be fruitless. She appeared to be fainting, and noattendants were within call. I remembered where was deposited adecanter of light wine which had been ordered by her physicians, andhastened across the chamber to procure it. But, as I stepped beneaththe light of the censer, two circumstances of a startling natureattracted my attention. I had felt that some palpable althoughinvisible object had passed lightly by my person; and I saw thatthere lay upon the golden carpet, in the very middle of the richlustre thrown from the censer, a shadow -- a faint, indefinite shadowof angelic aspect -- such as might be fancied for the shadow of ashade. But I was wild with the excitement of an immoderate dose ofopium, and heeded these things but little, nor spoke of them toRowena. Having found the wine, I recrossed the chamber, and pouredout a gobletful, which I held to the lips of the fainting lady. Shehad now partially recovered, however, and took the vessel herself,while I sank upon an ottoman near me, with my eyes fastened upon herperson. It was then that I became distinctly aware of a gentlefootfall upon the carpet, and near the couch; and in a secondthereafter, 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 iffrom some invisible spring in the atmosphere of the room, three orfour large drops of a brilliant and ruby colored fluid. If this I saw-- not so Rowena. She swallowed the wine unhesitatingly, and Iforbore to speak to her of a circumstance which must, after all, Iconsidered, have been but the suggestion of a vivid imagination,rendered morbidly active by the terror of the lady, by the opium, andby the hour.
Yet I cannot conceal it from my own perception that, immediatelysubsequent to the fall of the ruby-drops, a rapid change for theworse took place in the disorder of my wife; so that, on the thirdsubsequent night, the hands of her menials prepared her for the tomb,and on the fourth, I sat alone, with her shrouded body, in thatfantastic chamber which had received her as my bride. -- Wildvisions, opium-engendered, flitted, shadow-like, before me. I gazedwith unquiet eye upon the sarcophagi in the angles of the room, uponthe varying figures of the drapery, and upon the writhing of theparti-colored fires in the censer overhead. My eyes then fell, as Icalled to mind the circumstances of a former night, to the spotbeneath the glare of the censer where I had seen the faint traces ofthe shadow. It was there, however, no longer; and breathing withgreater freedom, I turned my glances to the pallid and rigid figureupon the bed. Then rushed upon me a thousand memories of Ligeia --and then came back upon my heart, with the turbulent violence of aflood, the whole of that unutterable wo with which I had regarded herthus enshrouded. The night waned; and still, with a bosom full ofbitter thoughts of the one only and supremely beloved, I remainedgazing upon the body of Rowena.
It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I hadtaken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct,startled me from my revery. -- I felt that it came from the bed ofebony -- the bed of death. I listened in an agony of superstitiousterror -- but there was no repetition of the sound. I strained myvision to detect any motion in the corpse -- but there was not theslightest perceptible. Yet I could not have been deceived. I hadheard the noise, however faint, and my soul was awakened within me. Iresolutely and perseveringly kept my attention riveted upon the body.Many minutes elapsed before any circumstance occurred tending tothrow light upon the mystery. At length it became evident that aslight, a very feeble, and barely noticeable tinge of color hadflushed up within the cheeks, and along the sunken small veins of theeyelids. Through a species of unutterable horror and awe, for whichthe language of mortality has no sufficiently energetic expression, Ifelt my heart cease to beat, my limbs grow rigid where I sat. Yet asense of duty finally operated to restore my self-possession. I couldno longer doubt that we had been precipitate in our preparations --that Rowena still lived. It was necessary that some immediateexertion be made; yet turret was altogether apart from the portion ofthe abbey tenanted by the servants -- there were none within call --I had no means of summoning them to my aid without leaving the roomfor many minutes -- and this I could not venture to do. I thereforestruggled alone in my endeavors to call back the spirit ill hovering.In a short period it was certain, however, that a relapse had takenplace; the color disappeared from both eyelid and cheek, leaving awanness even more than that of marble; the lips became doublyshrivelled and pinched up in the ghastly expression of death; arepulsive clamminess and coldness overspread rapidly the surface ofthe body; and all the usual rigorous illness immediately supervened.I fell back with a shudder upon the couch from which I had been sostartlingly aroused, and again gave myself up to passionate wakingvisions of Ligeia.
An hour thus elapsed when (could it be possible?) I was a second timeaware of some vague sound issuing from the region of the bed. Ilistened -- in extremity of horror. The sound came again -- it was asigh. Rushing to the corpse, I saw -- distinctly saw -- a tremor uponthe lips. In a minute afterward they relaxed, disclosing a brightline of the pearly teeth. Amazement now struggled in my bosom withthe profound awe which had hitherto reigned there alone. I felt thatmy vision grew dim, that my reason wandered; and it was only by aviolent effort that I at length succeeded in nerving myself to thetask which duty thus once more had pointed out. There was now apartial glow upon the forehead and upon the cheek and throat; aperceptible warmth pervaded the whole frame; there was even a slightpulsation at the heart. The lady lived; and with redoubled ardor Ibetook myself to the task of restoration. I chafed and bathed thetemples and the hands, and used every exertion which experience, andno little. medical reading, could suggest. But in vain. Suddenly, thecolor fled, the pulsation ceased, the lips resumed the expression ofthe dead, and, in an instant afterward, the whole body took uponitself the icy chilliness, the livid hue, the intense rigidity, thesunken outline, and all the loathsome peculiarities of that which hasbeen, for many days, a tenant of the tomb.
And again I sunk into visions of Ligeia -- and again, (what marvelthat I shudder while I write,) again there reached my ears a low sobfrom the region of the ebony bed. But why shall I minutely detail theunspeakable horrors of that night? Why shall I pause to relate how,time after time, until near the period of the gray dawn, this hideousdrama of revivification was repeated; how each terrific relapse wasonly into a sterner and apparently more irredeemable death; how eachagony wore the aspect of a struggle with some invisible foe; and howeach struggle was succeeded by I know not what of wild change in thepersonal appearance of the corpse? Let me hurry to a conclusion.
The greater part of the fearful night had worn away, and she who hadbeen dead, once again stirred -- and now more vigorously thanhitherto, although arousing from a dissolution more appalling in itsutter hopelessness than any. I had long ceased to struggle or tomove, and remained sitting rigidly upon the ottoman, a helpless preyto a whirl of violent emotions, of which extreme awe was perhaps theleast terrible, the least consuming. The corpse, I repeat, stirred,and now more vigorously than before. The hues of life flushed up withunwonted energy into the countenance -- the limbs relaxed -- and,save that the eyelids were yet pressed heavily together, and that thebandages and draperies of the grave still imparted their charnelcharacter to the figure, I might have dreamed that Rowena had indeedshaken off, utterly, the fetters of Death. But if this idea was not,even then, altogether adopted, I could at least doubt no longer,when, arising from the bed, tottering, with feeble steps, with closedeyes, and with the manner of one bewildered in a dream, the thingthat was enshrouded advanced boldly and palpably into the middle ofthe apartment.
I trembled not -- I stirred not -- for a crowd of unutterable fanciesconnected with the air, the stature, the demeanor of the figure,rushing hurriedly through my brain, had paralyzed -- had chilled meinto stone. I stirred not -- but gazed upon the apparition. There wasa mad disorder in my thoughts -- a tumult unappeasable. Could it,indeed, be the living Rowena who confronted me? Could it indeed beRowena at all -- the fair-haired, the blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanionof Tremaine? Why, why should I doubt it? The bandage lay heavilyabout the mouth -- but then might it not be the mouth of thebreathing Lady of Tremaine? And the cheeks-there were the roses as inher noon of life -- yes, these might indeed be the fair cheeks of theliving Lady of Tremaine. And the chin, with its dimples, as inhealth, might it not be hers? -- but had she then grown taller sinceher malady? What inexpressible madness seized me with that thought?One bound, and I had reached her feet! Shrinking from my touch, shelet fall from her head, unloosened, the ghastly cerements which hadconfined it, and there streamed forth, into the rushing atmosphere ofthe chamber, huge masses of long and dishevelled hair; it was blackerthan the raven wings of the midnight! And now slowly opened the eyesof the figure which stood before me. "Here then, at least," Ishrieked aloud, "can I never -- can I never be mistaken -- these arethe full, and the black, and the wild eyes -- of my lost love -- ofthe lady -- of the LADY LIGEIA."

Source: OnLine Literature

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