Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe


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1838
LIGEIA
by Edgar Allan Poe

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.

I CANNOT, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely
where, I first became acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have
since elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or,
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 of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence
of her low musical language, made their way into my heart by paces
so steadily and stealthily progressive that they have been unnoticed
and unknown. Yet I believe that I met her first and most frequently in
some large, old, decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family –I
have surely heard her speak. That it is of a remotely ancient date
cannot be doubted. Ligeia! Ligeia! in studies of a nature more than
all else adapted to deaden impressions of the outward world, it is
by that sweet word alone –by Ligeia –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 the wife of my bosom. Was it a
playful charge on the part of my Ligeia? or was it a test of my
strength of affection, 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, indeed, if ever she, the wan and the misty-winged Ashtophet of
idolatrous 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.
It is the person of Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat slender,
and, in her latter days, even emaciated. I would in vain attempt to
portray the majesty, the quiet ease, of her demeanor, or the
incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She came
and departed as a shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance
into my closed study save by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as
she placed her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face no
maiden ever equalled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream –an
airy and spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the
phantasies which hovered vision about the slumbering souls of the
daughters of Delos. Yet her features were not of that regular mould
which we have been falsely taught to worship in the classical labors
of the heathen. “There is no exquisite beauty,” says Bacon, Lord
Verulam, speaking truly of all the forms and genera of beauty, without
some strangeness in the proportion.” Yet, although I saw that the
features of Ligeia were not of a classic regularity –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 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 skin rivalling the purest ivory, the commanding extent
and repose, the gentle prominence of the regions above the temples;
and then the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and
naturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric
epithet, “hyacinthine!” 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. There were the same luxurious
smoothness of surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to the
aquiline, the same harmoniously curved nostrils 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 of the under –the dimples which sported, and
the color which spoke –the teeth glancing back, with a brilliancy
almost startling, every ray of the holy light which fell upon them
in her serene and placid, yet most exultingly radiant 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
and the spirituality, of the Greek –the contour which the god
Apollo revealed but in a dream, to Cleomenes, the son of the Athenian.
And then I peered into the large eves of Ligeia.
For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. It might have
been, too, that in these eves of my beloved lay the secret to which
Lord Verulam alludes. They were, I must believe, far larger than the
ordinary eyes of our own race. They were even fuller than the
fullest of the gazelle eyes of the tribe of the valley of Nourjahad.
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. The hue of the orbs
was the most brilliant of black, and, far over them, hung jetty lashes
of great length. The brows, slightly irregular in outline, had the
same tint. The “strangeness,” however, which I found in the eyes,
was of a nature distinct from the formation, or the color, or the
brilliancy of the features, 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 for long hours have I pondered
upon it! How have I, through the whole of a midsummer night, struggled
to fathom it! What was it –that something more profound than the well
of Democritus –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, and I to them devoutest of astrologers.
There is no point, among the many incomprehensible anomalies of
the science of mind, more thrillingly exciting than the fact
–never, I believe, noticed in the schools –that, in our endeavors to
recall to memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves
upon the very verge of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to
remember. And thus how frequently, in my intense scrutiny of
Ligeia’s eyes, have I felt approaching the full knowledge of their
expression –felt it approaching –yet not quite be mine –and so at
length entirely depart! And (strange, oh strangest mystery of all!)
I found, in the commonest objects of the universe, a circle of
analogies to theat 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, from many existences in the material world,
a sentiment such as I felt always aroused within me by her large and
luminous orbs. Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or
analyze, or even steadily view it. I recognized it, let me repeat,
sometimes 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; in the falling of a meteor. I have
felt it in the glances of unusually aged people. 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) in a telescopic scrutiny of which I have been made aware of
the feeling. 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 (perhaps merely from its quaintness
–who shall say?) never failed to inspire me with the sentiment;
–“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 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
English moralist and a portion of the character of Ligeia. An
intensity in thought, action, or speech, 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 women whom I have ever known,
she, the outwardly calm, the ever-placid 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
–by the almost magical melody, modulation, distinctness and placidity
of her very low voice –and by the fierce energy (rendered doubly
effective by contrast with her manner of utterance) of the wild
words which she habitually uttered.
I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia: it was immense –such as
I have never known in woman. In 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
of the boasted erudition of the academy, have I ever found Ligeia at
fault? How singularly –how thrillingly, this one point in the
nature of my wife has forced itself, at this late period only, upon my
attention! I said her knowledge was such as I have never known in
woman –but where breathes the man who has traversed, and
successfully, all the wide areas of moral, physical, and
mathematical science? I saw not then what I now clearly perceive, that
the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, were astounding; 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 in studies but little sought
–but less known –that delicious vista by slow degrees expanding
before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path, I
might at length pass onward to the goal of a wisdom too divinely
precious not to be forbidden!
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 away! Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping
benighted. Her presence, her readings alone, rendered vividly luminous
the many mysteries of the transcendentalism in which we were immersed.
Wanting the radiant lustre of her eyes, letters, lambent and golden,
grew duller than Saturnian lead. And now those eyes shone less and
less frequently upon the pages over which I pored. Ligeia grew 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 sank impetuously with the
tides of the gentle emotion. I saw that she must die –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 stern nature to impress me with the
belief that, to her, death would have come without its terrors;
–but not so. Words are impotent to convey any just idea of the
fierceness of resistance with which she wrestled with the Shadow. I
groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle. would have soothed –I
would have reasoned; but, in the intensity of her wild desire for
life, –for life –but for life –solace and reason were the uttermost
folly. Yet not until the last instance, 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
words. My brain reeled as I hearkened entranced, to a melody more than
mortal –to assumptions and aspirations which mortality had never
before known.
That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been
easily aware that, in a bosom such as hers, love would have reigned no
ordinary passion. But in death only, was I fully impressed with the
strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand, would
she pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose more than
passionate devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be
so blessed by such confessions? –how 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! all unmerited,
all unworthily bestowed, I at length recognized the principle of her
longing with so wildly earnest a desire for the life which was now
fleeing so rapidly away. It is this wild longing –it is this eager
vehemence of desire for life –but for life –that I have 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
composed by 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 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 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, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero the Conqueror 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 be not once conquered? 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.”
And now, as if exhausted with emotion, she suffered her white arms
to fall, and returned solemnly to her bed of death. And as she
breathed her last sighs, there came mingled with them a low murmur
from her lips. I bent to them my ear and distinguished, again, the
concluding words of the passage in Glanvill –“Man doth not yield
him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the
weakness of his feeble will.”
She died; –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
wealth. Ligeia had brought me far more, very far more than
ordinarily falls 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, had much
in unison with the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me
into that remote and unsocial region of the country. Yet although
the external abbey, with its verdant decay hanging about it,
suffered but little alteration, I gave way, with a child-like
perversity, and perchance with a faint hope of alleviating my sorrows,
to a display of more than regal magnificence within. –For such
follies, even in childhood, I had imbibed a taste and now they came
back to me as if in the dotage of grief. Alas, I 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, in the Bedlam patterns of the carpets of
tufted gold! I had become a bounden slave in the trammels of opium,
and my labors and my orders had taken a coloring from my dreams. But
these absurdities must not pause to detail. Let me speak only of
that one chamber, ever accursed, whither in a moment of mental
alienation, I led from the altar as my bride –as the successor of the
unforgotten Ligeia –the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena
Trevanion, of Tremaine.
There is no 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, 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 that I
minutely remember the details of the chamber –yet I am sadly
forgetful 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, was pentagonal
in shape, 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, passing through it, fell with a
ghastly lustre on the objects within. Over the upper portion of this
huge window, extended the trellice-work of an aged vine, 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 device. From out the most central recess
of this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain of gold
with long links, a huge censer of the same metal, Saracenic 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 fires.
Some few ottomans and golden candelabra, of Eastern figure, were
in various stations about –and there was the couch, too –bridal
couch –of an Indian model, and low, and sculptured of solid ebony,
with a pall-like canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamber
stood on end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, from the tombs
of the kings over against Luxor, 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, gigantic in height
–even unproportionably so –were hung from summit to foot, in vast
folds, with a heavy and massive-looking tapestry –tapestry of a
material which was found alike as a carpet on the floor, as a covering
for the ottomans and the ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as
the gorgeous volutes of the curtains which partially shaded the
window. The material was the richest cloth of gold. It was spotted all
over, at irregular intervals, with arabesque figures, about 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 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, they bore the appearance of simple monstrosities; but upon a
farther advance, this appearance gradually departed; and step by step,
as the visitor 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, or arise in the guilty
slumbers of the monk. The phantasmagoric effect was vastly
heightened by the artificial introduction of a strong continual
current of wind behind the draperies –giving a hideous and uneasy
animation to the whole.
In halls such as these –in a bridal chamber such as this –I
passed, with the Lady 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 and loved me but little –I could not help perceiving;
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, with what intensity of regret!) to Ligeia, the beloved, the
august, 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 (for I was habitually fettered in the shackles of
the drug) 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 the wild eagerness, the solemn passion, the consuming ardor of
my longing for the departed, I could restore her to the pathway she
had abandoned –ah, could it be forever? –upon the earth.
About the commencement of the second month of the marriage, the Lady
Rowena was attacked with sudden illness, from which her recovery was
slow. The fever which consumed her rendered her nights uneasy; and
in her perturbed state of half-slumber, she spoke of sounds, and of
motions, in and about the chamber of the turret, which I concluded had
no origin save in the distemper of her fancy, or perhaps in the
phantasmagoric influences of the chamber itself. She became at
length convalescent –finally well. Yet but a brief period elapsed,
ere a second more violent disorder again threw her upon a bed of
suffering; and from this attack her frame, at all times feeble,
never altogether recovered. Her illnesses were, after this epoch, of
alarming character, and of more alarming recurrence, defying alike the
knowledge and the great exertions of her physicians. With the increase
of the chronic disease which had thus, apparently, taken too sure hold
upon her constitution to be eradicated by human means, I could not
fall to observe a similar increase in the nervous irritation of her
temperament, and in her excitability by trivial causes of fear. She
spoke again, and now more frequently and pertinaciously, of the sounds
–of the slight sounds –and of the unusual motions among the
tapestries, to which she had formerly alluded.
One night, near the closing in of September, she pressed this
distressing subject with more than usual emphasis upon my attention.
She had just awakened from an unquiet slumber, and I had been
watching, with feelings half of anxiety, half of 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 –of motions which she then saw, but
which I could not perceive. The wind was rushing hurriedly behind
the tapestries, and I wished to show her (what, let me confess it, I
could not all believe) that those almost inarticulate breathings,
and those very gentle variations of the figures upon the wall, were
but the natural effects of that customary rushing of the wind. But a
deadly pallor, overspreading her face, had proved to me that my
exertions to reassure her would be fruitless. She appeared to be
fainting, and no attendants were within call. I remembered where was
deposited a decanter of 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
although invisible object had passed lightly by my person; and I saw
that there lay 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. 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. Having found the wine, I recrossed the chamber, and poured out
a gobletful, which I held to the lips of the fainting lady. She had
now partially recovered, however, and took the vessel herself, while I
sank upon an ottoman near me, with my eyes fastened upon her person.
It was then that I became distinctly aware of a gentle footfall upon
the carpet, and near the couch; and 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 in the atmosphere of the room, three or four large
drops of a brilliant and ruby colored fluid. 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.
Yet I cannot conceal it from my own perception that, immediately
subsequent to the fall of the ruby-drops, a rapid change for the worse
took place in the disorder of my wife; 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 chamber which had received her as my bride. –Wild
visions, opium-engendered, flitted, shadow-like, before me. I gazed
with unquiet eye upon the sarcophagi in the angles of the room, upon
the varying figures of the drapery, and upon the writhing of the
parti-colored 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 the faint traces of
the shadow. It was there, however, no longer; and 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 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 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. –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. I strained my
vision to detect any motion in the corpse –but there was not the
slightest perceptible. Yet I could not have been deceived. I had heard
the noise, however faint, and my soul was awakened within me. I
resolutely and perseveringly kept my attention riveted 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, and barely noticeable tinge of color 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 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 –that Rowena still lived. It was
necessary that some immediate exertion be made; yet turret was
altogether apart from the portion of the abbey tenanted by the
servants –there were none within call –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 ill hovering. In a short period it was
certain, however, that a relapse had taken place; the color
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 repulsive clamminess and
coldness overspread rapidly the surface of the body; and all the usual
rigorous illness immediately supervened. I fell back with a shudder
upon the couch from which I had been so startlingly aroused, and again
gave myself up to passionate waking visions of Ligeia.
An hour thus elapsed when (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 tremor upon
the lips. In a minute afterward they relaxed, disclosing a bright line
of the pearly teeth. Amazement now struggled in my bosom with the
profound awe which had hitherto reigned there alone. I felt that my
vision grew dim, that my reason wandered; and it was only by a violent
effort that I at length succeeded in nerving myself to the task
which duty thus once more had pointed out. There was now a partial
glow upon the forehead and upon the cheek and throat; a perceptible
warmth pervaded the whole frame; there was even a slight pulsation
at the heart. The lady lived; and with redoubled ardor I betook myself
to the task of restoration. I chafed and bathed the temples and the
hands, and used every exertion which experience, and no little.
medical reading, could suggest. But in vain. Suddenly, the color fled,
the pulsation ceased, the lips resumed the expression of the dead,
and, in an instant afterward, the whole body took upon itself the
icy chilliness, the livid hue, the intense rigidity, the sunken
outline, and all 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, (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 dawn, this
hideous drama of revivification was repeated; how each terrific
relapse was only into a sterner and apparently more irredeemable
death; how each agony wore 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? Let me
hurry to a conclusion.
The greater part of the fearful night had worn away, and she who had
been dead, once 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 now more vigorously than before. The hues of life flushed up
with unwonted energy into the countenance –the limbs relaxed –and,
save that the eyelids were yet pressed heavily together, and that
the bandages and draperies of the grave still imparted their charnel
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 doubt no longer, when,
arising from the bed, tottering, with feeble steps, with closed
eyes, and with the manner of one bewildered in a dream, the thing that
was enshrouded advanced boldly and palpably into the middle of the
apartment.
I trembled not –I stirred not –for a crowd of unutterable
fancies connected with the air, the stature, the demeanor of the
figure, rushing hurriedly through my brain, had paralyzed –had
chilled me into stone. I stirred not –but gazed upon the
apparition. There was a mad disorder in my thoughts –a tumult
unappeasable. Could it, indeed, be the living Rowena who confronted
me? Could it indeed be Rowena at all –the fair-haired, the
blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine? Why, why should I doubt
it? The bandage lay heavily about the mouth –but then might it not be
the mouth of the breathing Lady of Tremaine? And the cheeks-there were
the roses as in her noon of life –yes, these might indeed be the fair
cheeks of the living Lady of Tremaine. And the chin, with its dimples,
as in health, might it not be hers? –but 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, unloosened, the ghastly cerements
which had confined it, and there streamed forth, into the rushing
atmosphere of the chamber, huge masses of long and dishevelled hair;
it was blacker than the raven wings of the midnight! And now slowly
opened the eyes of the figure which stood before me. “Here then, at
least,” I shrieked aloud, “can I never –can I never be mistaken
–these are the full, and the black, and the wild eyes –of my lost
love –of the lady –of the LADY LIGEIA.”
-THE END-

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