Morella by Edgar Allan Poe

by Edgar Allan Poe

Itself, by itself, solely, one everlasting, and single.


WITH a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my
friend Morella. Thrown by accident into her society many years ago, my
soul from our first meeting, burned with fires it had never before
known; but the fires were not of Eros, and bitter and tormenting to my
spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define
their unusual meaning or regulate their vague intensity. Yet we met;
and fate bound us together at the altar, and I never spoke of
passion nor thought of love. She, however, shunned society, and,
attaching herself to me alone rendered me happy. It is a happiness

to wonder; it is a happiness to dream.
Morella’s erudition was profound. As I hope to live, her talents
were of no common order- her powers of mind were gigantic. I felt
this, and, in many matters, became her pupil. I soon, however, found
that, perhaps on account of her Presburg education, she placed before
me a number of those mystical writings which are usually considered
the mere dross of the early German literature. These, for what reason
I could not imagine, were her favourite and constant study- and that
in process of time they became my own, should be attributed to the
simple but effectual influence of habit and example.
In all this, if I err not, my reason had little to do. My
convictions, or I forget myself, were in no manner acted upon by the
ideal, nor was any tincture of the mysticism which I read to be
discovered, unless I am greatly mistaken, either in my deeds or in
my thoughts. Persuaded of this, I abandoned myself implicitly to the
guidance of my wife, and entered with an unflinching heart into the
intricacies of her studies. And then- then, when poring over
forbidden pages, I felt a forbidden spirit enkindling within me-
would Morella place her cold hand upon my own, and rake up from the
ashes of a dead philosophy some low, singular words, whose strange
meaning burned themselves in upon my memory. And then, hour after
hour, would I linger by her side, and dwell upon the music of her
voice, until at length its melody was tainted with terror, and there
fell a shadow upon my soul, and I grew pale, and shuddered inwardly at
those too unearthly tones. And thus, joy suddenly faded into horror,
and the most beautiful became the most hideous, as Hinnon became
It is unnecessary to state the exact character of those
disquisitions which, growing out of the volumes I have mentioned,
formed, for so long a time, almost the sole conversation of Morella
and myself. By the learned in what might be termed theological
morality they will be readily conceived, and by the unlearned they
would, at all events, be little understood. The wild Pantheism of
Fichte; the modified Paliggenedia of the Pythagoreans; and, above all,
the doctrines of Identity as urged by Schelling, were generally the
points of discussion presenting the most of beauty to the imaginative
Morella. That identity which is termed personal, Mr. Locke, I think,
truly defines to consist in the saneness of rational being. And
since by person we understand an intelligent essence having reason,
and since there is a consciousness which always accompanies
thinking, it is this which makes us all to be that which we call
ourselves, thereby distinguishing us from other beings that think, and
giving us our personal identity. But the principium indivduationis,
the notion of that identity which at death is or is not lost for ever,
was to me, at all times, a consideration of intense interest; not more
from the perplexing and exciting nature of its consequences, than from
the marked and agitated manner in which Morella mentioned them.
But, indeed, the time had now arrived when the mystery of my wife’s
manner oppressed me as a spell. I could no longer bear the touch of
her wan fingers, nor the low tone of her musical language, nor the
lustre of her melancholy eyes. And she knew all this, but did not
upbraid; she seemed conscious of my weakness or my folly, and,
smiling, called it fate. She seemed also conscious of a cause, to me
unknown, for the gradual alienation of my regard; but she gave me no
hint or token of its nature. Yet was she woman, and pined away
daily. In time the crimson spot settled steadily upon the cheek, and
the blue veins upon the pale forehead became prominent; and one
instant my nature melted into pity, but in, next I met the glance of
her meaning eyes, and then my soul sickened and became giddy with
the giddiness of one who gazes downward into some dreary and
unfathomable abyss.
Shall I then say that I longed with an earnest and consuming
desire for the moment of Morella’s decease? I did; but the fragile
spirit clung to its tenement of clay for many days, for many weeks and
irksome months, until my tortured nerves obtained the mastery over
my mind, and I grew furious through delay, and, with the heart of a
fiend, cursed the days and the hours and the bitter moments, which
seemed to lengthen and lengthen as her gentle life declined, like
shadows in the dying of the day.
But one autumnal evening, when the winds lay still in heaven,
Morella called me to her bedside. There was a dim mist over all the
earth, and a warm glow upon the waters, and amid the rich October
leaves of the forest, a rainbow from the firmament had surely fallen.
“It is a day of days,” she said, as I approached; “a day of all days
either to live or die. It is a fair day for the sons of earth and
life- ah, more fair for the daughters of heaven and death!”
I kissed her forehead, and she continued:
“I am dying, yet shall I live.”
“The days have never been when thou couldst love me- but her whom
in life thou didst abhor, in death thou shalt adore.”
“I repeat I am dying. But within me is a pledge of that affection-
ah, how little!- which thou didst feel for me, Morella. And when my
spirit departs shall the child live- thy child and mine, Morella’s.
But thy days shall be days of sorrow- that sorrow which is the most
lasting of impressions, as the cypress is the most enduring of trees.
For the hours of thy happiness are over and joy is not gathered
twice in a life, as the roses of Paestum twice in a year. Thou shalt
no longer, then, play the Teian with time, but, being ignorant of
the myrtle and the vine, thou shalt bear about with thee thy shroud
on the earth, as do the Moslemin at Mecca.”
“Morella!” I cried, “Morella! how knowest thou this?” but she turned
away her face upon the pillow and a slight tremor coming over her
limbs, she thus died, and I heard her voice no more.
Yet, as she had foretold, her child, to which in dying she had given
birth, which breathed not until the mother breathed no more, her
child, a daughter, lived. And she grew strangely in stature and
intellect, and was the perfect resemblance of her who had departed,
and I loved her with a love more fervent than I had believed it
possible to feel for any denizen of earth.
But, ere long the heaven of this pure affection became darkened, and
gloom, and horror, and grief swept over it in clouds. I said the child
grew strangely in stature and intelligence. Strange, indeed, was her
rapid increase in bodily size, but terrible, oh! terrible were the
tumultuous thoughts which crowded upon me while watching the
development of her mental being. Could it be otherwise, when I daily
discovered in the conceptions of the child the adult powers and
faculties of the woman? when the lessons of experience fell from the
lips of infancy? and when the wisdom or the passions of maturity I
found hourly gleaming from its full and speculative eye? When, I
say, all this beeame evident to my appalled senses, when I could no
longer hide it from my soul, nor throw it off from those perceptions
which trembled to receive it, is it to be wondered at that suspicions,
of a nature fearful and exciting, crept in upon my spirit, or that
my thoughts fell back aghast upon the wild tales and thrilling
theories of the entombed Morella? I snatched from the scrutiny of
the world a being whom destiny compelled me to adore, and in the
rigorous seclusion of my home, watched with an agonizing anxiety
over all which concerned the beloved.
And as years rolled away, and I gazed day after day upon her holy,
and mild, and eloquent face, and poured over her maturing form, day
after day did I discover new points of resemblance in the child to her
mother, the melancholy and the dead. And hourly grew darker these
shadows of similitude, and more full, and more definite, and more
perplexing, and more hideously terrible in their aspect. For that
her smile was like her mother’s I could bear; but then I shuddered
at its too perfect identity, that her eyes were like Morella’s I could
endure; but then they, too, often looked down into the depths of my
soul with Morella’s own intense and bewildering meaning. And in the
contour of the high forehead, and in the ringlets of the silken
hair, and in the wan fingers which buried themselves therein, and in
the sad musical tones of her speech, and above all- oh, above all, in
the phrases and expressions of the dead on the lips of the loved and
the living, I found food for consuming thought and horror, for a
worm that would not die.
Thus passed away two lustra of her life, and as yet my daughter
remained nameless upon the earth. “My child,” and “my love,” were
the designations usually prompted by a father’s affection, and the
rigid seclusion of her days precluded all other intercourse. Morella’s
name died with her at her death. Of the mother I had never spoken to
the daughter, it was impossible to speak. Indeed, during the brief
period of her existence, the latter had received no impressions from
the outward world, save such as might have been afforded by the narrow
limits of her privacy. But at length the ceremony of baptism presented
to my mind, in its unnerved and agitated condition, a present
deliverance from the terrors of my destiny. And at the baptismal
font I hesitated for a name. And many titles of the wise and
beautiful, of old and modern times, of my own and foreign lands,
came thronging to my lips, with many, many fair titles of the
gentle, and the happy, and the good. What prompted me then to
disturb the memory of the buried dead? What demon urged me to
breathe that sound, which in its very recollection was wont to make
ebb the purple blood in torrents from the temples to the heart? What
fiend spoke from the recesses of my soul, when amid those dim
aisles, and in the silence of the night, I whispered within the ears
of the holy man the syllables- Morella? What more than fiend
convulsed the features of my child, and overspread them with hues of
death, as starting at that scarcely audible sound, she turned her
glassy eyes from the earth to heaven, and falling prostrate on the
black slabs of our ancestral vault, responded- “I am here!”
Distinct, coldly, calmly distinct, fell those few simple sounds
within my ear, and thence like molten lead rolled hissingly into my
brain. Years- years may pass away, but the memory of that epoch
never. Nor was I indeed ignorant of the flowers and the vine- but the
hemlock and the cypress overshadowed me night and day. And I kept no
reckoning of time or place, and the stars of my fate faded from
heaven, and therefore the earth grew dark, and its figures passed by
me like flitting shadows, and among them all I beheld only- Morella.
The winds of the firmament breathed but one sound within my ears,
and the ripples upon the sea murmured evermore- Morella. But she
died; and with my own hands I bore her to the tomb; and I laughed with
a long and bitter laugh as I found no traces of the first in the
channel where I laid the second.- Morella.


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