It is a good tradition during Halloween to do something with that which is ‘scary’. That can be done very well with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “A Haunted Place”.
About “The Haunted Place”
The poem was first published in April 1839 in Nathan Brook’s American Museum magazine. The poem consists of 48 lines and tells the story about a king, who lived a long time ago. The poem became eventually part in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, a short story that was published in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine (1839). A year later it was included in the collection “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” This was a collection of short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe.
In the poem, the king is confronted with nothing more than his threatening fate. The House of Usher features the life of Hezekiah Usher (1615 – 1676) as the basis for this poem.
In the end, the fate of both The House of Usher and it’s owner are the same: they become phantoms.
Hezekiah Usher did exist. He was a bookseller in British America (Boston). The first books that were printed in the colony were his work. He made a great fortune selling books.
The poem resembles that of another poet: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled “Beleaguered City). When you read both poems, the resemblance is striking. Although Poe was originally impressed by Longfellow, it escalated when Poe started what people later would describe as “The Longfellow War.” Yet, he accused Longfellow of stealing from others like Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The Beleaguered City
I have read, in some old, marvellous tale,
Some legend strange and vague,
That a midnight host of spectres pale
Beleaguered the walls of Prague.
Beside the Moldau’s rushing stream,
With the wan moon overhead,
There stood, as in an awful dream,
The army of the dead.
White as a sea-fog, landward bound,
The spectral camp was seen,
And, with a sorrowful, deep sound,
The river flowed between.
No other voice nor sound was there,
No drum, nor sentry’s pace;
The mist-like banners clasped the air
As clouds with clouds embrace.
But when the old cathedral bell
Proclaimed the morning prayer,
The white pavilions rose and fell
On the alarméd air.
Down the broad valley fast and far
The troubled army fled;
Up rose the glorious morning star,
The ghastly host was dead.
I have read, in the marvellous heart of man,
That strange and mystic scroll,
That an army of phantoms vast and wan
Beleaguer the human soul.
Encamped beside Life’s rushing stream,
In Fancy’s misty light,
Gigantic shapes and shadows gleam
Portentous through the night.
Upon its midnight battle-ground
The spectral camp is seen,
And, with a sorrowful, deep sound,
Flows the River of Life between.
No other voice nor sound is there,
In the army of the grave;
No other challenge breaks the air,
But the rushing of Life’s wave.
And when the solemn and deep church-bell
Entreats the soul to pray,
The midnight phantoms feel the spell,
The shadows sweep away.
Down the broad Vale of Tears afar
The spectral camp is fled;
Faith shineth as a morning star,
Our ghastly fears are dead
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Inspiration for others
Eventually, this poem formed the inspiration for others, including the French composer Florent Schmitt. He wrote an Étude (an instrumental musical composition) that was based on The haunted place (1904). In 1963, this poem was used as the basis for the movie The Haunted Place, directed by Roger Corman. But, only the title was the basis, as the script was based on the novel written by H.P. Lovecraft (The case of Charles Dexter Ward).
The Haunted Place
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,
(This- 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 odor 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 morrow
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, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh- but smile no more.
— Edgar Allan Poe