Text: Unknown (ed. James H. Whitty), “The Skeleton-Hand,” The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, pp. 153-155


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[page 153:]

THE SKELETON-HAND

(Attributed to Poe)

[From The Yankee, August, 1829.]

LO! one is on the mountain side,

While the clouds are passing by —

With their black wings flapping heavily,

Like eagles in the sky;

Or lying up in the forest trees,

And waiting there for the mountain-breeze.

And now he passes through the clouds —

And up to the mountain-top,

Nor yet to look for the joyous sun

Does the hasty traveller stop.

But he leapeth down in the broken path

With a step as light and free —

As ever in his days of mirth,

In the dance and revelry.

Why endeth he his hasty speed?

Why stoppeth on his way?

In truth it is a fearful thing,

For human tongue to say.

He fears that toward him pointeth there,

A fleshless human hand;

Where the mountain rains have swept away,

Its covering of sand; [page 154:]

That hand his very soul doth stir,

For it proveth him a murderer.

Ay long ago on the mountain side,

The fearful deed was done;

And the murderer thought him safe, that none

Could see, save the broad bright sun,

As he rolled in the heavens the dead above,

And flooded the earth with his rays of love.

Now lifted he his clouded eye,

To the mountain crests behind;

And o’er them came the broad black clouds,

Upheaving with the wind;

And on them their thick darkness spread —

A crown upon the mountain’s head.

And then shone out the flaming sun,

From the waters of the sea;

And God’s own bow came in the clouds,

And looked out gloriously;

But its colours were of wo and wrath,

That threw their light o’er the murderer’s path.

And now God’s chariots — the clouds,

Came rolling down with might;

Their wheels like many horsemen were,

In battle or in flight.

And yet no power to move hath he,

His soul is in an agony.

Over the murderer and dead

They rolled their mighty host; [page 155:]

Old ocean’s waves come not so thick,

By northern tempests tost.

Forth from their mighty bosom came,

A flash of heaven’s wrath,

And away the heavy clouds — and sun,

Rolled from the murder-path.

And the sun shone out where the murderer lay,

Before the dead in the narrow way —

With his hand all seared, and his breast torn bare —

God’s vengeance had been working there.

P.

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - JHW11, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Skeleton-Hand (ed. J. H. Whitty, 1911)