Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “The Haunted Palace,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 312-318 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 312, continued:]


This is one of Poe's finest poems, pre-eminent in melody and symbolism of the highest order. It is an allegory, very exact in detail. The protagonist has golden hair and — at first — intelligent eyes, fine teeth, and lips whence flows intellectual conversation. But madness seizes him, his eyes are bloodshot, and there come from his lips only raving and insane laughter. This prosaic synopsis of the elaborate “conceit,” worthy of the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century, may serve to emphasize the artistic mastery of the author, for the success of the poem is undeniable. Poe's only other poem that is a single conceit, “To [Elmira]” (“The bowers”) of 1829, is far less elaborately worked out.

Poe wrote Griswold on May 29, 1841, that by the palace he meant “to imply a mind haunted by phantoms — a disordered brain.”(1) “Afterwards,” Poe goes on to say, he “embodied the poem in a tale called ‘The House of Usher’ in Burton's Magazine.” The verses are there called a ballad and placed in the mouth of the protagonist, Roderick Usher. The poem had something to do with the genesis of the story; the converse is impossible. C. Alphonso Smith well says that to call the ballad “self-portraiture” of Edgar Allan Poe “is to deal flagrantly with both literature and life.”(2) [page 313:]

The principal source of “The Haunted Palace” can now be confidently pointed out in one of the New-Old Ballads of John Wolcot (1738-1819), in his own time very widely known under his pseudonym, “Peter Pindar.” It reads:


Couldst thou looke into myne harte,

Thou wouldst see a mansion drear;

Some old haunted tower aparte,

Where the spectre bands appear;

Sighing, gliding, ghostly forms,

’Mid the ruin shook by storms.

Yet my harte, which Love doth slighte,

Was a palace passing fair;

Which did hold thyne image bright,

Thee the queen of beauty rare;

Which the laughing pleasures filled,

And fair Fortune's sunne did gild.

When shall my poor harte, alas,

Pleasure's palace be againe?

That, sweete made, may come to pass,

When thou ceasest thy disdaine:

For thy smiles, like beams of day,

Banish spectre forms away.

The similarity of this playful imitation of an Elizabethan lyric to Poe's “Haunted Palace” was actually pointed out in the New York Literary World of September 28, 1850, by an anonymous contributor who thought the resemblance probably fortuitous. The article seems to have attracted no attention for decades, although Killis Campbell mentioned it without discussion in Poems (1917), p. 238. This neglect is not surprising, since Wolcot is generally known only for comic verses, usually coarse satires on everybody from George III to the biographers of Dr. Johnson.(3) [page 314:] But there is proof that Poe, at precisely the time when he composed “The Haunted Palace,” did show an interest in Wolcot, a collected edition of whose poems had appeared in Philadelphia in 1835. In an article called “Literary Small Talk” in the Baltimore American Museum of January 1839, Poe wrote:

City verses was an appellation applied ... to the effusions of certain bards (Constantine Manasses, John Tzetzes, &c.) who flourished in the latter end of Rome, then so miscalled. Their verses ... usually consisted of fifteen feet, but like those of Peter Pindar, made laws for themselves as they went along.

This note is taken in substance from a passage and footnote near the end of the fifty-third chapter of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but the comparison to Wolcot is Poe's own. Though apt enough, since many of Wolcot's compositions are in lines of irregular length, it is somewhat unexpected. “Literary Small Talk” also has a good deal more from the same chapter of Gibbon, including something about the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, who is clearly referred to in lines 21-24 of Poe's poem.

There may also have been in Poe's mind a description of a madman in Shelley's Julian and Maddalo, lines 224-225: “... like weeds on a wrecked palace growing, / Long tangled locks flung wildly forth, and flowing.”

Other suggested sources have little to be said for them. An anonymous motto for the eleventh chapter of James Fenimore Cooper's Wing-and-Wing (1842), pointed out by Richard Beale Davis in the London Notes and Queries, September 1959, has not been found in print before Poe's poem.

John Forster's idea in a review of Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America in the London Foreign Quarterly of January 1844 that Poe imitated Tennyson must refer to the Laureate's “Deserted House.” It does not much resemble “The Haunted Palace.”

Poe's notion that Longfellow's “Beleaguered City” was plagiarized from “The Haunted Palace” may be dismissed here. It will be discussed in the volume containing Poe's criticisms of 1845. Another charge by Poe in the Broadway Journal of May 24, 1845, that William W. Lord plagiarized “The Haunted Palace” [page 315:] in “The New Castalia” was an ironic jest. Lord's poem was a deliberate parody, which Poe pretended to take seriously.


(A) Baltimore American Museum of Science, Literature and the Arts, April 1839 (2:320); (B) Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, September 1839 (5:148-149), in “The Fall of the House of Usher”; (C) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), I, 88-90, in “The Fall of the House of Usher”; (D) PHANTASY-PIECES (a copy of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, with manuscript changes made for a revised edition projected in 1842 but not published until it was facsimiled in 1928); (E) Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America (1842), p. 388; (F) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (G) Graham's Magazine for February 1845 (27:52-53), in Lowell's sketch of Poe; (H) Tales (1845) pp. 73-74, in “The Fall of the House of Usher”; (J) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), pp. 29-30; (K) Griswold, Prose Writers of America (1847) p. 527, in “The Fall of the House of Usher”; (L) Griswold, Gift Leaves of American Poetry (1849), pp. 277-278; (M) J. Lorimer Graham copy of The Raven ... with changes (1849); (N) manuscript sent to Griswold about 1848 (lines 1-44 preserved at Harvard); (P) Richmond Examiner proof sheets, summer 1849 (Whitty, Complete Poems, 1911, pp. 38-39); (Q) Works (1850), I, 300, in “The Fall of the House of Usher”; (R) Works (1850), II, 29.

My text follows N, except for the last four lines, now missing from that manuscript, for which R is followed. The status of the proof sheet text P is uncertain but it contains a unique reading. Poe's quotation of the first dozen lines of the poem in a review of William W. Lord's Poems in the Broadway Journal of May 24, 1845, reprinted in Works (1850), III, 175, and quoted in “Marginalia,” number 214, shows no variants from N.



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 — [page 316:]

(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 wingéd odor went away.



Wanderers in that happy valley,


Through two luminous windows, saw

Spirits moving musically,




To a lute's well-tunéd 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 encrimsoned windows see

Vast forms that move fantastically [page 317:]


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.


[page 317, continued:]


Title:  This is given only in context in B, C, D, H, K, Q

4  Radiant / Snow-white (A, B, C, E, L); reared / rear’d (E, F, G)

7  a / his (A)

15  ramparts / rampart (A)

16  wingéd / winged (A, B, C, E, G, H, K, L, Q, although accent was added in D)

17  Wanderers / All wanderers (A)

20  well-tunéd / well-tuned (A, G, J, K, M)

24  ruler / sovereign (A, B, C, changed in D)

29  sweet / sole (B)

34  Assailed / Assail’d (E, F, G, L)

35  morrow / sorrow (misprint in F and J, corrected in M)

38  blushed / blush’d (E, F, G, L); bloomed / bloom’d (E, F, G, L)

39  dim-remembered / dim remember’d (F, G); dim-remember’d (E, L)

40  entombed / entomb’d (E, F, G, L); old-time / old time (all others except P)

42  encrimsoned / encrimson’d (P); red-litten (all others)

45  ghastly rapid / rapid ghastly (A, B, C, E, H, K, L, Q)

[page 317, continued:]


8  “Fabric” here means edifice, from Latin fabrica, as Richard Wilbur (Poe, p. 141) points out.

12  In “Time long ago” Poe characteristically turned a dialect phrase about, and made something magical of it. “Long time ago” is the title of an old minstrel song, containing the words “Down to Shinbone Alley, long time ago,” and extremely popular, even in New Orleans, according to the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, January 16, 1841, although Shinbone Alley was then what is now Washington Mews in New York. The tune was “Comin’ thro’ the Rye,” played slowly, according to an article on the Ethiopian Minstrels in the Broadway Journal of July 12, 1845. George P. Morris composed a song to “a Southern refrain” with the phrase “long time ago,” published as Near the Lake (New York: James L. Hewitt, 1836). Poe is said to have been enraged when Henry B. Hirst wrote a parody on “The Haunted Palace” called “The Ruined Tavern,” including the lines “Never negro shook a shinbone / In a dance-house half so fair,” according to a letter from Thomas H. Lane in the New York Independent of November 5, 1896, quoted by Woodberry, Life, II, 420. The parody, which describes a fracas that led to a police raid at a Philadelphia tavern frequented by tough Negroes, was printed in Sartain's Union Magazine for May 1852, but the offending lines were omitted.

15  Pallid here, and in “The Raven,” means yellow (from Latin pallidus) as Wilbur pointed out in Poe, p. 141.

17  The subtitle of Dr. Johnson's Rasselas is “The Happy Valley.” [page 318:]

18  In “The Fall of the House of Usher” mention is made of the house having “vacant eyelike windows.”

20  The lute is here the heart, as in “Israfel.” The difficulty of keeping a lute in tune is proverbial.

22  No earlier use of the form “Porphyrogene” seems to be recorded. The reference is to the surname of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, “born to the purple.” Gibbon, in the forty-eighth chapter of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, explains it thus:

“An apartment of the Byzantine palace was lined with porphyry: it was reserved for the use of the pregnant empresses: and the royal birth of their children was expressed by the appellation of porphyrogenite, or born in the purple ... but this peculiar surname was first applied to Constantine the Seventh. His life and titular reign were of equal duration.”

This is clearly what Poe has in mind. Constantine VII was himself a man of letters, composer of an elaborate treatise, On the Ceremonies of the Court at Constantinople, which Gibbon mentions in his fifty-third chapter. Poe gave a reference to this work as “a pompous ... book” in his essay “Literary Small Talk.”

29  Echo was originally a nymph deprived by Juno of all save repetitive speech. See Ovid's Metamorphoses, III, 356.

30f.  Professor W. P. Trent compared to these lines Lovelace's “To Althea from Prison”:

With shriller throat shall sing

The sweetness, mercy, majesty,

And glories of my King.

And note a prose parallel in Poe's “Literary Life of Thingum Bob”: “the rich wit and wisdom which continuously flowed from their mouths.”

42  (Earlier texts) “Red-litten” is paralleled by “gas-litten” in Poe's “Philosophy of Furniture” in Burton's for May 1840.

44  Robert Blair's poem was so well known that it is possible that Poe was here contrasting lines 545-547 of The Grave:

Sound was the body, and the soul serene;

Like two sweet instruments ne’er out of tune,

That play their several parts.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 312:]

1  This simple explanation can escape few readers, but J. L. O'sullivan, editor of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review is said to have refused the poem because he did not understand it.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 312, running to the bottom of page 313:]

2  Edgar Allan Poe: How To Know Him (Indianapolis, 1921), p, 216. Smith is replying to Woodberry, who, in the Life, II, 174, wrote of “The Haunted Palace” as [page 313:] “intense, imaginative self-portraiture.” This unfortunate phrasing of Woodberry's has led to misunderstandings. Poe was so temperamental that his friends and he himself, perhaps, feared he might go mad, and in later life he had brief periods of mental aberration. But he never had an extreme attack of madness before he wrote this poem, any more than he had blonde hair.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 313:]

3  Few who have enjoyed excerpts from Bozzy and Piozzi know who wrote them, and fewer know the story that the King forbade a prosecution for libel because he “laughed at Peter” himself.





[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Haunted Palace)