Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Metzengerstein,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 15-31 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 15, continued:]


Publication of Poe's world-famous tales began auspiciously, when “Metzengerstein” was printed in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier of January 14, 1832, a few days before his twenty-third birthday. It may justly be called a masterpiece, though a minor one, for it shows Poe as already a master of a craft in which his genius was to be supreme. “Metzengerstein” was not perfect, and Poe was to improve it markedly by fairly extensive revision. Yet even in the earliest version can be seen the distinguishing merits of Poe's best work — unity of tone and expression, maintenance of suspense, and a stirring climax.

The author regarded the tale as Germanic, and the subtitle of the second publication calls it “A tale in imitation of the German.” (It may be recalled that as part of the Holy Roman Empire, Hungary was considered Germanic, and indeed, the population was of mixed ethnic origin.) It has been well said by Edd Winfield Parks in Edgar Allan Poe as Literary Critic (1964), p. 24, that “Metzengerstein ... started as an imitation of the Gothic romances but ... gathered such momentum that it became a powerful allegory, with evil leading to its own self-destruction.” A. H. Quinn in Edgar Allan Poe (1941), pp. 192-193 — a fine discussion — says it is “no mere burlesque,” but “a powerful story of evil passions in a young man's soul” and remarks on the superiority of Poe's “use of the Gothic material” to “Walpole's absurd treatment.” The tale is hardly a burlesque at all, unless in reverse, but Poe and his early readers may have found the characters’ names funny.*

Poe's sources were not all Germanic, any more than the idea of transmigration of souls — which he used in “Morella,” “Ligeia,” “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” “The Black Cat,” and perhaps in [page 16:] “Eleonora” — is peculiarly Hungarian. His paramount source for “Metzengerstein” is a New England ghost story told by an American poet, “The Buccaneer” by Richard Henry Dana the elder, published in The Buccaneer, and Other Poems (1827) and once extremely well known. R. W. Griswold gave a text of it in Poets and Poetry of America (1842), p. 65, calling it “a story in which [Dana] has depicted with singular power the stronger and darker passions ... based on a tradition of a murder committed on an island on the coast of New England.” No notice seems to have been taken of Poe's use of Dana's legend until I pointed it out in Selected Poetry and Prose of Edgar Allan Poe, Modern Library (1951), p. 414.

In Dana's poem, Matthew Lee, a pirate posing as a merchant, takes on board his ship a young Spanish widow with her retinue and her “white steed.” He murders most of his passengers, tries to rape the lady — who escapes by jumping into the sea — throws the horse in, burns the ship near shore to conceal his crimes, and returns to his home with the remnant of his wicked crew, all well stored with gold. On the anniversary of his success, as he holds a feast, a blazing hulk is seen at sea from which swims a horse who makes for the pirate. Lee is impelled to ride the horse to a cliff, whence he can see the phantom ship disappear. A year later, although there is no celebration, the visit of the horse is repeated and the wicked Lee is warned by the spirit horse that he will come “Once more — and then a dreadful way! — And thou must go with me!” On the third anniversary, the wreck goes down and the spectre-horse comes slowly up from the sea, by his “fix’d eye” holding Lee, who mounts and is carried into the ocean, never to be seen again.

Poe's second cardinal source is in Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1764). It was edited in 1811 by Sir Walter Scott, with an important Introduction to which Poe may have owed as much as to Walpole's story. In that story we have, besides much typical of all Gothic romances, several things that are peculiarly similar to some Poe used in “Metzengerstein.” There is a mysterious prophecy about an event that will put an end to the castle and the house of the wicked Manfred. An ancestral picture — that of a former rightful owner of the castle — “comes alive.” This ghost assumes gigantic [page 17:] size. The young hero of Walpole's story is named Frederic. He is not the son of Manfred and his wife Hippolita, but the latter is saintly like the mother of Metzengerstein.

A third probable source for the story (briefly noticed by Woodberry in the Stedman and Woodberry edition of Poe's Works, 1895, IV, 295) is in a book of which we know Poe was fond, Benjamin Disraeli's Vivian Grey (1826). In the third chapter of the sixth book we read the story of the mediatized Prince of Little Lilliput at his castle. He has an equestrian portrait of an ancestor painted by Lucas Cranach, of which Vivian says, “The horse seems quite living, and its fierce rider actually frowns upon us.” The Prince feels that the rider frowns upon him, because for a large sum of money he has given up his sovereign rights over a tiny principality and is now subordinate to a more successful neighbor, the Grand-Duke of Reisenburg, descended from servants of the nobleman in the portrait. The Prince's son, a young boy, expresses his hatred for Reisenburg. Disraeli also says that the mediatized princes “seldom frequent the Courts of their sovereigns, and scarcely condescend to notice the attentions of their fellow nobility ... at their solitary forest castles.”

“Metzengerstein” was one of the stories Poe submitted to the Philadelphia Saturday Courier in the contest advertised in June 1831. Since the closing date for entries was December 1, the tale must have been completed before that time. Although “Love's Martyr” by Delia Bacon was given the award, “Metzengerstein” was published in the Courier only one week later than the prize-winner. It was the first of Poe's acknowledged tales to be printed, but there is no reason to suppose it the first to be written. Indeed, I believe that “The Bargain Lost” — much inferior — preceded it, because there Poe used allusions which are not essential to the plot, a practice he avoided in the four other very early stories and eliminated in rewriting “The Bargain Lost” as “Bon-Bon.”


(A) Philadelphia Saturday Courier, January 14, 1832, pp. 9-24; (B) Southern Literary Messenger, January 1836 (2:97-100); (C) Duane copy of the last with manuscript revisions (1839); (D) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), II, 151-165; (E) Works (1850), I, 475-483. PHANTASY-PIECES, title only. [page 18:]

For this edition we print Griswold's much improved final form (E). It was, I suspect, based on Poe's revision in the second volume of PHANTASY-PIECES, the disappearance of which may be accounted for by its use as printer's copy by Griswold in 1849. Only the abortive title of the tale is preserved, in the table of contents in the first volume.

The earliest text (A) was mechanically reproduced by John Grier Varner in Edgar Allan Poe and the Philadelphia Saturday Courier (1933). Poe revised “Metzengerstein” skilfully, making many stylistic changes in 1836 for the Southern Literary Messenger. He also, at some time after 1840, wisely removed some unnecessary material on the death of the protagonist's mother. For Poe's spelling “stupified,” see Introduction.

METZENGERSTEIN.   [E]  [[v]]   [[n]]

Pestis eram vivus — moriens tua mors ero.

Martin Luther.(1)

Horror and fatality have been stalking abroad in all ages. Why then give a date to the story I have to tell?{a} Let it suffice to say, that at the period of which I speak, there existed, in the interior of Hungary, a settled although hidden belief in the doctrines of the Metempsychosis. Of the doctrines themselves — that is, of their falsity, or of{b} their probability — I say nothing. I assert, however, that much of our incredulity (as La Bruyère{c} says{d} of all our unhappiness) “vient de ne pouvoir être{e} seuls.”* {f} (2)

But there were some points in the Hungarian superstition{h} (3) which were fast verging to absurdity. They — the Hungarians — differed very{i} essentially from their{j} Eastern authorities. For example. [page 19:]The soul,”{k} said the former — I give the words of an acute and intelligent Parisian — “ne demeure{l} qu’un seule{m} fois dans un corps sensible: au reste{nn}un cheval, un chien, un homme même,{o} n’est que la ressemblance{nn} peu tangible de ces animaux.”(4)

The families of Berlifitzing(5) and Metzengerstein had been at variance for centuries. Never before were two houses so illustrious, mutually embittered by hostility so deadly.{p} The origin of this enmity seems to be found in the words of an ancient prophecy — “A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as{q} the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berliftzing.”

To be sure the words themselves had little or no meaning. But more trivial causes have given rise — and that no long while ago — to consequences equally eventful. Besides, the estates, which were contiguous, had long exercised a rival influence in the affairs of a busy government. Moreover, near neighbors are seldom friends; and the inhabitants{r} of the Castle Berlifitzing might look, from their lofty buttresses, into the very windows of the Palace{s} {tt}Metzengerstein. Least{tt} of all had{u} the more than feudal magnificence,{v} thus discovered, a tendency{w} to allay the irritable feelings of the less ancient and less wealthy Berlifitzings. What wonder, then, that the words, however silly, of that prediction, should have succeeded in setting and keeping at variance two families already predisposed to quarrel by every instigation of hereditary jealousy? {xx}The prophecy seemed to imply — if it implied anything —{xx} a final triumph on the part of the already more powerful house; and was{y} of course [page 20:] remembered with the more bitter animosity by{z} the weaker and less influential.

Wilhelm, Count Berlifitzing, although{a} loftily descended, was, at the epoch of this narrative, an infirm and doting old man, remarkable for nothing but an inordinate and inveterate personal antipathy to the family of his rival, and so passionate a love of horses, and of hunting, that neither bodily infirmity,{b} great age, nor mental incapacity, prevented his daily participation in the dangers of the chase.{c}

Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was, on the other hand, not yet of age. His father, the Minister G——, died young. His mother, the Lady Mary, followed him quickly.{d} Frederick was, at that time, in his eighteenth{e} year. In a city, eighteen{f} years are no long {gg}period: but{gg} in a wilderness — in so magnificent a wilderness as that old principality, {hh}the pendulum vibrates with a{hh} deeper meaning.{i}

From some peculiar circumstances attending the administration of his father, the young Baron, at the decease of the former, entered immediately upon his vast possessions. Such estates {jj}were seldom held before{jj} by a nobleman of Hungary. His castles were without [page 21:] {kk}number. The{kk} chief in point of splendor and extent was the “Palace{l} Metzengerstein.” The boundary line of his dominions was never clearly defined; but his principal park embraced a circuit of fifty{m} miles.

Upon the succession of a proprietor so young, with a character so well known, to a fortune so unparalleled, little speculation was afloat in regard to his probable course of conduct. And, indeed, for the space of three days, the behaviour of the heir out-heroded Herod,(6) and fairly surpassed the expectations of his most enthusiastic admirers. Shameful debaucheries — flagrant treacheries — unheard-of atrocities(7) — gave his trembling vassals quickly to understand that no servile submission on their part — no punctilios of conscience on his own — were thenceforward to prove any security{n} against the remorseless{o} fangs of a petty Caligula.(8) On the night of the fourth day, the stables of the Castle Berlifitzing were discovered to be on fire; and the {pp}unanimous opinion of the neighborhood{pp} added{q} the crime of the incendiary to the already hideous{r} list of the Baron's misdemeanors and enormities.

But during the tumult occasioned by this occurrence, the young nobleman himself sat,{s} apparently buried in meditation, in a vast and desolate upper apartment of the{t} family palace of Metzengerstein. The rich although faded tapestry hangings which swung gloomily upon the walls, represented the {uu}shadowy and majestic{uu} forms of a thousand illustrious ancestors. Here,{v} rich-ermined priests, and pontifical dignitaries, familiarly seated with the autocrat and the sovereign, put a veto on the wishes of a{w} temporal king, or restrained with the fiat of papal supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the Arch-enemy. There,{x} the dark, tall statures of the Princes Metzengerstein — their muscular war-coursers plunging over the {yy}carcasses of fallen foes{yy} — startled the steadiest{z} nerves with their [page 22:] vigorous expression: and here, again,{a} the voluptuous and swan-like figures of the dames of days gone by, floated away in the mazes of an unreal dance to the strains of imaginary melody.

But as the Baron listened, or affected to listen, to the gradually{b} increasing uproar in the stables of, Berlifitzing — or perhaps {dd}pondered upon some more novel,{dd} some more decided{c} act of audacity — his eyes {ee}were turned unwittingly{ee} to the figure of an enormous, and unnaturally colored horse, represented in the tapestry as belonging to a Saracen ancestor of the family of his rival. The horse itself, in the fore-ground of the design, stood motionless and statue-like — while, farther back, its discomfited rider perished by the dagger of a Metzengerstein.

{ff}On Frederick's lip arose a fiendish expression,{ff} as he became aware of the direction which{g} his glance had,{h} without his consciousness, assumed. Yet{i} he did not remove it. On the contrary, {jj}he could by no means account for the{k} overwhelming anxiety which appeared falling like a pall{l} upon his senses. It was with difficulty that he reconciled his dreamy and incoherent feelings with the certainty of being awake. The longer he gazed, the more absorbing became the spell — the more impossible did it appear that he could ever withdraw his glance from the fascination of that tapestry.{jj} But the tumult without becoming suddenly more violent, with a compulsory{m} exertion he diverted his attention to the glare of ruddy light thrown full by the flaming stables upon the windows of the apartment.

The action, however,{n} was but momentary; his gaze returned mechanically to the wall. To his extreme horror and astonishment,{o} [page 23:] the head of the gigantic steed had, in the meantime, altered its position. The neck of the animal, before arched, as if in compassion, over the prostrate body of its lord, was now extended, at full length, in the direction of the Baron. The eyes, before invisible, now wore an energetic and human expression, while they gleamed with a fiery and unusual red; and the distended lips of the apparently enraged horse left in full view his sepulchral{p} and disgusting teeth.

Stupified with terror, the young nobleman tottered to the door. As he threw it open, a flash of red light, streaming far into the chamber, flung his shadow with a clear{q} outline against the quivering tapestry; and he shuddered to perceive{r} that shadow — as he {ss}staggered awhile{ss} upon the threshold — assuming the exact position, and precisely filling up the contour, of the relentless and triumphant murderer of the Saracen Berlifitzing.

{tt}To lighten the depression{tt} of his spirits, the Baron hurried into the open air. At the principal gate of the palace{u} he encountered three equerries. With much difficulty, and at the imminent{v} peril of their lives, they were restraining the{w} convulsive plunges of a gigantic and fiery-colored horse.

{xx}“Whose horse?{xx} Where did you get him?” demanded the youth, in a querulous and husky tone,{y} as he became instantly aware that the mysterious steed in the tapestried chamber was the very counterpart of the furious animal before his eyes.

“He is your own property, sire,” replied one of the equerries, “at least he is claimed by no other owner. We caught him{z} flying, all smoking and foaming with rage, from the burning stables of the Castle Berlifitzing. Supposing him to have belonged to the old Count's stud of foreign horses, we led him back as an estray. But the grooms there disclaim any title to the creature; which is strange,{a} since he bears evident marks of having made{b} a narrow escape from the flames.” [page 24:]

“The letters W. V. B. are also{c} branded very distinctly on{d} his forehead,”(9) interrupted a second equerry; {ee}“I supposed them, of course,{ee} to be the initials of Wilhelm{f} Von {gg}Berlifitzing — but all at the castle are positive in denying any knowledge of the horse.”{gg}

“Extremely singular!” said the young Baron, with a musing air, and{h} apparently unconscious of the meaning of his words. “He is, as you say, a remarkable horse — a prodigious horse! although, as you very justly observe, of a suspicious and untractable character; let him be mine, however,” he added,{i} after a pause, “perhaps a rider like Frederick of Metzengerstein, may tame even the devil from the stables of Berlifitzing.”

“You are{j} mistaken, my lord; the horse, as I think we mentioned, is not from the stables of the Count. If such had been{k} the case, we know our duty better than to bring him into{l} the presence of a noble of your family.”{m}

“True!” observed the Baron, drily; and at that instant a page of the bed-chamber came from the palace{n} with a heightened color, and a{o} precipitate step. He whispered into his master's ear an account of the{p} sudden disappearance of a small portion of the tapestry, in an apartment which he designated; entering, at the same time, into particulars of a minute and circumstantial character; but from the low tone of voice in which these latter were communicated, nothing escaped to gratify the excited curiosity of the equerries.

The young Frederick,{q} during the conference, seemed agitated by a variety of emotions. He soon, however, recovered his composure, and an expression of determined malignancy settled upon his countenance, as he gave peremptory orders that {rr}the apartment in question{rr} should be immediately locked up, and the key placed{s} in his own possession.

“Have you heard of the unhappy death of the old{t} hunter Berlifitzing?” [page 25:] said one of his vassals to the Baron, as, after the departure{u} of the page, the huge{v} steed which that nobleman had adopted as his own, plunged and curveted, with redoubled{w} fury, down the long avenue which extended from the palace{x} to the stables of Metzengerstein.

“No!” said the Baron, turning abruptly towards the speaker, “dead! say you?”

{yy}It is indeed true, my lord; and, to the{z} noble of your name, will be, I imagine, no unwelcome intelligence.”{yy}

A rapid smile{a} shot over the{b} countenance of the listener. “How died he?”

“In his rash{c} exertions to rescue a favorite portion of his hunting stud, he has himself perished miserably in the flames.”

“I — n — d — e — e — d —!” ejaculated the Baron, as if slowly and deliberately impressed with the truth of some exciting idea.

“Indeed;” repeated the vassal.

“Shocking!” said the youth, calmly, and turned quietly{d} into the palace.{e}

From this date a marked alteration took place in the outward demeanor of the dissolute young Baron Frederick Von{f} Metzengerstein. Indeed, {gg}his behaviour{gg} disappointed every expectation, and proved little in accordance with the views of many a manœuvring mamma; while his habits and manners, still less than formerly, offered anything congenial with those of the neighboring aristocracy. {hh}He was never to be seen{hh} beyond the limits of his own {ii}domain, and, in this wide and social world, was utterly companionless — unless,{ii} indeed, that unnatural, impetuous, and fiery-colored [page 26:] horse, which he henceforward{j} continually bestrode, had any mysterious right to the title of his friend.

Numerous invitations on the part of the neighborhood for a long time, however, periodically came{k} in. “{l} Will the Baron honor our festivals with his presence?” {mm}“Will the Baron join us in a hunting of the boar?”{mm} — “Metzengerstein{n} does not hunt;” “Metzengerstein{o} will not attend,” were the haughty and laconic answers.

These repeated insults were not to be endured by an imperious nobility. Such invitations became less cordial — less frequent — in time they ceased altogether. The widow of the unfortunate Count Berlifitzing was even heard to express a hope “that the Baron might be at home when he did not wish{p} to be at home, since he disdained the company of his equals; and ride when he did not wish to ride, since he preferred the society of a horse.” This to be sure was a very silly explosion of hereditary pique; and merely proved how singularly unmeaning our sayings are apt to become, when we desire to be unusually energetic.

The charitable, nevertheless, attributed the alteration in the conduct of the young nobleman to the natural sorrow of a son for the untimely loss of his parents; — forgetting, however, his atrocious and reckless behaviour during the short period immediately succeeding that bereavement. Some there were, indeed, who suggested a too haughty idea of self-consequence and dignity. Others again (among whom may be mentioned the family physician) did not hesitate in speaking of morbid melancholy, and hereditary ill-health; while dark hints, of a more equivocal nature, were current among the multitude.

Indeed, the Baron's perverse attachment to his lately-acquired charger — an attachment which seemed to attain new strength from every fresh example of the animal's{q} ferocious and demon-like propensities — at length became, in the eyes of all reasonable men, a hideous and unnatural fervor. In the glare of noon — at the dead hour of night — in sickness or in health(10) — in calm or in tempest [page 27:]{r} the young Metzengerstein seemed riveted to the saddle of that colossal horse, whose intractable{s} audacities so well accorded with {tt}his own spirit.{tt}

There were circumstances, moreover, which, coupled with late events, gave an unearthly and portentous character to the mania of the rider, and to{u} the capabilities of the steed. The space passed over in a single leap had been accurately measured, and was found to exceed by an {vv}astounding difference,{vv} the wildest expectations of the most imaginative.{w} The Baron, besides, had no particular name{x} for the animal, although all the rest in{y} his{z} collection were distinguished by characteristic appellations.(11) His{a} stable, too,{b} was appointed at a distance from the rest;{c} and with regard to grooming and other necessary offices, none but the owner in person had{d} ventured to officiate, or even to enter the enclosure of that horse's{e} particular stall. It was also to be observed, that although the three grooms, who had caught the steed{f} as he fled from the conflagration at Berlifitzing, had succeeded in arresting his course, by means of a chain-bridle and noose — yet no one of the three could with any certainty affirm that he had, during that dangerous struggle, or at any period thereafter, actually placed his hand upon the body of the beast. {gg}Instances of peculiar intelligence in the demeanor of a noble and high-spirited horse{h} are not to be supposed capable of exciting unreasonable attention,{i} but there were certain circumstances which intruded themselves per force upon the most skeptical and phlegmatic; and it is said there were times when the{j} [page 28:] animal caused the gaping crowd who stood around to recoil in{k} horror from the deep and impressive meaning of his terrible stamp — times when the young Metzengerstein turned pale and shrunk away from the rapid and searching expression of his earnest{l} and human-looking eye.{gg}

Among all the retinue of the Baron, however, none were found to doubt the ardor of that extraordinary affection which existed on the part of the young nobleman for the fiery qualities of his horse; at least, none but an insignificant and misshapen little page, whose deformities were in every body's way, and whose opinions were of the least possible importance. He (if his ideas are worth mentioning at all,) had the effrontery to assert that his master never vaulted into the saddle, without an unaccountable and almost imperceptible shudder; and that, upon his return from every {mm}long-continued and{mm} habitual ride,{n} an expression of triumphant malignity distorted every muscle in his countenance.

{oo}One tempestuous night, Metzengerstein, awaking from heavy{p} slumber, descended like a maniac from his chamber,{oo} and, mounting in hot{q} haste, bounded away into the mazes of the forest. An occurrence so common attracted no particular attention, but his return was looked for with intense anxiety on the part of his domestics, when, after some hours’{r} absence, the stupendous and magnificent battlements of the Palace{s} Metzengerstein, were discovered crackling and rocking to their very foundation, under the influence of a dense and livid mass of ungovernable fire.

As the flames, when first seen, had already made so terrible a progress that all efforts to save any portion of the building were evidently futile, the astonished neighborhood stood idly around in silent, if not{t} apathetic wonder. But a new and fearful object soon [page 29:] riveted the attention of the multitude, and proved {uu}how much more intense is the excitement wrought in the feelings of a crowd by the contemplation of human agony, than that brought about by{uu} the most appalling spectacles of inanimate matter.

Up the long avenue of aged oaks which led from the forest to the main entrance of the Palace{v} Metzengerstein, a steed, bearing an unbonneted and disordered rider, was seen leaping with an impetuosity which outstripped the very Demon of the Tempest.{w} (12)

The career of the horseman was indisputably, on his own part, uncontrollable. The agony of his countenance, the convulsive struggle{x} of his frame, gave evidence of superhuman exertion: but no sound, save a solitary shriek, escaped from his lacerated lips, which were bitten through and through in the intensity of terror. One instant, and the clattering of hoofs resounded sharply and shrilly above the roaring of the flames and the shrieking of the winds — another, and, clearing at a single plunge the gate-way and the moat, the {yy}steed bounded far up the tottering staircases of the palace, and, with its rider, disappeared amid the whirlwind of chaotic fire.{yy} (13)

The fury of the tempest{z} immediately died away, and a dead calm sullenly{a} succeeded. A white flame still enveloped the building like a shroud, and, streaming far away into the quiet atmosphere, shot forth a glare of preternatural light; while a cloud of{b} smoke settled heavily over the {cc}battlements in the distinct colossal figure of — a horse.{cc} {d}

[[Poe's Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears near the bottom of page 18:]

*  Mercier, in “L’an deux mille quatre cents quarante,” seriously maintains the doctrines of Metempsychosis, and I.{g} D’Israeli says that “no system is so simple and so little repugnant to the understanding.” Colonel Ethan Allen, the “Green Mountain Boy,” is also said to have been a serious metempsychosist. [Poe's note]


[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 18:]

Title:  Metzengerstein. A Tale in Imitation of the German. (B, C); The Horse-Shade (PHANTASY-PIECES)

a  tell? I will not. Besides I have other reasons for concealment. (A); tell? Besides, I have other reasons for concealment. (B) changed in C

b  Omitted (A)

c  Bruyere (A, B, C, D, E)

d  observes (A)

e  etre (A, B, C, D, E)

f  Footnote omitted (A, B, C, D) Poe follows D’Israeli in using cents for cent in Mercier's title

g  J. (E) misprint

h  superstition (the Roman term was religio,) (A)

i  Omitted (A)

j  the (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 19:]

k  “The soul,” (A)

l  demure (E) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D

m  quun seul (A); qu’un seul (B, C, D, E)

nn ... nn  ce quon croit d’etre un cheval — un chien — un homme — n’est que le resemblance (A)

o  meme, (E) accent added from B, C, D

p  After this: Indeed, at the era of this history, it was remarked [observed B, C, D] by an old crone of haggard, and sinister appearance, that fire and water might sooner mingle than a Berlifitzing clasp the hand of a Metzengerstein. (A, B, C, D)

q  like (A, B, C, D)

r  inmates (A)

s  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

tt ... tt  Metzengerstein: and least (A)

u  was (A, B, C, D)

v  magnificence (E) comma added by editor

w  a tendency / calculated (A, B, C, D)

xx ... xx  The words of the prophecy implied, if they implied any thing, (A)

y  were (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 20:]

z  on the side of (A, B, C, D)

a  although honourably and (A, B, C, D)

b  decrepitude, (A)

c  chace. (A) misprint

d  him quickly. / quickly after. (A, B, C, D)

e  fifteenth (A, B, C, D)

f  fifteen (A, B, C, D)

gg ... gg  period — a child may be still a child in his third lustrum. But (A, B, C, D)

hh ... hh  fifteen years have a far (A, B, C, D)

i  After this A, B, C and D have the following material, here reproduced from A:

The beautiful Lady Mary! — how could she die? — and of consumption! But it is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease. How glorious! to depart in the hey-day of the young blood — the heart all passion — the imagination all fire — amid the remembrances of happier days — in the fall of the year, and so be buried up forever in the gorgeous, autumnal leaves. Thus died the Lady Mary. The young Baron Frederick stood, without a living relative, by the coffin of his dead mother. He laid [placed (B, C, D)] his hand upon her placid forehead. No shudder came over his delicate frame — no sigh from his gentle [flinty (B, C, D)] bosom — no curl upon his kingly lip. Heartless, self-willed, and impetuous from his childhood, he had arrived at [reached (B, C, D)] the age of which I speak, through a career of unfeeling, wanton, and reckless dissipation, and a barrier had long since arisen in the channel of all holy thoughts, and gentle recollections.

jj ... jj  were, never before, held (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 21:]

kk ... kk  number — of these, the (A, B, C, D)

l  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

m  one hundred and fifty (A)

n  protection (A)

o  bloodthirsty and remorseless (A); remorseless and bloody (B, C, D)

pp ... pp  neighbourhood unanimously (A)

q  instantaneously added (B, C, D)

r  frightful (A)

s  himself sat, / himself, sat (E) repunctuated from B, C, D

t  his (A)

uu ... uu  majestic, and shadowy (A)

v  Here, / Here (A)

w  some (A)

x  There, / Here (A)

yy ... yy  carcass of a fallen foe (A, B, C, D)

z  firmest (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 22:]

a  here, again, / here, (A)

b  rapidly (A)

c  of the Castle (A)

dd ... dd  pondered, like Nero, upon (A)

ee ... ee  were unwittingly rivetted (A); became rivetted (B, C, D)

ff ... ff  There was a fiendish expression on the lip of the young Frederick, (A)

g  Omitted (B, C, D)

h  had, thus, (A)

i  But (A)

jj ... jj  the longer he gazed, the more impossible did it appear that he might ever withdraw his vision from the fascination of that tapestry. It was with difficulty that he could reconcile his dreamy and incoherent feelings, with the certainty of being awake. He could, by no means, account for the singular, intense, and overwhelming anxiety which appeared falling, like a shroud, upon his senses. (A)

k  the singular, intense and (B) changed in C

l  shroud (B, C, D)

m  kind of compulsory, and desperate (A, B, C, D)

n  action, however, / action (A)

o  surprise, (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 23:]

p  gigantic (D)

q  clear, decided (A)

r  pereeve (A) misprint

ss ... ss  staggered, for a moment, (A)

tt ... tt  With the view of lightening the oppression (A)

u  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

v  imminent (A) misprint

w  the unnatural, and (A, B, C, D)

xx ... xx  “Whose horse is that? (A)

y  tone of voice, (A, B, C, D)

z  him, just now, (A)

a  singular, (A)

b  having made omitted (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 24:]

c  are also / are, moreover, (A)

d  upon (A)

ee ... ee  “We, at first, supposed them (A)

f  William (A)

gg ... gg  Berlifitzing.” (A)

h  Omitted (A)

i  added he, (A)

j  appear to be (A)

k  had been / were (A, B, C, D)

l  in (A)

m  name.” (A)

n  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

o  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

p  the miraculous, and (A, B, C, D)

q  Frederick, however, (A)

rr ... rr  a certain chamber (A, B, C, D)

s  placed, forthwith, (A)

t  Omitted (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 25:]

u  affair (A)

v  huge and mysterious (A, B, C, D)

w  redoubled, and supernatural (A, B, C, D)

x  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

yy ... yy  “It is true, my lord, and is no unwelcome intelligence, I imagine, to a noble of your family?” (A)

z  the / a (B, C, D)

a  smile, of a peculiar and unintelligible meaning, (A, B, C, D)

b  the beautiful (A, B, C, D)

c  great (A)

d  turned quietly / returned (A)

e  Chateau. (A, B, C, D)

f  Frederick Von / Frederick, of (A)

gg ... gg  the behaviour of the heir (A)

hh ... hh  He was seldom to be seen at all; never (A)

ii ... ii  domain. There are few, in this social world, who are utterly companionless, yet so seemed he; unless, (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 26:]

j  thenceforward (A)

k  periodically came / continually flocked (A)

l  After this: Will the Baron attend our excursions? (A)

mm ... mm  Omitted (A)

n  “Baron Frederick (A)

o  Baron Frederick (A)

p  choose (A)

q  brute's (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 27:]

r  tempest — / tempest, in moonlight or in shadow, (A, B, C, D)

s  untractable (A)

tt ... tt  the spirit of his own. (A, B, C, D)

u  Omitted (A)

vv ... vv  incalculable distance, (A)

w  imaginative; while the red lightning, itself, was declared to have been outridden in many a long-continued, and impetuous career. (A)

x  name (A)

y  of (A)

z  his extensive (A, B, C, D)

a  Its (A)

b  stable, too, / stable (A)

c  rest; / others, (A)

d  had ever (A)

e  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

f  horse, (A, B, C, D)

gg ... gg  These sentences are omitted in A

h  steed (B, C, D)

i  attention — especially among men who, daily trained to the labors of the chase, might appear well acquainted with the sagacity of a horse — (B, C, D)

j  this singular and mysterious (B) changed in C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 28:]

k  in silent (B, C, D)

l  intense (B) changed in C

mm ... mm  Omitted (A)

n  ride, during which his panting and bleeding brute was never known to pause in his impetuosity, although he, himself, evinced no appearance of exhaustion, yet (A)

oo ... oo  These ominous circumstances portended in the opinion of all people, some awful, and impending calamity. Accordingly one tempestuous night, the Baron descended, like a maniac, from his bed-chamber, (A)

p  a heavy and oppressive (B, C, D)

q  great (A, B, C, D)

r  hours (A); hour's (B, C, D)

s  Chateau (B, C, D)

t  if not / and (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 29:]

uu ... uu  the vast superiority of excitement which the sight of human agony exercises in the feelings of a crowd, above (A)

v  Chateau (A, B, C, D)

w  tempest, and called forth from every beholder an ejaculation of “Azrael!” (A); Tempest, and extorted from every stupified beholder the ejaculation — “horrible!” (B, C, D)

x  struggling (A)

yy ... yy  animal bounded, with its rider, far up the tottering staircase of the palace, and was lost in the whirlwind of hissing, and chaotic fire. (A)

z  storm (A)

a  suddenly (A)

b  of wreathing (A)

cc ... cc  battlements, and slowly, but distinctly assumed the appearance of a motionless and colossal horse.

Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was the last of a long line of princes. His family name is no longer to be found among the Hungarian aristocracy. (A)

d  a horse not italicized (B, C, D)

[page 30, continued:]


(Notes 3 and 12 pertain only to the early text, A. See the variants.)

Title:  The name is apparently not historical, and is of uncertain meaning. In German Metz (plural Metzen) is meal (flour), and the name of a city; and Ger is a spear, but Metzger is a butcher. Stein is stone. Poe may have thought the name meant Butcherstone or Stonespear of Metz.

1.  The motto is part of a hexameter, addressed by Martin Luther to the Pope, meaning, “Living I have been your plague, dying I shall be your death.” Where Poe read it is uncertain; Luther said it more than once. Professor Francis A. Christie referred me to a letter of February 27, 1537 to Melancthon, in De Wette's edition of Luthers Briefe, V, 58.

2.  “... comes of being unable to be alone,” from Jean de la Bruyère (1645-1696), Les Caractères, section 99, “De l’homme,” used also in the motto of Poe's “Man of the Crowd.” The footnote was first published in Works (1850); its first sentence repeats “Pinakidia,” no. 90, from the Southern Literary Messenger, August 1836, p. 578, which in turn was taken from the chapter “Metempsychosis” in Curiosities of Literature by Isaac D’Israeli (1776-1848). The primary source is Louis-Sebastien Mercier's L’An 2440 (1770), chapter XIX, “Le Temple.” Ethan Allen's precise idea I do not find in his Reason, the Only Oracle of Man (1784), but I have met with a legend that he said he might live again in his great white horse.

3.  (A) Poe remarks again on the meaning of religio in Classical Latin in “The Purloined Letter,” and in “Marginalia,” number 176 (Graham's, November 1846, p. 246).

4.  The acute Parisian remains unidentified. He said the soul “dwells but once in a material body — for the rest — a horse, a dog, even a human being — it is only an intangible phantom of those creatures.”

5.  The name Berlifitzing is apparently invented; it may mean something like Little Son of a Bear.

6.  The expression to “out-Herod Herod” from Hamlet, III, ii, 16, is a favorite of Poe, who uses it in “William Wilson” and “The Masque of the Red Death.”

7.  Some Hungarian nobles were notoriously cruel. Countess Elizabeth Bathori, who lived until 1614, compelled young peasant women to dance in the icy courtyard of her castle, wearing nothing but their boots. Some of her exploits were less picturesque, and more horrible.

8.  The youthful emperor Caligula (Gaius Caesar), like Metzengerstein, was probably mad, and loved horses. He once expressed a wish to make his favorite racehorse a consul, according to Suetonius, “Gaius,” Chapter 55.

9.  The brand on the forehead recalls the mark of Cain (Genesis 4:15).

10.  “In sickness and in health” is from the wedding ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer. [page 31:]

11.  Metzengerstein knew the horse was Willhelm von Berlifitzing, and dared use no other name. Compare the idea in “Morella.”

12.  (A) Azrael, the Mahometan angel of death, is also mentioned in Politian, IX, 4, in “Ligeia,” and in “Mesmeric Revelation”; “the Archangel Death” is mentioned in early versions of “King Pest.”

13.  Such evil beings as the horse and his rider could be destroyed only by fire. See Quinn, Poe, p. 193, on the suggested allegory of the bad man so enthralled by evil that he cannot part from it.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 15:]

*  See Lucille King, “Notes on Poe's Sources,” Studies in English, no. 10 (University of Texas Bulletin, No. 3026, July 8, 1930), p. 129. She seems to have been the first to comment on the relation of Poe to Walpole's story.



This is one of several stories where the note for the motto is numbered, digressing from Mabbott's more usual form of designating a note as for the motto, and reserving the numbered notes only for actual text. This anomaly has been preserved here as changing it would require adjustments to the assigned note numbers.


[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Metzengerstein)