The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 167

fierce
energy (rendered doubly effective by contrast with her manner of
utterance) of the wild words which she habitually uttered.

I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia: it was immense--such as I
have never known in woman. In the classical tongues was she deeply
proficient, and as far as my own acquaintance extended in regard to the
modern dialects of Europe, I have never known her at fault. Indeed upon
any theme of the most admired, because simply the most abstruse of the
boasted erudition of the academy, have I ever found Ligeia at fault? How
singularly--how thrillingly, this one point in the nature of my wife has
forced itself, at this late period only, upon my attention! I said her
knowledge was such as I have never known in woman--but where breathes
the man who has traversed, and successfully, all the wide areas of
moral, physical, and mathematical science? I saw not then what I now
clearly perceive, that the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, were
astounding; yet I was sufficiently aware of her infinite supremacy to
resign myself, with a child-like confidence, to her guidance through the
chaotic world of metaphysical investigation at which I was most busily
occupied during the earlier years of our marriage. With how vast a
triumph--with how vivid a delight--with how much of all that is
ethereal in hope--did I feel, as she bent over me in studies but little
sought--but less known--that delicious vista by slow degrees expanding
before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path, I might at
length pass onward to the goal of a wisdom too divinely precious not to
be forbidden!

How poignant, then, must have been the grief with which, after some
years, I beheld my well-grounded expectations take wings to themselves
and fly away! Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping benighted.
Her presence, her readings alone, rendered vividly luminous the many
mysteries of the transcendentalism in which we were immersed. Wanting
the radiant lustre of her eyes, letters, lambent and golden, grew duller
than Saturnian lead. And now those eyes shone less and less frequently
upon the pages over which I pored. Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes blazed
with a too--too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the
transparent waxen hue of the grave, and the blue veins upon the lofty
forehead swelled and sank impetuously with the tides of the gentle
emotion. I saw that she must die--and I struggled desperately in spirit
with the grim Azrael. And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to
my astonishment, even more energetic than my own. There

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Text Comparison with The Fall of the House of Usher

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The Fall of the House of Usher Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne.
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The writer spoke of acute bodily illness--of a mental disorder which oppressed him--and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed his only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady.
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In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air.
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His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision (when the animal spirits seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of energetic concision--that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and hollow-sounding enunciation--that leaden, self-balanced and perfectly modulated guttural utterance, which may be observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium, during the periods of his most intense excitement.
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V.
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Could I have judged, indeed, by the wild overstrained air of vivacity with which he hearkened, or apparently hearkened, to the words of the tale, I might well have congratulated myself upon the success of my design.
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" Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild amazement--for there could be no doubt whatever that, in this instance, I did actually hear (although from what direction it proceeded I found it impossible to say) a low and apparently distant, but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating sound--the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up for the dragon's unnatural shriek as described by the romancer.
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