by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe received ten
dollars for this superb reincarnation story which was first
published in the Baltimore American Museum for
September, 1838. Ligeia, the dark lady of the Rhineland, wastes
away and dies, but her spirit triumphs over death
and follows her grieving husband to England. Here he takes a second wife, the blonde Lady Rowena,
but his soul is still mated to the bewitching Ligeia. In great agony of longing for the lost Ligeia, he does not think it strange
that his second wife is attacked with a sudden illness about a month after their marriage,
but at the subsequent death of the Lady Rowena he has a surprise in store for him. Ligeia takes possession of the corpse, transforming it into a physical image of herself. As her beloved husband looks on in horror, she rises from Lady Rowena's death bed, lets fall her long raven black hair and slowly opens her large and luminous eyes. He can only shriek in recognition.
Poe was not happy about this ending and wrote:
"...I should have intimated
that the will did not perfect its intention.
There should have been a repalse - a final one - and Ligeia should be at length entombed as Rowena, the bodily alterations having gradually faded away."
The story of Ligeia, in the way it was written, could never of been so readily absorbed with intense emotion if it was not written by Poe. After my first reading of this short I had been looking for some of that 'horror and eeriness' that Poe has so been distinguished for. But, all I could find was an incomprehensible vocabulary, strange grammar and other discreet apparitions that made the plot a challenge to understand. After reading back over it a few times it became clear to me that the intensity had stemmed from the way Poe would describe things. For example, Ligeia was quite strange-looking with very large eyes and a rather low voice, a 'placid' set of beauty, rather unspoken for and not stunning at all. But after reading the way Poe describes this one true love of his, you can see her in such a different light - as one of the most beautiful creatures that ever existed. And these strangely large eyes have managed to become the most lustrous deep orbs ever to grace the earth.You can feel it in his words (Poe writes in first person).
'Ligeia' is a superb read, with every intricate detail of the short story being beautified and sanctified. It is a story of sincere devotion and eternal loyalty, supreme passion and undyeing lust. It is my favourite tale of tragedy and love. I urge you to read it some time, when you have some spare hours and can relax and study this magnificent piece of art by Edgar Allan Poe.