The Haunted Palace
A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
A Study Guide
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Type of Work
Date of Publication
Summary
Theme
Palace as Metaphor
Who Is the King?
Theme
Figures of Speech
Atmosphere
Word Choice
Author Information
Text With Explanatory Notes
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Notes and Annotation by Michael J. Cummings..© 2006 
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Type of Work and Date of Publication 
 
"The Haunted Palace" is a poem, a ballad. It was published in American Museum in April 1839. In September of the same year, it was published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine as part of "The Fall of the House of Usher," one of Poe's most famous short stories. In the story, mentally unstable Roderick Usher sings the ballad while playing a guitar. 

Summary and Theme 

Once, there was a majestic palace from which a great king ruled his dominion with reason and common sense. So good and beautiful was this place that angels abided there. On occasion, the palace halls resounded with wondrous voices singing the praises of the monarch.  

The Palace: Metaphor for an Ill-Fated Man 

The palace and the king represent a man who falls to mental and physical ruin after an unspecified evil possesses him. The lines that metaphorically present the palace as a human are as follows: 

Line 4: Reared its head (the person's head) 
Lines 8, 9: Over fabric half so fair! / Banners yellow, glorious, golden (blond hair) 
Line 18: Through two luminous windows (eyes) 
Line 25: Pearl and ruby (teeth and lips) 
Line 26: Palace door (mouth)   

Who Is the King? 
 
The ill-fated king, identified in Line 22 as Porphyrogene, could refer to any or all of the following: 

  • Any human being who has had a good life but one day falls to ruin in the form of insanity or another form of mental illness, as well as physical and material material ruin, as in Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." In this story, Roderick Usher, master of a mansion, suffers mental deterioration because of an evil that has been at work in the House of Usher (the mansion itself and the family) for generations, befouling the residents of the mansion and causing the mansion itself to decay. Roderick Usher's illness is "a constitutional and family evil . . . one for which he despaired to find a remedy," the narrator reports. The narrator hints that the evil is incest. In one scene, Roderick sings the words to "The Haunted Palace" while playing a guitar. For an analysis of the "The Fall of the House of Usher" and its themes, click here.
  • Baldwin II Porphyrogenitus (1217-1273), a Latin emperor of Constantinople who was overthrown in 1261. His father and brother had previously ruled as emperors of Constantinople. He was of French ancestry on his father's side and Flemish ancestry on his mother's side. His forebears had gone to the Middle East during the Crusades. In French, Baldwin II Porphyrogenitus was known as Baudouin Porphyrogénète, a royal epithet meaning "born to the purple"–a color long associated with emperors, kings, and other rulers.   
  • Edgar Allan Poe himself. He was known to suffer melancholy, which he attempted to relieve with alcohol.  
Theme  
 
How evil (whether in the form of immorality, disease, or any other destructive force) can corrupt, subvert, or sicken a human being.  
 
Figures of Speech

Following are examples of figures of speech in "The Haunted Palace":  

    Alliteration: Banners yellow, glorious, golden, / On its roof did float and flow,   
    Personification: A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty / Was but to sing  
    Simile: While, like a ghastly rapid river, / Through the pale door / A hideous throng rush out forever  
    Metaphor: And all with pearl and ruby glowing / Was the fair palace door  
    (pearl: teeth, ruby: lips, door: mouth)
Atmosphere and Word Choice 

The atmosphere of "The Haunted Palace" is at first idyllic, dreamlike, angelic. Then it becomes nightmarish. To create the idyllic atmosphere, Poe uses uses words and phrases such as greenest of our valleys, fair and stately, seraph, glorious, golden, gentle, sweet, and luminous. To create the nightmarish atmosphere, he uses words and phrases such as evil, robes of sorrow, mourn, desolate, dim-remembered, entombed, discordant, ghastly, and hideous 
 
Author Information 

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. After being orphaned at age two, he was taken into the home of a childless couple–John Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Va., and his wife. Allan was believed to be Poe’s godfather. At age six, Poe went to England with the Allans and was enrolled in schools there. After he returned with the Allans to the U.S. in 1820, he studied at private schools, then attended the University of Virginia and the U.S. Military Academy, but did not complete studies at either school. After beginning his literary career as a poet and prose writer, he married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm. He worked for several magazines and joined the staff of the New York Mirror newspaper in 1844. All the while, he was battling a drinking problem. After the Mirror published his poem “The Raven" in January 1845, Poe achieved national and international fame. Besides pioneering the development of the short story, Poe invented the format for the detective story as we know it today. He also was an outstanding literary critic. Despite the acclaim he received, he was never really happy because of his drinking and because of the deaths of several people close to him, including his wife in 1847. He frequently had trouble paying his debts. It is believed that heavy drinking was a contributing cause of his death in Baltimore on October 7, 1849.  

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The Haunted Palace
By Edgar Allan Poe
Written and Published in 1839
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Text of the PoemNotes
1   
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!.................................8 
2  
Banners yellow, glorious, golden 
On its roof did float and flow,  
(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 wingèd odor went away...........................16  
3  
Wanderers in that happy valley,  
Through two luminous windows, saw  
Spirits moving musically,  
To a lute's well-tunèd law,  
Round about a throne where, sitting  
(Porphyrogene!)  
In state his glory well-befitting,  
The ruler of the realm was seen..................24  
4  
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.................32  
5 
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...........................40  
6 
And travellers now, within that valley,  
Through the red-litten windows see  
Vast forms, that move fantastically  
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...................48
tenanted: inhabited  
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palace: the palace is a metaphor for a person. For additional information, see The Palace: Symbol of an Ill-Fated Man   
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Thought's dominion: reason and common sense ruled  
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seraph: highest order of angels, each having three wings  
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pinion: wing or a section of a wing  
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Banners . . . golden: hair 
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roof: top of the head 
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ramparts: walls; fortification  
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two luminous windows: eyes 
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lute: Stringed instrument, plucked like a guitar, with a long neck and a pear-shaped body. It was developed in Europe on an Arabic model called an 'Ud (spelled oud in Balkan countries).  
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Porphyrogene: Possibly a reference to Baldwin II  
Porphyrogenitus (1217-1273), a Latin emperor of Constantinople who was overthrown in 1261. His father and brother had previously ruled as emperors of Constantinople. He was of French ancestry on his father's side and Flemish ancestry on his mother's side. His forebears had gone to the Middle East during the Crusades. In French, Baldwin II Porphyrogenitus was known as Baudouin Porphyrogénète, a royal epithet meaning "born to the purple"–a color long associated with emperors, kings, and other rulers. 
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pearl and ruby: teeth and lips 
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palace door: mouth 
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sparkling . . . Echoes: perhaps an example of synesthesia, a figure of speech in which one sensory experienced is described in terms of another. Here, the Echoes (sound) sparkle (sight). 
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evil things: evil in the form of immorality, disease, or any other destructive force corrupts, subverts, or sickens a human being. 
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morrow: morning, the next day, tomorrow 
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red-litten windows: red eyes, bloodshot eyes; windows emitting a red light. Litten is an archaic word for lighted or lit 
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laugh . . . more: an interesting paradox.
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