A Haunted Palace

Photo by Kainet

One of my absolute favourite poems is by the American poet Edgar Allan Poe entitled ‘The Haunted Palace’. I first read it in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, one of Poe’s short stories in which the poem plays a crucial role, namely emphasising the theme of one’s descent into madness.

I’m not usually a poem-person, my first choice of literature will always be one of novel-length, however the genius of this one struck me upon reading it.

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 rood 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 ramparts plumed and pallid
   A winged odour went away.

The poem goes on to speak of the wondrous valley and later in the fifth verse (out of the seven) speaks of ‘…evil things, in robes of sorrow, / Assailed the monarch’s high estate;…’ . What’s so absolutely brilliant about it all is that on the surface the poem appears to be showing the downfall of a dominion, however there’s an underlying story; the dark descent into madness.

There are many clues of this throughout the poem, the first appearing in the fourth and fifth lines; ‘…Radiant palace—reared its head. / In the monarch Thought’s dominion, …’  wherein Poe outright mentions both a head, in the guise of a palace, and a personified vision of thoughts. After all, the head truly is the thought’s domain, is it not?

There’s more of course, hidden within the poem, and each time I read it it’s as though I’m peeling away another layer of the genius. The meanings clarify and solidify in my mind like cheese and the images, both that of the man to whom the head belongs and the palace that sits in the valley, become crisp, nearing reality.

What do you think of this poem? What imagery stands out to you? What themes can you see? And have you read ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’?



8 thoughts on “A Haunted Palace

  1. dragonflylady77 says:

    I did The Fall of The House of Usher in my Lit class in my first year at uni (in France). It was the text we had for the exam. I failed the class and had to redo it the following year. Same lecturer, same exam. I passed this time. I remember bits of it…


    • jannakaixer says:

      Fantastic! Wow, university in France – that would have been amazing! It’s awful you failed the first time round but it’s great you passed the second time! It’s a hard text to use in an exam, that’s for sure, I used five of Poe’s short stories along with five of Katherine Mansfield’s for my exam (we just had to answer an essay question in regards to the texts that were partly chosen for us).

      Thank you for your comment!


      Liked by 1 person

      • dragonflylady77 says:

        Well it just happens that I am French so yes, I went to Uni in France then moved to NZ in 2001. ^_^
        For the exam the second time, I drew on the story from a graphic novel my brother was reading, where the tower from the castle in the story collapsed when the last heir of that family died. The lecturer liked it because I got a 15/20 (I got a 8/20 I think the first time, or less).


  2. AbsentElemental says:

    I don’t poem often, but I do read Poe frequently. His works have a unique combination of being both dark and full of imagery at the same time. It’s a task difficult to reproduce.


    • jannakaixer says:

      Neither, or at least I didn’t use to, I’ve come to love poetry. Poe is fantastic. I’m working my way through his short stories, essays and poems at the moment. I think it’s because his work is so dark, so wonderfully gothic, that it’s so full of imagery, you need to be able to see the darkness, it’s not enough to read about it.

      Thanks for the comment!



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