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Tales & Poems... f

Edgar Allan Poe


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The Tales and Poems

Edgar Allan Poe


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This Edition of the Tales and Poems
of Edgar Allan Poe is limited to five
hundred copies

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New Tamerlane Edition

With Biographical and Critical

The Tales and Poems


Edgar Allan Pee




New York
The Brampton Society


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Copyright xgoa by
Frank F. Lovell Book Co.

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PBStis enum TiTos-^norieiis tna mon «ro.

- Martin lAOUr.

HoBBOB and fatality have been stalking
abroad in all ages. Why then give a date to
this story I have to tell? Let it suflBce to say^
that at the period of which I speak^ there ex«
isted, in the interior of Hungary^ a settled al-
though hidden belief in the doctrines of the
Metempsychosis. Of the doctrines themselves
— ^that is, of their falsity, or of their probabilily
— ^I say nothing. I assert, however, that much!
of our incredidity (as La Bruyere says of all
our unhappiness) '' vient de ne pouvoir etre
seuUr ♦

But there were some points in the Hungarian
superstition which were fast verging to absurd-
ity. They — ^the Hungarians — differed very es-
sentially from their Eastern authorities. For

<*Meroi6r \nL andtmx mUU quatre cewU quarante,^mrU
oaaly miUntalns the doctrines of the Metempsychosis, aod J.
D*Israeli says that **no system is so simple aod so little re-
pognant to the understanding.*^ Colonel Ethan Allen, the
^ GGreen Mountain Boy/* is also said tohaTe been a Mrioaa met*

176399 ^ ,

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6 Metzengerstein

example. *" The sovlf' said the fonner — ^I give
the words of an acute and intelligent Parisian
— " ne demure qu' un seul foia dans un corps
sensible: au reste — un cheval, un chien, un
homme meme, n' est qvs la ressemblance peu
tangible de ces animaux."

The families of Berlifitzing and Metzenger-
stein had been at variance for centuries. Never
before were two houses so illustrious^ mutually
embittered by hostility so deadly. The origin
of this enmity seems to be found in the words
of an ancient prophecy — ^^ K lofty name shall
have a fearful fall when^ as the rider over his
horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall
triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing.^'

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 con-
sequences equally eventful. Besides, the estates,
which were contiguous, had long exercised a
rival influence in the affairs of a busy govern-
ment. Moreover, near neighbors are seldom
friends ; and the inhabitants of the Castle Ber-
lifitzing might look, from their lofty buttresses^
into the very windows of the palace Metzen-
gerstein. Least of aU had the more than feudal
magnificence, thus discovered, a tendency to
allay the irritable feelings of the less ancient
and less wealthy Berlifitzings. What wonder
then, that the words, however silly, of that pre-
diction, should have succeeded in setting* and
keeping at variance two families already pre-

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Metzengerstein 7

flisposed to quarrel by every instigation of he-
reditary jealousy? The prophecy seemed to
imply — ^if it implied anything- — a final triumph
on the part of the already more powerful house ;
and was of course remembered with the more
bitter animosity by the weaker and less influ-

Wilhelm, Count Berlifitzing, although loftily
descended, was, at the epoch of this narrative,
an infirm and doting old man, remarkable for
nothing but an inoiSinate and inveterate per-
sonal antipathy to the family of his rival, and
so passionate a love of horses, and of hunting,
that neither bodily infirmity, great age, nor
mental incapacity, prevented his daily partici-
pation in the dangers of the chase.

Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was, on the
other hand, not yet of age. His father, the

Minister Gr- , died yoimg. His mother, the

Lady Mary, followed him quickly. Frederick
was, at that time, in his eighteenth year. In
a city, eighteen years are no long period; but
in a wilderness — ^in so magnificent a wilderness
as that old principality, the pendulum vibrates
with a deeper meaning.

From some peculiar circumstances attend-
ing the administration of his father, the young
Baron, at the decease of the former, entered
immediately upon his vast possessions. Such
estates were seldom held before by a nobleman
of Hungary. His castles were without num-
Iber. The chief in point of splendor and ex*

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S Metzengerstein

tent was the *' Palace Metzengerstein/' The
bonAdary line of his dominions was neTer
clearly defined; but his principal park em-
bractpd a circuit of fifty miles.

Upon the succession of a proprietor so young,
with a character so well known, to a fortune
so imparalleled, little speculation was afloat in
regard to his probable course of conduct. And,
indeed, for the space of three days, the behavior
of the heir out-Heroded Herod, and fairly sur-
passed the expectations of his most enthusiastic
admirers. Shameful debaucheries — flagrant
treacheries — unheard-of -atrocities — gave his
trembling vassals quickly to understand that
no servile submission on their part — ^no punc-
tilios of conscience on his own — ^were thence-
forward to prove any security against the re-
morseless liings of a petty Caligula. On the
night of the fourth day, the stables of the Castle
Berlifitzing were discovered to be on fire; and
the unanimous opinion of the neighborhood
added the crime of the incendiary to the already
hideous list of the Baron's misdemeanors and

But during the tumult occasioned by this oc-
currence, the young nobleman himself sat ap-
parently buried in meditation, in a vast and
desolate upper apartment of the family palace
of Metzengerstein. The rich although faded
tapestry hangings which swimg gloomily upon
the walls, represented the shadowy and maj^ic
forms of a thousand illustrious ancestors.

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Metzengerstein 9

Here, rich-ermined priests, and pontifical dig-
nitaries, f amiliariy seated with the autocrat and
the sovereign, put a veto on the wishes of a
temporal king, or restrained with the fiat of
papal supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the
Arch-enemy. There, the dark, tall statures of
the Princes Metzengerstein — ^their muscular
War-coursers plimging over the carcasses of
fallen foes — startled the steadiest nerves witH
their vigorous expression; and here, again, 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

But as the Baron listened, or affected to lis-
ten, to the gradually increasing uproar in the
stables of Berlifitzing — or perhaps pondered
upon some more novel, some more decided act
of audacity — ^his eyes were turned unwittingly
to the figure of an enormous, and imnaturally
colored horse, represented in the tapestry as
belonging to a Saracen ancestor of the family of
his rival. The horse itself, in the foreground
of the design, stood motionless and statue-like
— ^while, farther back, its discomfited rider per-
ished by the dagger of a Metzengerstein.

On Frederick's lip arose a fiendish expression,
as he became aware of the direction which his
glance had, without his consciousness, assumed.
Yet he did not remove it. On the contrary, he
could by no means account for the overwhelm-
ing anxiety which appeared falling like « pall

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10 Metzengerstein

npon his senses. It was with diflBculty 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. But the tumult without be-
coming suddenly more violent, with a compul-
sory exertion he diverted his attention to the
glare of ruddy light thrown full by the flam-
ing stables upon the windows of the apart-

The action, however, was but momentary; his
gaze returned mechanically to the wall. To his
extreme horror and astonishment, the head of
the gigantic steed had, in the meantime, al-
tered its position. The neck of the animal, be-
fore arched, as if in compassion, over the pros-
trate 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 and disgusting teeth.

Stupefied with terror, the young nobleman
tottered to the door. As he threw it open, a
flash of red light, streaming far into the cham-
ber, flung his shadow with a clear outline
against the quivering tapestry; and he shud-
dered to perceive that shadow — ^as he staggered
jiwhile upon the threshold — assuming the exact

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Metzengerstein 1 1

position^ and precisely filling np the contour,
of the relentless and trimn|mant murderer of
the Saracen Berlifitzing.

To lighten the depression of his spirits, the
Baron hurried into the open air. At the prin-
cipal gate of the palace he encountered three
equerries. With much diflSculty, and at the
imminent peril of their lives, they were re-
straining the convulsive plunges of a gigantic
and fiery-colored horse.

''Whose horse? Where did you get him?^
demanded the youth, in a querulous and huslgr
tone, as he became instantly aware that the
mysterious steed in the tapestried chamber was
the very counterpart of the furious animal be-
fore his eyes.

'* He is your own property, sire,'' replied one
of the equerries, '' at least he is claimed by no
other owner. Wi caught him flying, all smok-
ing 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, since he bears evi-
dent marks of having made a narrow escape
from the flames."

'' The letters W. V. B. are also branded very
distinctly on hi^ forehead," interrupted a sec-
ond equerry; "I supposed them, of course, to
be the initials of Willuun Von Berlifitzing— hut

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12 Metzengerstein

all at the castle are positive in denying any
knowledge of the horse/^

"Extremely singidar!^' said the young
Baron, with a musing air, and apparently un-
conscious of the meaning of his words. " He is,
as you say, a remarkable horse — ^a prodigious
horse ! although, as you very justly oteerve, of a
suspicious and untractable character; let him
be mine, however,^^ he added, after a pause,
'^perhaps a rider like Frederick of Metzenger-
stein, may tame even the devil from the stables
of Berlifitzing/'

*^You are mistaken, my lord; the horse, as
I think we mentioned, is not from the stables
of the Count. If sudi had been the case, we
know our duty better than to bring him into
the presence of a noble of your family .^^

"True I ^^ observed the Baron, dryly; and at
that instant a page of the bed-chamber came
from the palace with a heightened color, and a
precipitate step. He whispered into his mas-
ter's ear an accoimt of the sudden disappearance
»of a small portion of the tapestry, in an apart-
ment 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 commu-
nicated, nothing escaped to gratify the excited
curiosity of the equerries.

The young Frederick, during the conference,
seemed agitated by a variety of emotions. He
soon, however, recovered his composure, and

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Metzengerstein 13

an expression of determined malignancy settled
upon his countenance^ as he gave peremptory
orders that the apartment in question should
be immediately locked up^ and the key placed
in his own possession.

''Have you heard of the unhappy death of
the old himter Berlifitzing?^' said one of his
vassals to the Baron^ as^ after the departure of
the page^ the huge steed which that nobleman
had adopted as his own^ plunged and curveted^
with redoubled fury, down the long avenue
which extended from the palace to the stables
of Metzengerstein.

'* No ! '^ said the Baron, turning abruptly to-
ward the speaker, *' dead I say you ? ^'

" It is indeed true, my lord ; and, to the noble
of your name, will be, I imagine, no unwel-
come intelligence.'^

A rapid soiile shot over the countenance of
the listener. ''How died he?''

"In his rash exertions to rescue a favorite
portion of the hunting stud, he has himself
perished miserably in the flames."

" I — ^n — dee d — I " 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 into the palace.

From this date a marked alteration took
place in the outward demeanor of the dissolute
jTOung Baron Frederick Yon MetzengersteiiL

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14 Metzengerstein

Indeed, his behavior disappointed every expec-
tation, and proved little in accordance with the
views of many a manoeuvring mamma; while
his habits and manner, stiU less than formerly^
offered any thing congenial with those of the
neighboring aristocracy. He was never to bo
seen beyond the limits of his own domain, and,
in his wide and social world, was utterly com-
panionless — ^unless, indeed, that imnatural, im-
petuous, and fiery-colored horse, which he
henceforward 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, periodi-
cally came in. '^Will the Baron honor our
festivals with his presence ? ^* " Will the Baron
join us in a hunting of the boar? ^' — ^^ Metzen-
gerstein does not hunt/^ *^ Metzengerstein will
not attend,** were the haughty and laconic an-

These repeated insults were not to be en-
dured by an imperious nobility. Such invita-
tions 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 to be at home, since
he disdained the company of his equals; and
ride when he did not wish to ride, since he pre-
ferred the society of a horse." This to be sure
was a very silly explosion of hereditary pique;
and merely proved how singularly unmeaning)

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Metzengerstein 15

our sayingB are apt to become^ when we desire
to be unoBually energetic.

The charitable, neyerthelees, 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 behavior during the
short period immediately succeeding that be-
reavement. Some there were, indeed, who sug-
gested a too haughty idea of self-consequenoe
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

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 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 — ►
in calm or in tempest — ^the young Metzenger-
stein seemed riveted to the saddle df that colos-
sal horse, whose intractable audacities so well
accorded with his own spirit.

There were circumstances, moreover, whicH
coupled with late events, gave an unearthly and
portentous character to the mania of the rider,
and to the capabilities of the steed. The space

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1 6 Metzengerstein

passed over in a single leap had been aecurately
measured^ and was found to exceed, by an as-
tounding difference, the wildest expectations
of the most imaginative. The Baron, besides,
had no particular name for the animal, al-
though all the rest in his collection were dis-
tinguished by characteristic appellations. His
stable, too, was appointed at a distance from
the rest ; and with regard to grooming and othei
necessary oflBces, none but the owner in person
had ventured to officiate, or even to enter the
enclosure of that horse's particular stall. It
was also to be observed, that although the three
grooms, who had caught the steed as he fled
from the conflagration at Berlifitzing, had suc-
ceeded in arresting his course, by means of a
chain-bridle and noose — ^yet not 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. Instances of peculiar in-
telligence in the demeanor of a noble and high-
spirited horse are not to be supposed capable
of exciting unreasonable attention, 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 animal caused the gaping crowd who
stood around te recoil in 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

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Metzengerstein 17

searcliiiig expression of his hnman-Iooking

Among all the retinue of the Baron, however,
none were found to doubt the ardor of that ex-
traordinary 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 everybod/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 unaccount-
able and almost imperceptible shudder; and
that, upon his return from every long-continued
and habitual ride, an expression of triumphant
malignity distorted every muscle in his counte-

One tempestuous night, Metzengerstein,
awaking from a heavy slumber, descended like
a maniac from his chamber, and, mounting in
hot haste, bounded away into the mazes of the
forest. An occurrence so common attracted no*
particular attention, but his return was Jooked
for with intense anxiety on the part of his do-
mestics, when, after some hours* absence, the
stupendous and magnificent battlements of the
Palace Metzengerstein, were discovered crack-
ling and rocking to their very foundation, under
the influence of a dense and livid mass of un-
governable fire.

As the flames, when first seen, had alread;^

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1 8 Metzengerstein

made so terrible a progress that all efforts to
saTe any portion of the building were evidently
futile, the astonished neighborhood stood idly
around in silent if not pathetic wonder. But a
new and fearful object soon riveted the atten-
tion of the multitude, and proved how much
more intense is the excitement wrought in the
feelings of a crowd by the contemplation of
human a^ony, than that brought about by 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 Metzengerstein, a steed, bearing an un-
bonneted and disordered rider, was seen leaping
with an impetuosity which outstripped the very
Demon of the Tempest.

The career of the horseman was indisputably,
on his own part, imcontroUable. The agony
of his coimtenance, the convulsive struggle of
his frame, gave evidence of superhuman exer-
tion: but no sound, save a solitary shriek, es-
caped from his lacerated lips, which were bitten
through and through in the intensity of terror.
One instant, and the clattering of hoofs re-
sounded 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 steed boimded far
up the tottering staircases of the palace, and,
with its rider, disappeared amid the whirlwind
of chaotic fire.

The fury of the tempest immediately died


"The rarcer of the horsemriii ^v.l-; ih ,; iru-.j^iy uncon-
trolIaiHe *

— 1/* ^ - K-'iij-i ate in

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