Famous Modern Ghost Stories HTML version
BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mystery of the will, with its
vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man
doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the
weakness of his feeble will.—Joseph Glanvill.
I cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I first became
acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have since elapsed, and my memory is feeble
through much suffering. Or, perhaps, I cannot now bring these points to mind, because, in
truth, the character of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placid cast of
beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low musical language, made
their way into my heart by paces so steadily and stealthily progressive, that they have
been unnoticed and unknown. Yet I believe that I met her first and most frequently in
some large, old, decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family—I have surely heard her
speak. That it is of a remotely ancient date cannot be doubted. Ligeia! Ligeia! Buried in
studies of a nature more than all else adapted to deaden impressions of the outward
world, it is by that sweet word alone—by Ligeia—that I bring before mine eyes in fancy
the image of her who is no more. And now, while I write, a recollection flashes upon me
that I have never known the paternal name of her who was my friend and my bethrothed,
and who became the partner of my studies, and finally the wife of my bosom. Was it a
playful charge on the part of my Ligeia? or was it a test of my strength of affection, that I
should institute no inquiries upon this point? or was it rather a caprice of my own—a
wildly romantic offering on the shrine of the most passionate devotion? I but indistinctly
recall the fact itself—what wonder that I have utterly forgotten the circumstances which
originated or attended it? And, indeed, if ever that spirit which is entitled Romance—if
ever she, the wan misty-winged Ashtophet of idolatrous Egypt, presided, as they tell, over
marriages ill-omened, then most surely she presided over mine.
There is one dear topic, however, on which my memory fails me not. It is the person of
Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and, in her latter days, even emaciated.
I would in vain attempt to portray the majesty, the quiet ease of her demeanor, or the
incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She came and departed as a
shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance into my closed study, save by the dear
music of her low sweet voice, as she placed her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty
of face no maiden ever equaled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream—an airy and
spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the phantasies which hovered about the
slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos. Yet her features were not of that regular mold
which we have been falsely taught to worship in the classical labors of the heathen.
"There is no exquisite beauty," says Bacon, Lord Verulam, speaking truly of all the forms
and genera of beauty, "without some strangeness in the proportion." Yet, although I saw
that the features of Ligeia were not of a classic regularity—although I perceived that her
loveliness was indeed "exquisite," and felt that there was much of "strangeness"