Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of the House of Usher

Son coeur est un luth suspendu;

Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne.

De Beranger.

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, 
when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, had been passing alone, on 
horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found 
myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy 
House of Usher. I know not how it was --but, with the first glimpse of the 
building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; 
for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, 
sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images 
of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me --upon the mere 
house, and the simple landscape features of the domain --upon the bleak walls --
upon the vacant eye-like windows --upon a few rank sedges --and upon a few white 
trunks of decayed trees --with an utter depression of soul which I can compare 
to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller 
upon opium --the bitter lapse into everyday life-the hideous dropping off of the 
reveller upon opium --the bitter lapse into everyday life --the hideous dropping 
off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart --an 
unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could 
torture into aught of the sublime. What was it --I paused to think --what was it 
that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery 
all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me 
as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, 
that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects 
which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies 
among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere 
different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the 
picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity 
for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the 
precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the 
dwelling, and gazed down --but with a shudder even more thrilling than before --
upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-
stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a sojourn of 
some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions 
in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, 
however, had lately reached me in a distant part of the country --a letter from 
him --which, in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no other than a 
personal reply. The MS. gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of 
acute bodily illness --of a mental disorder which oppressed him --and of an 
earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed his only personal friend, with 
a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his 
malady. It was the manner in which all this, and much more, was said --it the 
apparent heart that went with his request --which allowed me no room for 
hesitation; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very 
singular summons.

Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet really knew little 
of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual. I was aware, 
however, that his very ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a 
peculiar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages, in 
many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of 
munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the 
intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognisable 
beauties, of musical science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that 
the stem of the Usher race, all time-honoured as it was, had put forth, at no 
period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the 
direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary 
variation, so lain. It was this deficiency, I considered, while running over in 
thought the perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the accredited 
character of the people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which 
the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other --
it was this deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the consequent 
undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, 
which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of 
the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the "House of Usher" --an 
appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, 
both the family and the family mansion.

I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish experiment --that of 
looking down within the tarn --had been to deepen the first singular impression. 
There can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my 
superstition --for why should I not so term it? --served mainly to accelerate 
the increase itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all 
sentiments having terror as a basis. And it might have been for this reason 
only, that, when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in 
the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy --a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, 
that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed 
me. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the 
whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and 
their immediate vicinity-an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of 
heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and 
the silent tarn --a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish, faintly 
discernible, and leaden-hued.

Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly 
the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an 
excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi 
overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the 
eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of 
the masonry had fAllan; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between 
its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the 
individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious 
totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected 
vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this 
indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of 
instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinising observer might have discovered a 
barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in 
front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in 
the sullen waters of the tarn.

Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house. A servant in 
waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of 
stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate 
passages in my progress to the studio of his master. Much that I encountered on 
the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I 
have already spoken. While the objects around me --while the carvings of the 
ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors, 
and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but 
matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy --
while I hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this --I still 
wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were 
stirring up. On one of the staircases, I met the physician of the family. His 
countenance, I thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. 
He accosted me with trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open a door 
and ushered me into the presence of his master.

The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The windows were 
long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor 
as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light 
made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently 
distinct the more prominent objects around the eye, however, struggled in vain 
to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and 
fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was 
profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments 
lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I 
breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom 
hung over and pervaded all.

Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had been lying at full 
length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at first 
thought, of an overdone cordiality --of the constrained effort of the ennuye man 
of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect 
sincerity. We sat down; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon 
him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so 
terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It was with 
difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being 
before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face 
had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large, 
liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but 
of a surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a 
breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely moulded chin, 
speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more 
than web-like softness and tenuity; these features, with an inordinate expansion 
above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to 
be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of 
these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of 
change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and 
the now miraculous lustre of the eve, above all things startled and even awed 
me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its 
wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, 
even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple 

In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an incoherence --an 
inconsistency; and I soon found this to arise from a series of feeble and futile 
struggles to overcome an habitual trepidancy --an excessive nervous agitation. 
For something of this nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his letter, 
than by reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced from 
his peculiar physical conformation and temperament. His action was alternately 
vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision (when 
the animal spirits seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of energetic 
concision --that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and hollow-sounding enunciation --
that leaden, self-balanced and perfectly modulated guttural utterance, which may 
be observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium, during 
the periods of his most intense excitement.

It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest desire to 
see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford him. He entered, at some 
length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his malady. It was, he said, 
a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a 
remedy --a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly 
soon pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of 
these, as he detailed them, interested and bewildered me; although, perhaps, the 
terms, and the general manner of the narration had their weight. He suffered 
much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone 
endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all 
flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and there 
were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments, which did not 
inspire him with horror.

To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden slave. "I shall perish," 
said he, "I must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, 
shall I be lost. I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in 
their results. I shudder at the thought of any, even the most trivial, incident, 
which may operate upon this intolerable agitation of soul. I have, indeed, no 
abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute effect --in terror. In this 
unnerved-in this pitiable condition --I feel that the period will sooner or 
later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with 
the grim phantasm, FEAR."

I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken and equivocal hints, 
another singular feature of his mental condition. He was enchained by certain 
superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and 
whence, for many years, he had never ventured forth --in regard to an influence 
whose supposititious force was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to be re-
stated --an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of 
his family mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his 
spirit-an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the 
dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the 
morale of his existence.

He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of the peculiar gloom 
which thus afflicted him could be traced to a more natural and far more palpable 
origin --to the severe and long-continued illness --indeed to the evidently 
approaching dissolution-of a tenderly beloved sister --his sole companion for 
long years --his last and only relative on earth. "Her decease," he said, with a 
bitterness which I can never forget, "would leave him (him the hopeless and the 
frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers." While he spoke, the lady 
Madeline (for so was she called) passed slowly through a remote portion of the 
apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. I regarded her 
with an utter astonishment not unmingled with dread --and yet I found it 
impossible to account for such feelings. A sensation of stupor oppressed me, as 
my eyes followed her retreating steps. When a door, at length, closed upon her, 
my glance sought instinctively and eagerly the countenance of the brother --but 
he had buried his face in his hands, and I could only perceive that a far more 
than ordinary wanness had overspread the emaciated fingers through which 
trickled many passionate tears.

The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her physicians. A 
settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent although 
transient affections of a partially cataleptical character, were the unusual 
diagnosis. Hitherto she had steadily borne up against the pressure of her 
malady, and had not betaken herself finally to bed; but, on the closing in of 
the evening of my arrival at the house, she succumbed (as her brother told me at 
night with inexpressible agitation) to the prostrating power of the destroyer; 
and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her person would thus probably 
be the last I should obtain --that the lady, at least while living, would be 
seen by me no more.

For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either Usher or myself: 
and during this period I was busied in earnest endeavours to alleviate the 
melancholy of my friend. We painted and read together; or I listened, as if in a 
dream, to the wild improvisations of his speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer 
and still intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his 
spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering 
a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth 
upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation 
of gloom.

I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I thus spent alone 
with the master of the House of Usher. Yet I should fail in any attempt to 
convey an idea of the exact character of the studies, or of the occupations, in 
which he involved me, or led me the way. An excited and highly distempered 
ideality threw a sulphureous lustre over all. His long improvised dirges will 
ring forever in my cars. Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain 
singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von 
Weber. From the paintings over which his elaborate fancy brooded, and which 
grew, touch by touch, into vaguenesses at which I shuddered the more 
thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing not why; --from these paintings (vivid 
as their images now are before me) I would in vain endeavour to educe more than 
a small portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words. By 
the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed 
attention. If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher. For 
me at least --in the circumstances then surrounding me --there arose out of the 
pure abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to throw upon his canvas, an 
intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which felt I ever yet in the 
contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of Fuseli.

One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, partaking not so rigidly of 
the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed forth, although feebly, in words. A 
small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault 
or tunnel, with low walls, smooth, white, and without interruption or device. 
Certain accessory points of the design served well to convey the idea that this 
excavation lay at an exceeding depth below the surface of the earth. No outlet 
was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no torch, or other 
artificial source of light was discernible; yet a flood of intense rays rolled 
throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendour.

I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory nerve which rendered 
all music intolerable to the sufferer, with the exception of certain effects of 
stringed instruments. It was, perhaps, the narrow limits to which he thus 
confined himself upon the guitar, which gave birth, in great measure, to the 
fantastic character of his performances. But the fervid facility of his 
impromptus could not be so accounted for. They must have been, and were, in the 
notes, as well as in the words of his wild fantasias (for he not unfrequently 
accompanied himself with rhymed verbal improvisations), the result of that 
intense mental collectedness and concentration to which I have previously 
alluded as observable only in particular moments of the highest artificial 
excitement. The words of one of these rhapsodies I have easily remembered. I 
was, perhaps, the more forcibly impressed with it, as he gave it, because, in 
the under or mystic current of its meaning, I fancied that I perceived, and for 
the first time, a full consciousness on the part of Usher, of the tottering of 
his lofty reason upon her throne. The verses, which were entitled "The Haunted 
Palace," ran very nearly, if not accurately, thus:


In the greenest of our valleys,

By good angels tenanted,

Once 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 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 winged odour went away.


Wanderers in that happy valley

Through two luminous windows saw

Spirits moving musically

To a lute's well-tuned law,

Round about a throne, where sitting


In state his glory well befitting,

The ruler of the realm was seen.


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.


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.


And travellers now within that valley,

Through the red-litten windows, see

Vast forms that move fantastically

To a discordant melody;

While, like a rapid ghastly river,

Through the pale door,

A hideous throng rush out forever,

And laugh --but smile no more.

I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad led us into a train of 
thought wherein there became manifest an opinion of Usher's which I mention not 
so much on account of its novelty, (for other men have thought thus,) as on 
account of the pertinacity with which he maintained it. This opinion, in its 
general form, was that of the sentience of all vegetable things. But, in his 
disordered fancy, the idea had assumed a more daring character, and trespassed, 
under certain conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganization. I lack words to 
express the full extent, or the earnest abandon of his persuasion. The belief, 
however, was connected (as I have previously hinted) with the gray stones of the 
home of his forefathers. The conditions of the sentience had been here, he 
imagined, fulfilled in the method of collocation of these stones --in the order 
of their arrangement, as well as in that of the many fungi which overspread 
them, and of the decayed trees which stood around --above all, in the long 
undisturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its reduplication in the still 
waters of the tarn. Its evidence --the evidence of the sentience --was to be 
seen, he said, (and I here started as he spoke,) in the gradual yet certain 
condensation of an atmosphere of their own about the waters and the walls. The 
result was discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and terrible 
influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which 
made him what I now saw him --what he was. Such opinions need no comment, and I 
will make none.

Our books --the books which, for years, had formed no small portion of the 
mental existence of the invalid --were, as might be supposed, in strict keeping 
with this character of phantasm. We pored together over such works as the 
Ververt et Chartreuse of Gresset; the Belphegor of Machiavelli; the Heaven and 
Hell of Swedenborg; the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by Holberg; the 
Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D'Indagine, and of De la Chambre; the Journey 
into the Blue Distance of Tieck; and the City of the Sun of Campanella. One 
favourite volume was a small octavo edition of the Directorium Inquisitorum, by 
the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne; and there were passages in Pomponius Mela, 
about the old African Satyrs and AEgipans, over which Usher would sit dreaming 
for hours. His chief delight, however, was found in the perusal of an 
exceedingly rare and curious book in quarto Gothic --the manual of a forgotten 
church --the Vigilae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae.

I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its probable 
influence upon the hypochondriac, when, one evening, having informed me abruptly 
that the lady Madeline was no more, he stated his intention of preserving her 
corpse for a fortnight, (previously to its final interment,) in one of the 
numerous vaults within the main walls of the building. The worldly reason, 
however, assigned for this singular proceeding, was one which I did not feel at 
liberty to dispute. The brother had been led to his resolution (so he told me) 
by consideration of the unusual character of the malady of the deceased, of 
certain obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part of her medical men, and of the 
remote and exposed situation of the burial-ground of the family. I will not deny 
that when I called to mind the sinister countenance of the person whom I met 
upon the stair case, on the day of my arrival at the house, I had no desire to 
oppose what I regarded as at best but a harmless, and by no means an unnatural, 

At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements for the 
temporary entombment. The body having been encoffined, we two alone bore it to 
its rest. The vault in which we placed it (and which had been so long unopened 
that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us little 
opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and entirely without means of 
admission for light; lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of 
the building in which was my own sleeping apartment. It had been used, 
apparently, in remote feudal times, for the worst purposes of a donjon-keep, 
and, in later days, as a place of deposit for powder, or some other highly 
combustible substance, as a portion of its floor, and the whole interior of a 
long archway through which we reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. 
The door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense 
weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.

Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this region of horror, 
we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin, and looked upon 
the face of the tenant. A striking similitude between the brother and sister now 
first arrested my attention; and Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured 
out some few words from which I learned that the deceased and himself had been 
twins, and that sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed 
between them. Our glances, however, rested not long upon the dead --for we could 
not regard her unawed. The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the 
maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical 
character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that 
suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death. We 
replaced and screwed down the lid, and, having secured the door of iron, made 
our way, with toll, into the scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper 
portion of the house.

And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observable change came 
over the features of the mental disorder of my friend. His ordinary manner had 
vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected or forgotten. He roamed from 
chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pallor of his 
countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue --but the luminousness 
of his eye had utterly gone out. The once occasional huskiness of his tone was 
heard no more; and a tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually 
characterized his utterance. There were times, indeed, when I thought his 
unceasingly agitated mind was labouring with some oppressive secret, to divulge 
which he struggled for the necessary courage. At times, again, I was obliged to 
resolve all into the mere inexplicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld him 
gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, 
as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition 
terrified-that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain 
degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions.

It was, especially, upon retiring to bed late in the night of the seventh or 
eighth day after the placing of the lady Madeline within the donjon, that I 
experienced the full power of such feelings. Sleep came not near my couch --
while the hours waned and waned away. I struggled to reason off the nervousness 
which had dominion over me. I endeavoured to believe that much, if not all of 
what I felt, was due to the bewildering influence of the gloomy furniture of the 
room --of the dark and tattered draperies, which, tortured into motion by the 
breath of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and 
rustled uneasily about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were 
fruitless. An irrepressible tremour gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, 
there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm. Shaking this 
off with a gasp and a struggle, I uplifted myself upon the pillows, and, peering 
earnestly within the intense darkness of the chamber, hearkened --I know not 
why, except that an instinctive spirit prompted me --to certain low and 
indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of the storm, at long 
intervals, I knew not whence. Overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, 
unaccountable yet unendurable, I threw on my clothes with haste (for I felt that 
I should sleep no more during the night), and endeavoured to arouse myself from 
the pitiable condition into which I had fAllan, by pacing rapidly to and fro 
through the apartment.

I had taken but few turns in this manner, when a light step on an adjoining 
staircase arrested my attention. I presently recognised it as that of Usher. In 
an instant afterward he rapped, with a gentle touch, at my door, and entered, 
bearing a lamp. His countenance was, as usual, cadaverously wan --but, moreover, 
there was a species of mad hilarity in his eyes --an evidently restrained 
hysteria in his whole demeanour. His air appalled me --but anything was 
preferable to the solitude which I had so long endured, and I even welcomed his 
presence as a relief.

"And you have not seen it?" he said abruptly, after having stared about him for 
some moments in silence --"you have not then seen it? --but, stay! you shall." 
Thus speaking, and having carefully shaded his lamp, he hurried to one of the 
casements, and threw it freely open to the storm.

The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our feet. It was, 
indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night, and one wildly singular in 
its terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had apparently collected its force in our 
vicinity; for there were frequent and violent alterations in the direction of 
the wind; and the exceeding density of the clouds (which hung so low as to press 
upon the turrets of the house) did not prevent our perceiving the life-like 
velocity with which they flew careering from all points against each other, 
without passing away into the distance. I say that even their exceeding density 
did not prevent our perceiving this --yet we had no glimpse of the moon or stars 
--nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning. But the under surfaces of 
the huge masses of agitated vapour, as well as all terrestrial objects 
immediately around us, were glowing in the unnatural light of a faintly luminous 
and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the 

"You must not --you shall not behold this!" said I, shudderingly, to Usher, as I 
led him, with a gentle violence, from the window to a seat. "These appearances, 
which bewilder you, are merely electrical phenomena not uncommon --or it may be 
that they have their ghastly origin in the rank miasma of the tarn. Let us close 
this casement; --the air is chilling and dangerous to your frame. Here is one of 
your favourite romances. I will read, and you shall listen; --and so we will 
pass away this terrible night together."

The antique volume which I had taken up was the "Mad Trist" of Sir Launcelot 
Canning; but I had called it a favourite of Usher's more in sad jest than in 
earnest; for, in truth, there is little in its uncouth and unimaginative 
prolixity which could have had interest for the lofty and spiritual ideality of 
my friend. It was, however, the only book immediately at hand; and I indulged a 
vague hope that the excitement which now agitated the hypochondriac, might find 
relief (for the history of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) even in 
the extremeness of the folly which I should read. Could I have judged, indeed, 
by the wild over-strained air of vivacity with which he hearkened, or apparently 
hearkened, to the words of the tale, I might well have congratulated myself upon 
the success of my design.

I had arrived at that well-known portion of the story where Ethelred, the hero 
of the Trist, having sought in vain for peaceable admission into the dwelling of 
the hermit, proceeds to make good an entrance by force. Here, it will be 
remembered, the words of the narrative run thus:

"And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and who was now mighty 
withal, on account of the powerfulness of the wine which he had drunken, waited 
no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, in sooth, was of an obstinate and 
maliceful turn, but, feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the rising 
of the tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, with blows, made quickly room 
in the plankings of the door for his gauntleted hand; and now pulling there-with 
sturdily, he so cracked, and ripped, and tore all asunder, that the noise of the 
dry and hollow-sounding wood alarumed and reverberated throughout the forest.

At the termination of this sentence I started, and for a moment, paused; for it 
appeared to me (although I at once concluded that my excited fancy had deceived 
me) --it appeared to me that, from some very remote portion of the mansion, 
there came, indistinctly, to my ears, what might have been, in its exact 
similarity of character, the echo (but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the 
very cracking and ripping sound which Sir Launcelot had so particularly 
described. It was, beyond doubt, the coincidence alone which had arrested my 
attention; for, amid the rattling of the sashes of the casements, and the 
ordinary commingled noises of the still increasing storm, the sound, in itself, 
had nothing, surely, which should have interested or disturbed me. I continued 
the story:

"But the good champion Ethelred, now entering within the door, was sore enraged 
and amazed to perceive no signal of the maliceful hermit; but, in the stead 
thereof, a dragon of a scaly and prodigious demeanour, and of a fiery tongue, 
which sate in guard before a palace of gold, with a floor of silver; and upon 
the wall there hung a shield of shining brass with this legend enwritten --

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin;

Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win;

And Ethelred uplifted his mace, and struck upon the head of the dragon, which 
fell before him, and gave up his pesty breath, with a shriek so horrid and 
harsh, and withal so piercing, that Ethelred had fain to close his ears with his 
hands against the dreadful noise of it, the like whereof was never before 

Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild amazement --for 
there could be no doubt whatever that, in this instance, I did actually hear 
(although from what direction it proceeded I found it impossible to say) a low 
and apparently distant, but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or 
grating sound --the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up 
for the dragon's unnatural shriek as described by the romancer.

Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence of the second and most 
extraordinary coincidence, by a thousand conflicting sensations, in which wonder 
and extreme terror were predominant, I still retained sufficient presence of 
mind to avoid exciting, by any observation, the sensitive nervousness of my 
companion. I was by no means certain that he had noticed the sounds in question; 
although, assuredly, a strange alteration had, during the last few minutes, 
taken place in his demeanour. From a position fronting my own, he had gradually 
brought round his chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the chamber; 
and thus I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw that his 
lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly. His head had dropped upon his 
breast --yet I knew that he was not asleep, from the wide and rigid opening of 
the eye as I caught a glance of it in profile. The motion of his body, too, was 
at variance with this idea --for he rocked from side to side with a gentle yet 
constant and uniform sway. Having rapidly taken notice of all this, I resumed 
the narrative of Sir Launcelot, which thus proceeded:

"And now, the champion, having escaped from the terrible fury of the dragon, 
bethinking himself of the brazen shield, and of the breaking up of the 
enchantment which was upon it, removed the carcass from out of the way before 
him, and approached valorously over the silver pavement of the castle to where 
the shield was upon the wall; which in sooth tarried not for his full coming, 
but fell down at his feet upon the silver floor, with a mighty great and 
terrible ringing sound."

No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than --as if a shield of brass had 
indeed, at the moment, fAllan heavily upon a floor of silver became aware of a 
distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled 
reverberation. Completely unnerved, I leaped to my feet; but the measured 
rocking movement of Usher was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in which he 
sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and throughout his whole countenance 
there reigned a stony rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, 
there came a strong shudder over his whole person; a sickly smile quivered about 
his lips; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and gibbering murmur, as if 
unconscious of my presence. Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the 
hideous import of his words.

"Not hear it? --yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long --long --long --many 
minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it --yet I dared not --oh, pity me, 
miserable wretch that I am! --I dared not --I dared not speak! We have put her 
living in the tomb! Said I not that my senses were acute? I now tell you that I 
heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them --many, many 
days ago --yet I dared not --I dared not speak! And now --to-night --Ethelred --
ha! ha! --the breaking of the hermit's door, and the death-cry of the dragon, 
and the clangour of the shield! --say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and 
the grating of the iron hinges of her prison, and her struggles within the 
coppered archway of the vault! Oh whither shall I fly? Will she not be here 
anon? Is she not hurrying to upbraid me for my haste? Have I not heard her 
footstep on the stair? Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of 
her heart? MADMAN!" here he sprang furiously to his feet, and shrieked out his 
syllables, as if in the effort he were giving up his soul --"MADMAN! I TELL YOU 

As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found the potency 
of a spell --the huge antique panels to which the speaker pointed, threw slowly 
back, upon the instant, ponderous and ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing 
gust --but then without those doors there DID stand the lofty and enshrouded 
figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was blood upon her white robes, and 
the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. 
For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, 
then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her 
brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a 
corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still 
abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly 
there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so 
unusual could wi have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone 
behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which 
now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have 
before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag direction, 
to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened --there came a fierce 
breath of the whirlwind --the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my 
sight --my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder --there was a 
long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters --and the 
deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of