I'll share the first three stanzas with you as Poe employs a very unusual technique of word repetition in this poem.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir--
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul--
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll--
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole--
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.
Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere--
Our memories were treacherous and sere,--
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)--
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here)--
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
The first thing I had to do when I finished this poem for the first time was to find out the meanings of some of the words. Ulalume? It's a name. Sere means "dried-up". Scoriac refers to scoria - a type of volcanic rock similar to pumice but more cindery. Mount Yaanek is Mount Erebus, a volcano in Antarctica.
After clearing up some of the vocabulary, I appreciated this poem much more. It's actually a rather simple one that again explores one of Poe's preferred topics -- a dead lover. The narrator goes for a walk on a crisp October night, not realizing that his steps will take him to the burial chamber of his lost love, Ulalume, whom he buried a year ago on that day. His grief is still fresh and is exacerbated by this unconscious return to the crypt. As with all of Poe's poetry about loss, many different theories abound as to whether this poem was inspired by the death of Virginia or perhaps a more general musing about the many losses of women in his life. Whatever the influence, this is a touching poem and a great read for a cold October evening.
For next week I chose a horror classic, the short story The Pit and the Pendulum. I'm really excited to re-read this one.
Writing this on a crisp, October morn -- enjoying this on a brisk October morn,