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    Shadow

    by Edgar Allan Poe
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    SHADOW -- A PARABLE

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow:
    -- Psalm of David.

    YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have
    long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange
    things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries
    shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen,
    there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few
    who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with
    a stylus of iron.

    The year had been a year of terror, and of feelings more intense than
    terror for which there is no name upon the earth. For many prodigies
    and signs had taken place, and far and wide, over sea and land, the
    black wings of the Pestilence were spread abroad. To those,
    nevertheless, cunning in the stars, it was not unknown that the
    heavens wore an aspect of ill; and to me, the Greek Oinos, among
    others, it was evident that now had arrived the alternation of that
    seven hundred and ninety-fourth year when, at the entrance of Aries,
    the planet Jupiter is conjoined with the red ring of the terrible
    Saturnus. The peculiar spirit of the skies, if I mistake not greatly,
    made itself manifest, not only in the physical orb of the earth, but
    in the souls, imaginations, and meditations of mankind.

    Over some flasks of the red Chian wine, within the walls of a noble
    hall, in a dim city called Ptolemais, we sat, at night, a company of
    seven. And to our chamber there was no entrance save by a lofty door
    of brass: and the door was fashioned by the artisan Corinnos, and,
    being of rare workmanship, was fastened from within. Black draperies,
    likewise, in the gloomy room, shut out from our view the moon, the
    lurid stars, and the peopleless streets -- but the boding and the
    memory of Evil they would not be so excluded. There were things
    around us and about of which I can render no distinct account --
    things material and spiritual -- heaviness in the atmosphere -- a
    sense of suffocation -- anxiety -- and, above all, that terrible
    state of existence which the nervous experience when the senses are
    keenly living and awake, and meanwhile the powers of thought lie
    dormant. A dead weight hung upon us. It hung upon our limbs -- upon
    the household furniture -- upon the goblets from which we drank; and
    all things were depressed, and borne down thereby -- all things save
    only the flames of the seven lamps which illumined our revel.
    Uprearing themselves in tall slender lines of light, they thus
    remained burning all pallid and motionless; and in the mirror which
    their lustre formed upon the round table of ebony at which we sat,
    each of us there assembled beheld the pallor of his own countenance,
    and the unquiet glare in the downcast eyes of his companions. Yet we
    laughed and were merry in our proper way -- which was hysterical; and
    sang the songs of Anacreon -- which are madness; and drank deeply --
    although the purple wine reminded us of blood. For there was yet
    another tenant of our chamber in the person of young Zoilus. Dead,
    and at full length he lay, enshrouded; the genius and the demon of
    the scene. Alas! he bore no portion in our mirth, save that his
    countenance, distorted with the plague, and his eyes, in which Death
    had but half extinguished the fire of the pestilence, seemed to take
    such interest in our merriment as the dead may haply take in the
    merriment of those who are to die. But although I, Oinos, felt that
    the eyes of the departed were upon me, still I forced myself not to
    perceive the bitterness of their expression, and gazing down steadily
    into the depths of the ebony mirror, sang with a loud and sonorous
    voice the songs of the son of Teios. But gradually my songs they
    ceased, and their echoes, rolling afar off among the sable draperies
    of the chamber, became weak, and undistinguishable, and so faded
    away. And lo! from among those sable draperies where the sounds of
    the song departed, there came forth a dark and undefined shadow -- a
    shadow such as the moon, when low in heaven, might fashion from the
    figure of a man: but it was the shadow neither of man nor of God, nor
    of any familiar thing. And quivering awhile among the draperies of
    the room, it at length rested in full view upon the surface of the
    door of brass. But the shadow was vague, and formless, and
    indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man nor of God -- neither
    God of Greece, nor God of Chaldaea, nor any Egyptian God. And the
    shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and under the arch of the
    entablature of the door, and moved not, nor spoke any word, but there
    became stationary and remained. And the door whereupon the shadow
    rested was, if I remember aright, over against the feet of the young
    Zoilus enshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen the
    shadow as it came out from among the draperies, dared not steadily
    behold it, but cast down our eyes, and gazed continually into the
    depths of the mirror of ebony. And at length I, Oinos, speaking some
    low words, demanded of the shadow its dwelling and its appellation.
    And the shadow answered, "I am SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the
    Catacombs of Ptolemais, and hard by those dim plains of Helusion
    which border upon the foul Charonian canal." And then did we, the
    seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and
    shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were
    not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and,
    varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon
    our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand
    departed friends.
    If you're writing a Shadow essay and need some advice, post your Edgar Allan Poe essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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