19 pages 38 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Haunted Palace

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1839

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The Decay of Beauty Over Time

Poe explores the theme of the decay of beauty over time through the symbol of a once radiant palace from “the olden Time long ago” (Lines 11-12) that has since lost its luster and become decrepit and surreal. Beauty is presented in images of vitality, harmony, and angelic beneficence in the first four stanzas. The vitality of the palace is shown in descriptions like “glorious” (Line 9) and “luminous” (Line 18). Once a place where harmony and order ruled, this beauty is no more and has now become merely a “dim-remembered story” (Line 39).

The passage of time is connected with decay and loss. The speaker wistfully meditates on the glory that once was and yearns for return to this earlier state of perfection, but this is not possible. All the palace’s former blessings have become accursed: The palace produces ugly, frightening music and forms and its sound is no longer pleasing song but terrifying laughter.

The final stanza portrays the full extent of the palace’s decay. The palace has become a place of misery and fear. The narrative of the palace’s hideous transformation symbolizes the decay of an individual’s mental well-being and physical appearance.