17 pages 34 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Lake

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1827

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Hauntology and the Supernatural

“The Lake” fixates on hauntology—the qualities of being haunted—and the occult. The word occult comes from the Latin occultus, meaning “covered over,” or “hidden.” The occult quality of the lake is especially noteworthy considering “Night had thrown her pall” (Line 7) over it. After the sun goes down, the “dim lake” (Line 23) has an occult presence. Its dimness, or darkness, hides what is beneath the surface. Furthermore, the diction of “pall” (Line 7) can mean either being covered in darkness generally, or allude to the specific fabric that covers a coffin during a funeral. Both meanings relate to the dark funeral imagery in the final stanza, where the speaker describes how the lake’s waves mean “Death” (Line 18) with a “grave” (Line 19), but only fit for those, like the speaker, “[w]hose solitary soul could make / An Eden of that dim lake” (Lines 22-23).

The speaker both haunts and is haunted in the poem. The word “haunt” appears as a verb in Line 2, but its noun form also refers to a location, or “a spot” (Line 2). The speaker haunted the lake “[i]n spring of youth” (Line 1), or in the past. The memory of visiting the lake in the past haunts the speaker.