New York Saturday Press Nov 19 1859 • The Fire-Fiend and other Poems (New York) 1866
In the deepest depth of midnight, while the sad solemn swell
Still was floating, faintly echoed from the Forest Chapel Bell—
Faintly, falteringly floating o’er the sable waves of air
That were through the Midnight rolling, chafed and billowy with the tolling—
In my chamber I lay dreaming by the fire-light’s fitful gleaming,
And my dreams were dreams foreshadowed on a heart fore-doomed to Care!
At the last long lingering echo of the midnight’s mystic chime—
Lifting through the sable billows to the Thither Shore of time—
Leaving on the starless silence not a token nor a trace—
In a quivering sigh departed; from my couch in fear I started:
Started to my feet in terror, for my Dream’s phantasmal error
Painted in the fitful fire a frightful, fiendish, flaming face!
On the red hearth’s reddest centre, from a blazing knot of oak,
Seemed to gibe and grin this Phantom when in terror I awoke,
And my slumberous eyelids straining as I staggered to the floor,
Still in that dread Vision seeming, turned my eyes toward the gleaming
Hearth, and — there! oh, God! I saw it! and from out its flaming Jaw it
Spat a ceaseless, seething, hissing, bubbling, gurgling stream of gore!
Speechless; struck with stony silence; frozen to the floor I stood,
Till methought my brain was hissing with that hissing, bubbling, blood:—
Till I felt my life-stream oozing, oozing from those lambent lips:—
Till the Demon seemed to name me; then a wondrous calm o’ercame me,
And my brow grew cold and dewy, with a death-damp stiff and gluey,
And I fell back on my pillow in apparent soul-eclipse!
Then, as in Death’s seeming shadow, in the icy Pall of Fear
I lay stricken, came a hoarse and hideous murmur to my ear:—
Came a murmur like the murmur of assassins in their sleep:—
Muttering, “Higher! Higher! Higher! I am Demon of the Fire!
I am Arch-Fiend of the Fire! and each blazing roofs my pyre,
And my sweetest incense is the blood and tears my victims weep!”
“How I revel on the Prairie! How I roar among the Pines!
How I laugh when from the village o’er the snow the red flame shines,
And I hear the shrieks of terror, with a Life in every breath!
How I scream with lambent laughter as I hurl each crackling rafter
Down the fell abyss of Fire, until higher! higher! higher!
Leap the High Priests of my Altar in their merry Dance of Death!”
“I am monarch of the Fire! I am Vassal-King of Death!
World-encircling, with the shadow of its Doom upon my breath!
With the symbol of Hereafter naming from my fatal face!
I command the Eternal Fire! Higher! higher! higher! higher!
Leap my ministering Demons, like Phantasmagoric lemans
Hugging Universal Nature in their hideous embrace!”
Then a sombre silence shut me in a solemn shrouded sleep,
And I slumbered like an infant in the “Cradle of the Deep,”
Till the Belfry in the Forest quivered with the matin stroke,
And the martins, from the edges of its lichen-lidden ledges,
Shimmered through the russet arches where the Light in torn files marches,
Like a routed army struggling through the serried ranks of oak.
Through my ivy fretted casement filtered in a tremulous note
From the tall and stately linden where a Robin swelled his throat:—
Querulous, quaker breasted Robin, calling quaintly for his mate!
Then I started up, unbidden, from my slumber nightmare ridden,
With the memory of that Dire Demon in my central Fire
On my eye’s interior mirror like the Shadow of a Fate!
Ah! the fiendish Fire had smouldered to a white and formless heap,
And no knot of oak was flaming as it flamed upon my sleep;
But around its very centre, where the Demon Face had shone,
Forked shadows seemed to linger, pointing as with spectral finger
To a Bible, massive, golden, on a table carved and olden—
And I bowed, and said, “All Power is of God, of God alone!”
This poem was first published in The New York Saturday Press along with a letter by Charles D Gardette, claiming it to be a poem by Poe, written while “experimenting toward the production of that wondrous mechanism, ‘The Raven’”, and given to Gardette by Poe’s mother-in-law, Mrs Clemm, after the poet’s death. Poe critic J H Ingram, however, found it was later published, under Gardette’s own name, in The Fire-Fiend and other Poems, which contained several other Poe pastiches, as well as an introduction stating that the poem had been written in a deliberate attempt to imitate Poe.
Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.