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THE DEEP ONES: "Metzengerstein" by Edgar Allan Poe

The Weird Tradition

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Sep 30, 2017, 12:37am Top

The old Poe reliable for me: The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Oct 2, 2017, 2:15pm Top

I'll confirm tonight, but I believe both editions I own are in storage, leaving me to miss an opportunity for reading a bound copy. Which is to say: online again for me.

Oct 4, 2017, 9:30am Top

I'm reminded of a similar sequence in "The Black Cat", in which there is also a dwelling fire and the image of an animal that seems to lead to supernatural vengeance wrought by a physical manifestation of the creature.

Oct 4, 2017, 10:08am Top

I had a significant break when reading this, and by the time the horse turns up, I'd more-or-less forgotten the prefacial quote about metempsychosis. Serves me right for ignoring Poe's own strictures about how to read a short story I guess.

I find myself wondering how "Metzengerstein" is supposed to be pronounced. It's clearly (mock) German, not Hungarian, and the ending means "stone", but the "Metzenger-" bit has no obvious etymology and the spelling gives no clue if it's "Metzen-ger" with an audible /g/ or "Metz-enger" without.

(One could take it as Metzen-ger-stein "Whore-spear-stone", but I can't believe Poe intended this. More likely he just made up something he thought sounded right.)

Oct 4, 2017, 12:11pm Top

>5 AndreasJ:

Well, there is the obvious resemblance to the name Frankenstein, which was published only 18 years previous and was also a work of gothic fiction. Perhaps Poe intended a kind of homage, although I think it's more likely that he simply thought of something Germanic that sounded like it might come from the region used in the story.

Oct 4, 2017, 1:31pm Top

I read it as Metz-enger-stein myself, with the stress on the antepenult. I had more trouble with Berlifitzing, where I settled on Berli-fitzing, with the stress on the "fits."

It's an exotic sort of metempsychosis when the soul of an old man passes into the precipitated body of a fully mature horse. Or did I read that wrong?

Oct 4, 2017, 7:33pm Top

I read this as a "straight" supernatural tale, but I remember when I first read it, I assumed it was a spoof - that the Gothic trappings were laid on too thick. That might be because of the other early stories, such as "The Duc de l'Omelette", "A Tale of Jerusalem", "Bon-Bon", that were its neighbours in the Everyman collection of Poe's fiction.

What I think now (I'll admit after reading the Wikipedia entry for the story) is that this is meant to be a straight horror story, and Poe put a lot of himself in it too - there's images and symbolism that reoccur in later, better known stories; but it's still something of an apprentice work - or perhaps a "masterpiece" in the sense of a work where the craftsman displays everything he can do, at the expense, perhaps, of elegance and proportion.

Edited: Oct 4, 2017, 7:58pm Top

I thought the little rhapsody about how great it would be to die of consumption was pretty creepy, especially given the prior death of Poe's mother and later death of his wife in that manner.

Oct 5, 2017, 4:41am Top

>9 paradoxosalpha:

Maybe Poe was, in part, trying to convince himself of the non-terribleness of dying so?

Oct 5, 2017, 8:08am Top

Maybe. But he hadn't even met his future wife at this point, I think.

Oct 5, 2017, 7:04pm Top

>8 housefulofpaper: Peithman's annotations on this one pointed out it's one of the few Poe stories which excludes a psychological explanation. The missing tapestry is confirmed by someone besides Metzengerstein.

I'm not overly fond of this one, and the detailed description of the tapestry, after Berliftzing's stable was ablaze, seemed an awkward aside.

9> What edition did you read? I wonder if it was the 1832 edition published in Saturday Courier. Peithman quotes a section on the "beautiful Lady Mary" from the first edition but excludes it from the second edition text which he uses. That edition, incidentally, is subtitled "A Tale in the Imitation of the German.

The Edgar Allan Poe Society lists the following as the original "Lady Mary" paragraph: The beautiful Lady Mary! — how could she die? — and of consumption! But it is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease. How glorious! to depart in the hey-day of the young blood — the heart of all passion — the imagination all fire — amid the remembrances of happier days — in the fall of the year, and so be buried up forever in the gorgeous, autumnal leaves. Thus died the Lady Mary. The young Baron Frederick stood, without a living relative, by the coffin of his dead mother. He laid his hand upon her placid forehead. No shudder came over his delicate frame — no sigh from his gentle bosom — no curl upon his kingly lip. Heartless, self-willed, and impetuous from his childhood, he had derived at the age of which I speak, through a career of unfeeling, wanton, and reckless dissipation, and a barrier had long since arisen in the channel of all holy thoughts, and gentle recollections.

Yes, that is an odd, creepy foreshadowing and keeping with the cult of tuberculosis as the "romantic disease"

Poe met his cousin and future wife in May 1829.

Edited: Oct 5, 2017, 8:02pm Top

>12 RandyStafford:

Yes, the Saturday Courier text, which is the basis of the first online version linked above. You've got the paragraph.

Virginia Clemm would have been seven years old when Poe met her in 1829! She didn't exhibit any symptoms of tuberculosis until 1842, though.

Oct 6, 2017, 1:06pm Top

>7 paradoxosalpha: It's an exotic sort of metempsychosis when the soul of an old man passes into the precipitated body of a fully mature horse. Or did I read that wrong?

I read it that way, too, but I was certainly not positive that's what happened. The double action of a tapestry horse coming alive and the Count Berlifitzing seeming to get posthumous revenge is a confused scenario. Is it reincarnation if the soul chooses an inanimate object? I know we are given to believe the tapestry was meant to represent an actual steed, but this actually further confuses the situation: there are then three viable candidates for taking Berlifitzing revenge! Between the Saracen ancestor put to death by an ancient Metzengerstein, that Saracen's warhorse, and the late Count ... an overdetermination of supernatural doom.

It is pointless to expect an answer, but I also wonder -- why now? Why after all these centuries is revenge enacted against young Frederick? Perhaps simply because he acted overly much the brat in his actions. Yet that seems an unsatisfactory explanation to me.

Oct 7, 2017, 3:28am Top

Perhaps Frederick was the first Metzengerstein to cross the line by killing a Berlifitzing by dishonorable means like arson, rather than in honest battle?

Oct 7, 2017, 11:57am Top

That's a supposition I like, whether or not Poe had it in mind.

Oct 8, 2017, 1:15am Top

Ah, I just noticed that today is the anniversary of Poe's mysterious death.

Edited: Oct 26, 2018, 11:35am Top

Here is a story I cannot even remember reading, but it's in my book somewhere ... (flip flip flip)

Just when I thought bookmarks were obsolete - at least eight are jammed into this one hardcover! My kids often made homemade versions in their youth (sacrilege to use pasta for crafts), and I'm such a sop that they still hover in every room. Good thing! Funny how not a one managed to follow them out the door when they left. =D

Online text at Univ.of Adelaide archive, in case my book happens to be elsewhere when I need it.

Edited: Mar 20, 2:55pm Top

>19 Crypto-Willobie:


Somewhere, there is a high school kid who is going to include that in his report on "Edgar Allen (sic) Poe".

Mar 20, 3:07pm Top

I'm afraid you're right...

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