“The Fall of the House of Usher” is an adaptation that has no qualms about referencing its source material. The miniseries is almost gleeful in its nods to iconic Edgar Allan Poe imagery such as black cats and ravens. But in its final episode, the Netflix series takes its love of Poe a step further, fully reading a fairly obscure poem from the gothic author. Spoilers ahead.
In the final moments of “The Raven,” Verna (Carla Gugino) visits the graves of the nine deceased Ushers. She lays a trinket on each of their graves while reading a poem in a voiceover. That poem is none other than Poe’s “Spirits of the Dead.”
Originally titled “Visits of the Dead,” “Spirits of the Dead” was published as part of Poe’s first poetry collection, “Tamerlane and Other Poems,” which was published in 1827. The collection was only credited to “a Bostonian” at the time.
Poe would call several works, including the “Spirits of the Dead,” the “crude compositions of my earliest boyhood.” It’s been estimated that there were anywhere between 40 and 200 copies of this first work printed in total. Only 12 are known to still exist today.
When it was first published, “Spirits of the Dead” wasn’t a notable poem from the author. In fact, it wasn’t until Poe published “The Raven” in 1845 that he would achieve any sort of notoriety. Still, the poem makes use of the gothic imagery and romance around the morbid that came to define Poe’s style.
Here’s the Edgar Allan Poe poem in full:
Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone —
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee — and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.
The night, tho’ clear, shall frown —
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given —
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more — like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze — the breath of God — is still —
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy — shadowy — yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token —
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!