Ligeia – A Love Story
I know I’ve written about Poe before, and I’m not shy about my love of his work. Poe is widely known for his Gothic horror poems and stories. But behind the horror is a softer side. He loved several women throughout his life, and they all inspired his works– both during and after their relationships. His lost loves combined with his tortured soul produced some of the best dark Gothic romantic stories. One of my all-time favorites is Ligeia.
Ligeia is kind of a morbid love story. Even a story of obsession, which seems to be a common theme in Poe’s work.
As with most of Poe’s stories, it’s told by a first-person narrator. The narrator is talking about his dead wife Ligeia. She was the love of his life. He tells us how she looked through his eyes in great detail. He saw her as the most beautiful woman in the world. To him, everything about her was perfect – inside and out. As he thinks back, he can’t remember anything about her past. Not even her maiden name. And he couldn’t care less. All he knows is how much he loved her. (#relationshipgoals)
According to the narrator, their relationship was perfect. He was in love with her mind as well as her beauty. She was well-educated on many things and he felt that she was smarter than him. Even when she got sick and started wasting away she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He couldn’t imagine his life without her. She was his everything.
Ligeia fiercely didn’t want to die. She fights it with everything she has and more. Before she dies, she quotes a poem “…Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.” She appeared to be saying that she would be able to cheat death, and they would always be together. But she couldn’t fight the disease.
The narrator was destroyed. He couldn’t live in their house anymore. He bought an old abbey and had it made livable. He became an opium addict. Eventually, he married Lady Rowena. She is the opposite of Ligeia in looks and intelligence. He didn’t love her and couldn’t explain why he married her. He had never gotten over Ligeia. He and Rowena moved into the castle.
Rowena doesn’t love him. He doesn’t care. All he thinks about is Ligeia. She is the only woman he will, or could, ever love. His love becomes an obsession. Shortly after their wedding, Rowena gets sick. She lays in her bed crying. She says there’s a ghost in the abbey. She thinks it’s after her. The narrator does his duty and sits at her bedside. One night he thinks he feels a presence in the room and thinks he hears footsteps.
After she dies he covers her body and sits there. He feels bad that he didn’t care about her. His mind was always with Ligeia. Even as he sits next to the dead body of his second wife. At midnight he hears a cry come from Rowena’s body. He just looks at her and could swear that her cheeks are getting rosy. Then it’s gone. It happens three more times. He thinks he had too much opium. So he sits down and thinks about Ligeia again.
After a bit, Rowena’s body stands up! She’s still covered but he sees that Rowena’s blonde hair is black. The cover falls and it’s Ligeia! He throws himself at her feet and says “Here then at last – can I never – can I never be mistaken – these are the full and the black, and the wild eyes – of my lost love – of the lady – of the Lady Ligeia”
Now that’s love! A woman who fights against death to come back to the man she loves. And he is so happy to have his “lost love” back. The fact that his dead second wife’s body came back to life and turned into Ligeia doesn’t matter to him. All he seems to care about is that they are together again.
That, my friends, is a dark Gothic romance – Edgar Allan Poe style! If reading Poe isn’t your thing, check out the Roger Corman interpretation, The Tomb of Ligeia.