Poe on a Mountaintop

 

Excerpt from “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” by Edgar Allen Poe:

…Upon a dim, warm, misty day, towards the close of November, and during the strange interregnum of the seasons which is termed the Indian Summer Mr. Bedloe departed, as usual, for the hills. The day passed, and still he did not return.

About eight o’clock at night, having become seriously alarmed at his protracted absence, we were about setting out in search of him, when he unexpectedly made his appearance, in health no worse than usual, and in rather more than ordinary spirits. The account which he gave of his expedition, and of the events which had detained him, was a singular one indeed:

“You remember,” said he, “that is was about nine in the morning when I left Charlottesville. I bent my steps immediately to the mountains, and, about ten, entered a gorge which was entirely new to me. I followed the windings of this pass with much interest–The scenery which presented itself on all sides, although scarcely entitled to be called grand, had about it an indescribable, and to me, a delicious aspect of dreary desolation. The solitude seemed absolutely virgin. I could not help believing that the green sods and the grey rocks upon which I trod, had been trodden never before by the foot of a human being. So entirely secluded, and in fact inaccessible, except through a series of accidents, is the entrance of the ravine, that it is by no means impossible that I was indeed the first adventurer–the first sole adventurer who had ever penetrated its recesses.

“The thick and peculiar mist, which distinguishes the Indian Summer, and which now hung over all objects, served, no doubt, to deepen the argue impressions which these objects created. So dense was the pleasant fog, that I could at no time see more than a dozen yards of the path before me. This path was excessively sinuous, and as the sun could not be seen, I lost all idea of the direction in which I journeyed. In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect–that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf–in the hue of a blade of grass–in the shape of a tree foil–in the humming of a bee–in the gleaming of a dew drop–in the breathing of the wind–in the faint odors that come from the forest–there came a whole universe of suggestion–a gay a motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought.

“Busied in this, I walked for several hours, during which the mist deepened around me to so great an extent, that at length I was reduced to an absolute groping of the way. And now an indescribable uneasiness possessed me–a species of nervous hesitation and tremor.–I feared to tread, lest I should be precipitated into some abyss. I remembered, too, strange stories told about these Ragged Hills, and of the uncouth and fierce races of men who tenanted their groves and caverns. A thousand vague fancies oppressed and disconcerted me–fancies more distressing because vague. Very suddenly my attention was arrested by the loud beating of a drum.

“My amazement was, of course, extreme. A drum in these hills was a thing unknown. I could not have been more surprised at the sound of the trump of an Archangel. But a new still more astounding source of interest and perplexity arose. There came a wild rattling or jingling sound, as if a bunch of large keys–and upon the instant a dusky-visaged and half-naked man rushed past me with a shriek. He came so close to my person that I felt his hot breath upon my face. He bore in one hand an instrument composed of an assemblage of steel rings, and shook them vigorously as he ran. Scarcely had he disappeared into the mist, before, panting after him, with open mouth and glaring eyes, there darted a huge beast. I could not be mistaken in its character. It was a hyena. …”

(continued)



 

 

 

 

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