(Live recording in Darmstadt, 05/08/2016. Guitar: Ruben Mattia Santorsa)
Roderick Usher, the tormented protagonist of Poe’s tale The Fall of the House of Usher, is used to accompany his rhapsodic singing with a guitar. The narrator reports the words of one of these improvisations, in the form of a ballad titled The Haunted Palace. The palace of the title is a symbol of Roderick’s disturbed mind, and the whole plot of the tale, leading to corruption and dissolution, is reflected in the poem. My six short pieces of Haunted were inspired by the sixth stanzas of this poem. In the first stanza, Poe presents a valley inhabited by angels, where stands a radiant palace. In the second stanza, the poet describes the waving banners and the perfume that flows along the ramparts of the palace. In the third stanza, the point of view is that of some wanderers who can see, through the windows of the palace, spirits dancing to the sound of a lute. The fourth stanza is pervaded by the sparkling echoes coming out of the main door. A decisive change of mood occurs in the last two stanzas. In the fifth, the palace is assaulted by «evil things» that soon make its glorious past a «dim-remembered story». The last stanza evokes the apparition of forms that «move fantastically / to a discordant melody», while a burst of hideous laughter is heard.
In the greenest of our valleys, / By good angels tenanted, / Once a fair and stately palace— / Radiant palace—reared its head. / In the monarch Thought’s dominion— / It stood there! / Never seraph spread a pinion / Over fabric half so fair.
Banners yellow, glorious, golden, / On its roof did float and flow; / (This—all this—was in the olden / Time long ago); / And every gentle air that dallied, / In that sweet day, / Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, / A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley / Through two luminous windows saw / Spirits moving musically / To a lute’s well-tunèd law; / Round about a throne, where sitting / (Porphyrogene!) / In state his glory well befitting, / The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing / Was the fair palace door, / Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing / And sparkling evermore, / A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty / Was but to sing, / In voices of surpassing beauty, / The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow, / Assailed the monarch’s high estate; / (Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow / Shall dawn upon him, desolate!) / And, round about his home, the glory / That blushed and bloomed / Is but a dim-remembered story / Of the old time entombed.
And travellers now within that valley, / Through the red-litten windows see / Vast forms that move fantastically / To a discordant melody; / While, like a rapid ghastly river, / Through the pale door, / A hideous throng rush out forever, / And laugh—but smile no more.